On Monday afternoon, once the trade deadline had passed and it was clear the Toronto Maple Leafs were not making any more moves of consequence, Kyle Dubas held a brief press conference. He answered questions from the media relating to the deadline, their (in)activity, and the state of the team following an extremely tough week full of embarrassing losses.
You can find the full video here, but it was interesting enough for me to write out a transcript of the full Q and A. I think Dubas does his usual press release, corporate-cleansed non-answers like normal... but only to some extent. When you hear and read his answers outside of those, I’d say it’s pretty clear that the organization is not pleased with the level of play from his players and want them to dig themselves out of it rather than throwing them any rope.
He also confirmed that it’s more likely we’ll see a trade of significance in the off-season when it’s much easier to, and I gather their cap situation made swinging anything big right now overly complicated anyways.
Here’s the full transcript:
Did you end up having a quiet day, today?
I just think that things change as the season progresses, and the way they operate on the deadline I think is a byproduct of a number of things: cap space being one function, the performance of the team being another, and then how different player injuries and their return to the lineup will impact the cap space in the remainder of the year and how we have to manage that.
I think the confluence of all three of those things led to just some depth moves, and I think more than that we kind of took our shot earlier in the month with the Jack Campbell and Kyle Clifford transaction. Unfortunately for everybody here, isn’t as exciting as you’d like. Sorry about that.
How much did the past week with pretty disheartening losses to Buffalo, Pittsburgh and then Saturday to Carolina play into the decision to be quieter today?
I think it goes back beyond that, Dave. Just call it what it is, I think there’s no reason to dance around it, in here. Everyone watches the team and is around the team every day. We’re in the lower part of the league when we made the coaching change. Then we had a great run in the beginning of January, since then we’ve been uneven.
It’s easy to look at the recent past to look at Saturday, in Pittsburgh and in Buffalo, and then make things look a bit brighter by looking back against Pittsburgh here. But I think the reality is you take it all, in its totality rather than react to one or two games. I think we show enough in our run since Sheldon that gives a great sense of optimism, then we also have some games where we rightfully, I think, draw the doubts of a lot of people.
I think the best way to put it, to use a Jekyll and Hyde type of way to describe it, I think it’s up to our entire program - starting with me and on to Sheldon and the players - to find our way out of it, to be the best version of ourselves that we can every single day for our organization, for the fanbase, to get where we want to go.
Why do you think that they don’t deliver the best versions of themselves on a more consistent basis?
That’s a good question, the truthful answer is we don’t know. If we knew, we’d go about it — and that might draw some criticism to say I don’t know. But I’m not going to come up and bullshit and tell you I have some magical solution. We have to go through this, we have to find a way to be our best on a daily basis.
It’s interesting, you can go back and look at different teams in different sports, there are very few that right from the minute they acquire their talent through the draft, just suddenly reach their potential and win championships and play at a consistent level every day. We’re clearly not there yet, but we also show signs of what we can be when we get there. It’s not really what people want to hear, but it’s the truth. It’s that we have to keep at this every day, we can’t waver when things don’t go well, we have to keep marching towards the way we want to go.
We know what everyone says and sees on the ice, it’s the problems that we face. We have to be more consistent with our focus, with our mindset, with our effort every single night to get where we want to go. I know we have the character and the leaders on the team, some of those guys are still younger and they’re finding their way as leaders within the group as well. We have to help them get there, and in time we will. It might just not be as quick or as easy as everyone wants, but this is not the type of business that is quick and easy for a lot.
Did you have anything with Tyson on the front burner?
There was nothing on the front burner. I talked to Tyson Barrie this afternoon, following practice to update him. I’ve been in touch with his representation on Thursday at our game against Pittsburgh. I think the reality is because of the way things had gone, we started to get some interest in him. Because of how things had gone I felt it was good practice to listen and start to envision what the return would look like from our end.
But because we were in the position that we’re in, where we’ve acquired him and he’s played very well especially since the coaching chance, we were totally fine with him running it out and continuing to grow as part of our group.
I know it was stressful couple of days for him, which is not something we want to put anyone through. I talked to him about a half an hour before the deadline, he was on the way to the airport, and we had a good discussion about where things are at and where we want to go, and we are excited to have him as part of it. But we were under no rush, or because of where we’re at, any real impetus to have to do something with him.
Do you see him as part of this team beyond July 1?
