This was an interesting question that Fulemin posed recently, and it stuck with me enough that I figured I’d make a weekend FTB topic of it.
When I consider everything that is required of an NHL GM to help his team achieve success, I would list the following as general necessities:
- Free agent signings
Kyle Dubas was officially hired as the full GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs on May 11th, 2018. That’s almost three years to examine for each.
Trades - A
Dubas has made a few different kinds of trades. First, trades to shed contracts and manage the Leafs’ cap issues. That includes trading away Matt Martin, Patrick Marleau, Nikita Zaitsev, Connor Brown, Andreas Johnsson, Kasperi Kapanen, and yes it also includes Nazem Kadri. From all those players, Dubas shed a combined $15.35 million in cap hits. He also brought back Alexander Kerfoot, Filip Hallander, Joey Anderson, and the pick that got Rodion Amirov.
But he also made some smart trades to really improve the core of the team. Jake Muzzin and Jack Campbell are the two most noteworthy, and you can throw in Alexander Kerfoot from the Kadri trade as well.
Free agent signings - B+
This encompasses two kinds of free agents: the Leafs’ own RFAs, and new UFAs that Dubas signed to the Leafs. For the first category, Dubas got a good deal for Nylander after a long negotiation, he got market value on Matthews as one of the best players in the league, and Mitch Marner is a great player who is probably making a couple million more than he should be. He also inked guys like Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson to nice and affordable deals that were easy to trade down the line.
Then there’s the UFAs. Kyle Dubas has signed big fish in John Tavares and TJ Brodie, but otherwise has focused on filling out the bottom of the roster with guys on league minimum (or close to it) contracts when they still have some value. These usually come in the form of European free agents (Lehtonen, Mikheyev, Barabanov, etc) and older NHL vets looking to rebuild or finish their careers (Tyler Ennis, Wayne Simmonds, Jason Spezza, Joe Thornton) on the Leafs. Most of the Euro free agents haven’t exactly blown the doors down, but for what they’ve been paid they’ve been alright. The veterans, mostly Jason Spezza the last two years, have done a great job providing value at the bottom of the lineup.
Drafting - B+
This one is hard to really assess, because we need more time to know how good the players he has picked will be. Dubas has participated in three drafts as the full GM. Only two of the players he has drafted have played a single game in the NHL: Rasmus Sandin (29), and Nick Robertson (1 regular season, 4 sort-of playoff games). This is not really surprising since most guys take a while to get to the NHL, so anyone taken in his first draft (2018) out of the CHL for example would just be getting to the Marlies this year.
What he has done is draft smart, and use his prospect capital wisely. He’s managed to parlay two okay-ish prospects into Jake Muzzin. He’s traded down a few times in deals that got Sandin AND Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, or Roni Hirvonen AND Topi Niemelä. He’s looked for undervalued prospects: overagers, smaller and physically undeveloped or late bloomers, Europeans, and so on. If there are other themes to his picks, he seems to like guys who are smart, crafty, skilled, and with sometimes insane levels of motivation. With his drafting and trades for prospects, the Leafs have maintained a prospect pool that — depending on who you ask — is at least middle of the road for the NHL, maybe just sneaking into the top 10. For a team trading away picks and prospects to shed bad contracts, improve the NHL roster, and build to be a contender, that’s an impressive feat.
All in all, if I consider how well Dubas has done with the above, and then look at other teams in the NHL... I have to consider Dubas as one of the better GMs in the league. Certainly in the top half, likely in the top 10. Brisebois in Tampa, Don Waddell in Carolina, Ron Francis now in Seattle, George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon in Vegas, and Joe Sakic in Colorado are guys I would heavily consider for the top 5. I’d likely also think about guys like Steve Yzerman who was hired in the middle of a rebuild, and looks to be doing it smartly in not much time. There are a few others who seem good, but not so much to be clearly better than Dubas. Ron Hextall for how he built the Flyers to what they are today, Don Sweeney for keeping the Bruins going, Jarmo Kekäläinen for somehow getting the Blue Jackets to be any kind of competitive, and Bill Zito — new guy in Florida who inherited his team mostly as-is but has been doing and saying the right things with his early trades (Hornqvist for Matheson was genius), signings, and draft. I’d probably put Dubas somewhere in the 6-8 range among those other GMs.
TL;DR the NHL needs Chiarelli, Tallon, McGuire, and Fenton back in the game. Too many teams are run adequately and it’s boring.
McGuire on TSN690 is asked by a listener if a Phil Danault-Sam Bennett swap would work? McGuire says it would work for Montreal cause Bennett would bring a physical element the Habs lack, but doubts Calgary makes that deal knowing Danault is a UFA this summer.— NHL Watcher (@NHL_Watcher) March 5, 2021
ONTO THE LINKS
Why the Toronto Maple Leafs should make a push for Taylor Hall before the trade deadline | by Kevin Papetti at MLHS.
I like Mikael Granlund and I’m certainly interested in acquiring him, but Hall is simply a different calibre of player. The Leafs look great defensively, while their first line has been amazing up front. Pairing Hall on a line with Tavares and Nylander would make them a force to be reckoned with.
I don’t want to trade Nick Robertson, Rasmus Sandin, Rodion Amirov, or Timothy Liljegren for a rental. However, I don’t think you’ll have to give them up — it’s not like the Coyotes handed over Victor Soderstrom or Barrett Hayton for Hall last year. If they need to be included, I’d focus my attention elsewhere and talk to the Predators about Forsberg or Granlund. A package of Kerfoot and a first-round pick seems more than fair.
Leafs Prospect Roundup: Amirov in the playoffs, Liljegren lights the lamp, Abramov returns to action | by Nick Richard at TLN, including a bit of news around Topi Niemelä re-signing with Karpat.
Karpat announced on Thursday that they had signed Niemela to a one-year contract extension, ensuring the young blue liner will continue his development in his home country for at least one more season.
The team has indicated that he will be a staple in the top four of their defensive unit next season and the expectation is that Niemela will sign his ELC with Leafs at the conclusion of the 2021-2022 Liiga campaign.
And here’s a highlight from another prospect not mentioned in the above article, Joe Miller:
Why the Maple Leafs look so much better defensively this season | by James Mirtle at The Athletic
Last season, in odd-man rushes against at even strength, the Leafs were among the 10 worst teams in the league.
This year, they’re up into the top five.
Other areas where the Leafs have made a significant improvement?
1. Shots and shot attempts against from the slot area.
2. Passes to the slot against, especially uncontested ones.
3. High-danger shots against off the rush.
The Leafs were in the bottom 10 in all of those statistics at even strength last season. Now, in many cases, they’re up among the league leaders. Or, at worst, league average.
AROUND THE HOCKEY WORLD
NHL players voice support for launching women’s pro league | by Sportsnet
Bruins respond to head shot with dominant victory over Capitals | by Sportsnet.ca, and here’s the headshot in question:
Tom Wilson hits Brandon Carlo up high.— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) March 6, 2021
Carlo needs help getting off the ice. pic.twitter.com/RgACye1H7l
Brad Marchand had this notable quote:
"That was a bull**** hit"— NESN (@NESN) March 6, 2021
Brad Marchand responds to Tom Wilson's hit on Brandon Carlo. pic.twitter.com/HvdBMGKKN3
Which you know means I have to break out this oldie:
Have a great weekend everyone!