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Toronto Maple Leafs: Blowing In The Wind

Brendan Shanahan
Chris So / Toronto Star file photo

The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of those teams that illicit strong emotions from hockey fans. Their fans start every season with the undying belief that they will win the Cup. They will sing the praises of their top line and insist that this will be "their year".

However, reality is a cruel mistress (believe me, this Bruins fan knows the sting of that loss). The Leafs were eliminated in the second round of this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs, and now the Leafs will be going through another possible rebuild (although re-alignment might be more accurate).

The Leafs began their refit by going in a different direction in the front office. Kyle Dubas, who was GM of the Leafs for five seasons, was told on May 19th by the front office that he would not be returning next season. His contract was to expire on June 30th.

Dubas will now be overseeing the Pittsburgh Penguins organization as President of Hockey Operations. The Penguins had their sixteen-year streak of playoff appearances snapped this year by finishing just out of the playoff race with 91 points. (40-31-11)

Dubas was not expecting to leave Toronto and was disappointed, considering the Leafs had finally cleared that elusive hurdle of getting past the first round.

"What I would say is I definitely don't have it in me to go anywhere else, so it will either be here (in Toronto) or it will be taking time to recalibrate and reflect on the seasons here," Dubas said. "But you won't see me next week pop up elsewhere. I can't put [my family] through that after this year."

The Leafs brought on Brad Treliving to take over as GM, and there already seems to be issues in the front office.

"No, I wouldn't characterize it as breaking down over money," said Leafs President Brendan Shanahan after Dubas' departure. "Knowing and recognizing on Monday after the (end-of-season) availability, when a general manager is playing out the last year of his contract, there's always the contingency that you might need a new general manager, he might choose to go to another team. I think I felt I had got a little bit closer and had some indications we were going to work this out."

Now Treliving inherits the problem of who will be the bench boss next season. Sheldon Keefe has been the head coach of the Leafs for the last four seasons. While he has proven to be competent in the regular season, the team has struggled in the playoffs. This year's first-round victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning is their sole post-season success.

Treliving understands that this is an unusual situation for the team. So far, Treliving hasn't made any decisions one way or the other but expressed confidence in Keefe's abilities.

"As I said to him, it's a little bit of a unique situation. We can call it whatever we want, we're all big boys here," Treliving said. "There's been a change and he's in a unique situation, but that's the business. My outside lens of Sheldon, I look at a team the last two years as a full-time coach, 115 points and 111 points, I think he's a really good coach."

This appears to be a critical year for Toronto. Their overreliance on their top line and their lack of depth appear to be two of their greatest challenges going into the 2023-2024 season. It's up to Treliving to make sure the Leafs stay strong and don't suffer another postseason pruning.


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