That’s a question I don’t have the answer to right now, other than to say that we’ll use the remaining time we have together to see if there’s a fit. As you know with our cap situation it’s never so simple, I wish it were but it’s not. So we’ll see where it’s at and where he’s at. He’s a great member of our program off the ice and adds a lot to our room, as our players communicated to everyone in here over the last number of days. We really value that, what he brings on the ice and off.
As Sheldon talked to earlier today, the way he conducted himself Saturday night when he was injured in the game and then came back in the game speaks a lot about what he’s all about and how he values being here as well as we value having him.
How would you describe the market for defensemen with term on their deals the last few days? Was there one? [Dubas clarified that the question referred to acquiring such a defenseman, not trading one of the Leafs’ own players]
Yeah I think we’re in an interesting situation, because as you saw today with Morgan Rielly and Cody Ceci back skating it looks like they’re going back well before the end of the year. How soon, we don’t know yet and they’re still a ways a way. That complicates the amount you can bring in without a big amount of dollars going out.
We didn’t feel compelled to act on any of the things out there, and frankly I think they are more things that are closer to the draft. We need to see how our own guys develop. In a perfect world your own guys develop and quell your concerns you have about the roster and that people on the outside may have about them as well. We’ll continue to be on the hunt for that and on the lookout from there.
For Calle Rosen, how important was it for you to know what you were getting in the player to make that deal?
It’s a big help, we didn’t really want to give him up in the first deal but we did. Once Hutch cleared waivers a few weeks ago we started to have some discussions with them then it quieted a little bit. We also wanted to do right by Michael and get him into a good situation, it’s not been an easy one for him here. He’s a high quality person and family that he’s got with him.
When they were willing to put Rosen into the deal for our depth purposes, and in knowing him and what he can bring and how far he came with us in the previous two seasons before he was part of the deal with Nazem Kadri, Alexander Kerfoot and Tyson Barrie, we were excited to bring him back. It just eases any transition back, he knows our people and he hasn’t been gone for very long.
What about Jake Muzzin, is he someone that you wanted to keep around and how did you arrive at a four year term?
We obviously wanted to keep him around, otherwise there would be no question. Yes we wanted to keep him around, and the term is a byproduct of where he’s at. He just turned 31 years old, Brandon Pridham and Joe Resnick worked on it mostly and did a great job on it, and Joe’s a very staunch advocate for his client but also something who is very realistic and great to deal with. Brandon and [Joe] did a lot of the work over the last number of months to find something that Jake was comfortable with, and we were comfortable with, and it ends up being a deal that will be very fair to both.
Jake’s importance here, because a lot of people have seen especially have things haven’t gone well, is immense on and off the ice. It was very apparent when he was out of the lineup that we missed him deeply, and that just at the time that we started to really come out of the stretch we were playing well. He got hurt in New Jersey, I think it was one of the key points to us starting to get out of the form we were in. We’re thrilled to have him for what he brings on and off the ice.
I imagine it’s frustrating at times watching some of the games, how have you managed your emotions in this stretch?
[Laughs]. Yes, every single description you could come up with probably describes it. That’s also one of the great things about the business that we’ve chosen. The realism and the fact that it isn’t going to be easy and it isn’t going to be over night. Where we’ve put ourselves into a position that I don’t think we want to be in, which is battling for our lives.
But I’ve said this before and I’ll continue to say it, because it is true regardless of how it all plays out this season and moving forward and how it impacts me and the team and everything like that: our group that we have here has to go through this. We have to develop the ability to weather the storm when it comes and to thrive going through it. That’s the only way we’re going to be at our best.
I think you can look at the team, and I think a lot of people are right when they look at the team Saturday or in Pittsburgh or in Buffalo and think, what’s the matter with them? They just don’t have it. And on those nights they’re right, but then on Thursday night, or when we go into St. Louis or when St. Louis comes here, we also show what we can be. It isn’t a zero sum thing where we’re no good or we’re great. It’s in the middle and we’re trying to get to that point where we’re great every night.
The only way that I know we’re going to get there, is we’re going to have to go through and come out of it with great lessons learned and with our players and our staff and everybody around our program knowing that this is what we have to go through as a group to reach our full potential. I fully believe that.
You can look at countless teams in every sport, and businesses that have gone through the same thing and it’s necessary. As much as I know people don’t want to hear that, and will roll their eyes at that, it’s just the truth. I think it’s exciting for us to find out where we’re at, and it’s exciting to see the response of our guys. Not just tomorrow night, but the rest of the way to April 4th and how we come out.
