The Toronto Maple Leafs have once again found themselves facing an early exit from the playoffs, and their general manager, Kyle Dubas, has been forced to address the team’s future.
Dubas took over as GM in 2018, with a mandate to turn the Leafs into a contender. He’s made some big moves since then, including signing John Tavares to a seven-year deal and trading for Jake Muzzin and, most recently, Nick Foligno. But despite all the talent on the roster, the Leafs have yet to make it past the first round of the playoffs during Dubas’ tenure.
In his end-of-season press conference, Dubas accepted responsibility for the team’s lack of success in the playoffs. “The biggest failure in all of this is my responsibility, as the leader of the organization,” he said. “I didn’t make the right decisions, and I need to fix that.”
Dubas also addressed some of the team’s biggest issues, including their lack of physicality and defensive structure. The Leafs have been criticized for their inability to get past heavy, physical teams like the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens. Dubas said he’s aware of that criticism and is looking to make changes.
“We do need to add elements to our team that we haven’t had in the past,” he said. “We have to evaluate the roster and identify where we need to improve.”
One area where Dubas is unlikely to make any changes is in the team’s core group of players. Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Tavares, and William Nylander are all signed to long-term contracts, and Dubas believes they can still be part of a championship team.
“We need to put them in a position to succeed,” he said. “We have to build a team around them that can compete in the playoffs.”
Dubas also addressed the team’s goaltending, which has been a question mark for the Leafs in recent years. Frederik Andersen had a disappointing season and is set to become a free agent. Dubas said he’s open to bringing Andersen back, but he’s also looking at other options.
“We have to make sure we have the right goaltending to win in the playoffs,” he said. “We’ll explore all our options, and we’ll make the right decision.”
For Leafs fans, another early playoff exit is frustrating, but Dubas’ willingness to take responsibility and make changes is a positive sign. The team has a talented core of players, and with the right additions, they can finally make a deep playoff run. It’s now up to Dubas to identify those additions and make them happen.