Is this really the end of an era?
Species: Yup, absolutely, at least maybe. It certainly feels like it did at the end of the 2016 season when franchise names like Joffrey Lupul, Dion Phaneuf, and James Reimer all left the team and new franchise names joined the team like William Nylander and Zach Hyman. Then the following season we saw the fantastic debuted of Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews. It now feels like we are at that tipping point again, which starts with some small changes in the short term, and then on the one year horizon a complete retooling, perhaps with some new “young Tyler Bozak” surviving; please make that be William Nylander, and whoever is in charge, sign Alex too!
Brian: If this question really means “will the Leafs as a team and an organization make a bunch of dramatic changes?” then no, I don’t really think so. The biggest question is Dubas returning or not, and by extension perhaps Keefe. But the organization is set up to be a machine regardless of specific cogs. I doubt they make a huge shift and decide they need to turn the organization upside down to start focusing on a dramatically different philosophy, with all new players and people.
Hardev: No, they’ll come back with mostly the same lineup as before. I say that regardless of Dubas getting extended or not because I don’t think a potential new GM will be able to tear things apart or make changes so quickly. Maybe they rush to trade Marner or whoever before their NTC kicks in, but nothing else really can change and there’s lots of cap space this summer.
Cathy: No. A thousand times no. And the reason for that is simple. If MLSE chooses not to extend Kyle Dubas, there is no reason to expect a big pendulum swing and the hiring of some lunkhead as GM. That's just a "we can't have nice things" humble whinge meme.
Catch-67: I have been dreading MLSE giving up on Dubas for a while, but the more I've thought about it, the more I feel very similarly to how most of the masthead feels. I don't think it's the end of an era, even though it's possible there'll be some front office and on ice changes. It might be the end of an era in a more limited way. For example, I expect it will be the end of the "when can we trade Kerfoot and Holl for a bag of pucks?" era, since I don't think either will be re-signed. As is generally the case, though, I think Cathy's right, and it's not the end of the "no longer having a boneheaded front office" era. I think the team will be just fine.
Anybody deserve to be fired?
Cathy: I have to quibble with “deserve”. As in to atone for their failures? No. But could you make a coaching change and perhaps come out the better for it? Yes, maybe. Depends who you get (no, not Bruce Boudreau). You can change the GM and not have it be a disaster.
Hardev: Dubas will most likely come back. I wonder if ownership will do something wacky like fire Shanahan to give Dubas a new boss in a weird corporate power move. Keeping what Cathy said about “deserve”, I think if a better coach can be found, they should make the change.
Catch-67: Arguably Keefe, I guess? But I don't think he deserves to be fired any more than any given coach of a team that loses in the second round does. I think Dubas had a quite good year, with many of his bets seeming to pay off quite well. And, also, once again I think Cathy's right, Keefe or Dubas could be replaced with it being a beneficial move, but they don't necessarily deserve to be fired.
Species: I really don't see anyone who "deserves" to be fired right now, or in Dubas' case, not at least given a competitive offer to stay.
Will they be fired?
Cathy: I… honestly don’t know. Letting Dubas walk and keeping Sheldon Keefe would be extremely weird, but that might happen.
Hardev: Executives and media always talk about “the GM will get the chance to hire another coach” or in some bullet, round, chamber, weapon analogy. So I think if Dubas sticks around, he might still (be told to?) get a new coach. If he’s gone, the only way Keefe stays is as a lame duck coach.
Catch-67: I could see it going either way. It does certainly feel like someone could be fired and the owners could be impatient, but I think it feels more like a "coach fired" season than a "GM let go" season. That said, Dubas is at the end of the contract, and Keefe really feels like Dubas' guy in a way that might wipe out the "hire another coach" thing that Hardev mentioned.
Species: One scenario I have been thinking of is that MLSE is really being squeezed on expenses everywhere right now because of inflation--the season ticket renewals will probably come with sticker shock--and they will start really clamping down on expenses to save every million they can, so Dubas has to justify a new and higher contract, and I can see Dubas then deciding to jump ship for whichever other team inevitably brings in the dump truck full of money. In that scenario he does leave Keefe behind here to start the next season. How far Keefe gets in this scenario cannot be predicted as there are too many variables. Keefe could actually thrive under a different GM with a different view of the what to add around the core. He could also be fired on the spot by the next GM and be the next coach of the whatever team Dubas finds.
Will the team trade a significant player?
Cathy: No. Because there is no case to do it. Your emotions may say otherwise, but of the players it is plausibly possible to move, there is no good reason to do it.
Brian: Doubt it.
Hardev: Nope. Tavares has a NMC. Matthews is untradeable. Marner is not a winnable trade. Nylander even more so. Rielly has proven his worth. Who else is a significant player?
Catch-67: As evryone has said, I don't think anyone's getting traded.
Species: Only whatever player that first round pick could become.
WTF DO YOU DO ABOUT THE GOALIE SITUATION?
Cathy: Samsonov is an RFA which means the Leafs could just work through arbitration, and then decide the rest of it in August. But that seems like it would have too many bad repercussions on other decisions. But it gets you a short deal, which might be worth it in the end. Bottom line, if Dubas is the GM, he'll set a goalie budget and figure out how to make it work. He won't set out to re-sign Samsonov at any cost or assume Joe Woll is magically a starter.
Brian: What actually happens will depend on who’s making the decisions. But I think you could return with a tandem based around Samsonov and Woll and do fine. Hell, you could probably return Murray too and just run it fully back. Do you want a dramatically better goalie situation? Name me the goalie, then tell me how you’re going to pry a top tier NHL goalie away from the team they’re already with. Or how you’ll fit them under the cap.
Hardev: Which goalies do the Leafs want is a better question than which goalies do the Leafs have. Goalies are easily moved, unqualified, or waived, so wiping the slate clean and doing another full evaluation on who should be in net should be the plan. Is Woll the backup? He’s cheap, that helps. But is he good enough? What if he flops in training camp and suddenly Hildeby is the backup? Is there a third string you’re confident in? And then the question goes to the starter. Samsonov or Murray? One, both, neither? Who else is available? What else can be done? All options open.
Catch-67: I think it will be something similar to running it back, but I also think it will follow a similar logic to previous offseasons. Last offseason, Dubas decided price to performance favoured getting two new guys, and if the budget and availability dictates getting rid of Samsonov and Murray and getting two new goalies, I think Dubas will do that. If Samsonov will sign for cheap enough and there's not a desirable option to get rid of Murray's contract, then I expect they'll run it back. I think it could really go any way at this point.
Say the Leafs run it back the best they can again next season. What is the one change you would make?
Cathy: Matt Knies should not be the best LW on the team.
Brian: I fully understand why Toronto has built their depth the way they have over the past few years. Defensive forwards who don’t score are cheap, and plentiful. But man I’d love for them to find another guy or two whose balance of skills tips more towards getting the puck in the other team’s net. Also, some speed would be nice, speed and knowing what to do with it. And while I’m at it I’d love for the salary cap to increase by $50 million and a pony.
Hardev: Keller, Debrincat, or Pettersson. Or maybe the list should be Dubois, Meier, Bratt, and Terry. Or maybe go to tried and true UFA; Zucker, Haula, or Killorn. Trade for DeBrusk or Konecny? All in all, see who you can get up front with $7m+ in cap space for one player and nothing to lose. The need is up front, badly.
Catch-67: I also want a scoring forward. This isn't a change, exactly, but I'd love to see ROR back as well.