Leafs not looking too far down the road while stuck in holding pattern

Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas isn't trying to plan too far ahead with the future of the season up in the air. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas isn’t trying to plan too far ahead with the future of the season up in the air. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Isolated in his home and working with incomplete and contingent-heavy information, things aren’t much different for Kyle Dubas when compared to the rest of us in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Not knowing what to expect or how the situation will impact business in the future, the Toronto Maple Leafs are simply doing what they can to be prepared for the moment concrete news or instruction becomes available to act on.

“It’s so hard to know which way we’re going, and how we’re going to get there,” the Leafs general manager said Tuesday, on the first of several conference calls scheduled out by the team.

Beyond discussions and plans for ways to advance scouting and player development, Dubas explained that the primary focus right now for him and his staff is to maintain correspondence with the NHL and his superiors with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment in order to continue to position themselves when we, as a society, push through this fog.

“There are much more important things happening in the world right now. We try to map out as many of the situations as possible without trying to get too far ahead,” Dubas said.

For that reason, Dubas indicated that he hasn’t put enough thought into return-to-play scenarios — at least not enough in order to discuss them formally. That includes what concessions might have to be made with fans and inside rinks if the NHL does find a way to resume this season, or what might make an acceptable format in an effort to reach a conclusion for the season.

Dubas said while he agrees with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s assertion that the integrity of the competition cannot be compromised just to award the Stanley Cup, he wouldn’t toy with the idea of what might be an acceptable abbreviated format.

“I have no idea what it would look like or how it would unfold,” he said. “I think these are unprecedented times and the league is looking at everything. .. For me to guess would be a little bit reckless. It’s not at the front of my mind and probably not the league’s either.”

Like many others, Dubas said the silver lining for him has been spending time with his family.

Together with his wife and toddler exclusively now for almost three weeks, he said that there probably wasn’t another scenario that would ever allow for that much time to be spent together. He’s catching up on Netflix shows and other series, including Ozark and Homeland, and of course, getting some reading done as well.

At the same time he acknowledged that there are many people not fortunate enough to stay home, while many others have been forced into confinement as the pandemic continues to turn lives upside down. He said that many with the organization are facing those challenges, mentioning players in isolation caught far away from home.

For everyone dealing with those disadvantages, Dubas says the the organization is focused on doing what it can to help them through it by providing as much information as possible and setting a positive example.

Confirmed interest in Russian winger

Dubas did tackle one hockey-related matter on his conference call Tuesday, confirming interest in Russian winger Alexander Barabanov.

He described the KHL veteran and 2018 Olympian as a “strong winger with tremendous play-making ability” — especially under pressure. Barabanov has the ability to win pucks and protect possession, Dubas said, despite the fact that the forward is not overly big.

“We’ll continue to pursue him as best we can,” the GM said.

TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that the Leafs and Arizona Coyotes are front runners for Barabanov, who is apparently just officially beginning the interviewing process Tuesday. Dreger adds that both the Leafs and Coyotes have been working on courting Barabanov for almost two years.

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