It was only a matter of time before the evil empire got its shit together.
Like the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees borrowing from the philosophies of the Oakland Athletics and putting an emphasis on analytical statistics-based research to help construct a roster, the Toronto Maple Leafs have finally wizened up to the error of their ways.
In announcing that they have fired their assistant general managers Dave Poulin and Claude Loiselle and replaced them with 28-year old Kyle Dubas, the Maple Leafs have essentially sent a transcendent message to their fans and the rest of the National Hockey League.
For years, the influence and utilization of fancy stats by NHL teams has always been closely guarded by the teams that use them and understandably so. If a team has success using their own proprietary database of statistics and analysis and there is evidence to suggest that their use is giving that team a competitive advantage over their peers, why would they want to reveal their method(s) of success to the rest of the hockey world?
In hiring Dubas, a renowned hockey mind who has been labelled with a Theo Epstein-like “wonder kid” moniker for his quick ascension to a prominent position for arguably the sports’ most recognized team, the Leafs have sent the following message: the NHL’s most resourceful team has progressively bought in and recognized the merits of using statistical analysis and research to help make more informed decisions in regards to their personnel, coaching philosophies and scouting.
Given the spotlight of being affiliated with the Maple Leafs, there certainly will be a target on Dubas’ back. The fact that he never played the game at a high level or adheres to conventional hockey wisdom puts him in that position.
For such a young hockey mind, Dubas’ resume is impressive however and I believe he can be successful at the game’s highest level.
Having worked as a scout, as a player agent and most recently as the general manager of the Ontario Hockey League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds — a position that he’s held since the age of 25 — Dubas is renowned for embracing and being a proponent of hockey’s analytical movement.
As an organization that essentially has inexhaustible resources, it was always fun to take pleasure in watching the division rival Leafs operate inefficiently and react stupidly using anachronistic methodology and/or conventional hockey wisdom.
Now that they have hired Dubas, it’s scary to think of what the Maple Leafs can do now that they have someone in place who can use these resources wisely. The Leafs can hire more staff, hire the brightest minds, build their own customized databases and invest in new technology to help them track data better.
The rest of the NHL is going to have to embrace the movement or be left in the dust.
The sky is the limit and for a budget conscious organization with limited financial resources like the Ottawa Senators, it just became that much more difficult to compete in the Atlantic Division moving forward.
In what’s been an unsettling offseason already, it was hard to imagine that things could get just a little bit worse.