If you want to watch the full event with the introduction of the players and the speeches, it’s here and gives you a chance to see what everyone looks like freshly shaved for picture day:
It’s not often you get the GM of an NHL team on hand for an AHL win and speaking to the press, but because this was Kyle Dubas’s team he was on hand on Saturday.
Dubas first spoke at the locker clean out about his own emotions on winning the Calder Cup, the future of Sheldon Keefe, and the Maple Leafs preparation for the draft.
Dubas says the Marlies did his schedule a real favour by sweeping the Phantoms in four games, so he could discuss the draft plans with his staff, and he could go to the Combine.
He talks about the trade down he engineered at the 2015 draft as well as everything he’s learned from Lou Lamoriello since, and he sounds really ready to make whatever deal comes up. As everyone may have heard, he plays down his reputation as a GM who trades down, and he insists the team is open to moving up. It never pays to tell other GMs your plans usually, so he basically is just saying to call him on any offer.
He’s speaks extremely favourably about Sheldon Keefe having a future in the NHL, but he also said no one NHL team has asked to speak to him at this time.
When asked, Dubas also gives a very nice precis of why the Leafs picked the Growlers as their ECHL franchise. He talks about St. John’s as a Leafs city, and a place that isn’t really any farther away than Orlando, so for the Marlies players moving up and down, it’s not more travel.
He’s cagey on the UFAs currently on the Leafs, and yet he sure doesn’t sound like he’s going to sign any. He also has to explain how this off-season is very different from 2015, when they were building a tank (he doesn’t say that, but he dances close). It’s a weird thing to need to have to belabour, but he does, and says that the Leafs have difference-makers on the team now, and they are looking to add complementary players to that mix.
Dubas also strongly distinguishes between the past, when the Leafs had extreme positional needs — he references the trade for Frederik Andersen — and the present where the need is “anywhere they can get better”. I’ve heard that phrase before.
Dubas also gives an enthusiastic and glowing report on Timothy Liljegren, and if you harbour any doubts about the youngest member of the Marlies, you should listen to that. Everything from his games played to his ice time to his usage was part of their plan for him, and he seems to have met or exceeded expectations.
Now, on the tone of this scrum: Winning is fun, and it makes people happy, but Kyle Dubas is just so joyfully enthusiastic about the future of the whole Leafs organization, it’s a bit overwhelming. He doesn’t sound worried about anything. He’s on the way up, he’s sure of it, and he’s taking us all with him.
Given that, he cheerfully and happily, and with a few apologies, tells you nothing. He’s playing Lou in a reboot, so he’s young and happy and fun to hang out with, but it’s still the same character.
Now here he is at the Marlies celebration where talk of the Leafs is put aside for one last moment in the sun:
Andreas Johnsson is interesting, particularly for his honesty about some playoffs performances in his past that weren’t great. I love that sort of true self-reflection in a player. It’s the only way to get better is to know when you were bad.
There’s some questions around if is he ready for the NHL, and that’s not really a question. It’s where in the lineup he’ll be, not if.
In other news, Colin Greening said he has “signed with the Marllies,” and we’ll post about that when we know what sort of deal that is. Rich Clune indicated they’ll need heavy machinery to remove him from the team as well.
And when all that was done, the Cup got an outing: