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LEAFS GM ADMITS UNDERVALUING VETERAN LEADERSHIP: 'SHAME ON ME FOR THAT'

It's difficult to pinpoint who is most to blame for the postseason struggles of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but perhaps it's most fair to say that there's plenty of blame to go around. If you break it down, it's the GM's responsibility to assemble the best roster possible to give his team a chance to compete, the coaches' responsibilities to run their units in the most efficient and effective way possible and put players in a position to succeed, and it's the players' responsibilities to go out there and execute.

Though it's not exactly easy to take the introspective approach and assume a share in the blame, Leafs GM Kyle Dubas has made it a point to get out in front of this one and admit one of his biggest shortcomings as a GM in his young career.

The error in judgement, by Dubas' own admission, was his oversight on just how important veteran leadership truly is to a hockey club. When you consider the length of time a player has played in the NHL and the amount of action they've seen in all situations, especially in the postseason, it becomes evident that there are things that a player like that can add to an organization that may not necessarily show up on the score sheet, but can have an equally important impact and potentially change the outcome of a game.

"Why, after the first time, I just didn't realize it and learn it then and then apply it every time moving forward, that's just a mistake on my end," Dubas told Sportsnet's Luke Fox on Tuesday. "Shame on me for that."



Dubas, who was also responsible for adding veterans Jake Muzzin and Jason Spezza to the Leafs' roster has taken a bit of a different approach in the last couple of seasons, but particularly during this most recent off-season with the acquisitions several veteran players like Joe Thornton, TJ Brodie, Wayne Simmonds and Zach Bogosian to attempt to rectify the situation. He believes these additions can add that edge and experience to help push youngsters Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner to their limits and show them what it takes to have long term success at the NHL level, but most importantly, to navigate a deep playoff run.

"Those guys have a real increased sense of urgency to them," Dubas said. "Either time is running out on their career and they want to win - in the case of Spezza, Thornton, and Simmonds - or they've faced great disappointment in the past, like TJ Brodie and all the guys on our roster."

When you look back at each of the Stanley Cup winning teams over the last 10-20 seasons, you'd be hard-pressed to find a single one of them without a strong veteran leadership presence. With the Leafs now possessing an abundance of that veteran leadership coupled with their younger skilled core entering their prime years, perhaps they'll find some success in the postseason for the first time in the last 15 years.

MIKE ARMENTI
DECEMBER 1, 2020  (12H35)
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