How difficult it is for you to stay patient through this process to reach that?
[Laughs]. I have my moments where impatience goes to the top of the list, but I don’t think the consequence of every bit of fortune or the consequence of misfortune is as stark as it seems in the moment that it happens.
I think Saturday night was an embarrassing night not because our team lost a game and the goaltender of record for the other team was the zamboni driver from Mattamy Event Center who happens to be a wonderful guy. It was embarrassing because of the way we played that put us into the position where we were down to them 4-1 when we actually started generating shots on him.
At those moments, impatience and frustrations boils - there’s no BS about that. But in the end, we’ve set ourselves up on a journey that it’s going to be difficult, and it’s going to be hard, and we’re going to have moments like that where we question what we’re doing, and we question each other, and we question ourselves.
But you get up every day and you can switch your plan every single morning but you’ll get through this having changed your plan 100 times and look back and say you’ll think jeez we should have just stayed on the course were at and we would have served us so much better in the end.
That’s what we’re committed to, we’re committed to working our way through the adversity and coming out on the other side. As long as we stick with it and keep marching on no matter what’s ahead of us we’ll get there.
Kyle I wanted to ask if I can about David Ayres, if you’re aware of the huge media spectacle. Is that just a huge confidence crush for the guys? Or what was the response for it? Was it a turning point?
I don’t know the answer. I know that everyone here has to be in the very binary, zero sum game of making the next day this is what happened and this is how it’s going to impact things.
I don’t know how it’s going to impact us, I think it was an embarrassing night not because of David Ayres - everyone here loves David Ayres, he’s great. It’s a wonderful story and he’s a wonderful person. He shows up every day, and as Sheldon said he faces hundreds of shots a day from our guys, so he just comes out and he’s great. If we won the game, it would be embarrassing as well. Because you were down 4-1 and then it would be a whole other controversy that would come up, it’s the Maple Leafs and it’s their own employee. I think everyone here can imagine what that would have been like as well.
So we were in a no-win situation in that game, and we were in a no-win situation because we put ourselves there. We did it three of the four games last week. I don’t know what the outcome is going to be. My hope, and what we’re working towards is that we’re going to use not just that game but the three of the four games last week and see how embarrassing it is.
And also the game we played great, and work towards being great three out of four teams instead of being poor three out of four times. Because we have to get there eventually, so that’s what we’re working towards and that’s what we hope the outcome would be. But to sit today and say that I know I can project my optimistic or my pessimistic version, but we don’t know.
It’s going to be on the players to respond in the absolute best way, and it’s going to be on myself and Sheldon and our staff to lead them in the right direction. And in the end if we don’t get there it’s on me, as it always is when things don’t go well.
Was there disappointment, Kyle, when you talk about the adversity the team is going through when you happen to be fighting for your playoff life. Many of us in this room and yourself included probably didn’t expect this sort of thing back in the summer before the season started. So we’ve heard from the players that have been here, that young core that have been through the Bruins losses, this will give us resolve and this will make us stronger. We haven’t seen that. Disappointment would be my word, but how would you determine where the group is considering what the expectations were before the start of the season?
I think the group is in a challenging spot, but with that comes the opportunity to do something special and something great, which is... let’s speak bluntly about it, there’s a lot of people that are writing the obituary for the team and putting the team in the ground right now. And that’s fine, that’s fair. When you play that way, that’s what you get. Especially in a market as passionate as this, with the type of following we have, that’s what’s going to happen.
But I think from that, and I know from that, comes the opportunity... you can go meekly into the night and just accept and build the excuses that you want for why it didn’t work out the way you wanted it to work out... or fight your way back. It’s not to prove people wrong because I think the criticisms that are levied are largely fair, but it’s a chance to show what your best self can be.
We’ve shown that in flashes, and we’re capable of it in long stretches as we’ve shown through December. And capable of it in really difficult games in various difficult games in the year. But it’s getting to that point now when there’s a large amount of doubt around the team, largely earned, that we can do something special as a group and really earn some of the experiences and the lessons that we want in the end.
Do you feel any different about the state of the Leafs after Dubas’ answers?
This poll is closed
NO. STILL MAD. WANT BLOOD.
A bit, I’m still pretty peeved though.
Yes, it makes sense and it’s clear Dubas doesn’t like this crap any more than I do.