This weekend could be a key moment for the Penguins’ future, it’s presumably the time that Kyle Dubas is wrestling with the decision about whether or not he wants to accept a job in Pittsburgh and jump immediately back into the NHL waters after being fired in Toronto last week.
It’s been trending in the direction of that lately. NHL Insider and Toronto-based Chris Johnston delivered a very scientific “98 percent” chance from someone he knew thinking that Dubas will likely join on with the Pens back a few days ago on Thursday.
Chris Johnston during his show today: I've heard from people not directly involved that it's about 98% that Dubas will be taking a job in Pittsburgh. I don't know if I can place my own percentage quite that high but it seems like things are trending in that direction.— Hunter (@HunterHodies) May 25, 2023
Elliotte Friedman shared a similar sentiment on his Friday podcast, saying that the Penguins are in no rush during this long holiday weekend and giving Dubas some time to get to his final decision. In the event Dubas declines, Tampa assistant Mathieu Darche could be the next choice. Later on the Jeff Marek Show, Friedman added Darche was joined by Dallas assistant Steve Greeley on Pittsburgh’s remaining short list of candidates.
Elliotte Friedman said on today's episode of 32 Thoughts "I think Pittsburgh is prepared to wait through the weekend to see how Dubas feels about this". Also mentioned Mathieu Darche as the likely candidate if Dubas doesn't take the job. #LetsGoPens #NHL— Josh Anselmo (@ITD_Anselmo) May 26, 2023
By all accounts, Dubas and the Penguins have been circling each other since he became available. Dubas was reluctant to work in Toronto next year, let alone anywhere else, and likely has a lot to consider in terms of what decision is best and right for his young family, as well as himself. If nothing else, he is seriously considering the Penguins, including coming to town and meeting with team officials in person, and also taking a late night quick meeting with Sidney Crosby earlier in the week at the team’s practice facility.
Via Jonas Siegel, Toronto staff members are dealing with the fallout of losing their leader, a popular figure in the organization. It’s a good read, if you haven’t had enough anonymous sourcing and quotes from The Athletic,,
Confusion and hurt is rippling through the Leafs in the wake of Kyle Dubas’ dismissal: “It doesn’t make any sense”: https://t.co/WFCKfzuMFh— Jonas Siegel (@jonassiegel) May 25, 2023
The article explains what Dubas did to inspire loyalty and his management style, like rallying the organization in late October when the team was floundering on the ice early. That start has long since been forgotten after the Maple Leafs responded with another strong season.
“People don’t understand how much work he put in,” the Leafs front office member said. “They had it made with this guy.”
This explains why Dubas seems to have vaulted to the top of the Penguins’ GM search this week.
It was Dubas, then the assistant GM to Lamoriello, who oversaw the addition of Jeremy Bettle and the creation of a sports science department. It was Dubas, with the support of head coach Sheldon Keefe, who oversaw the expansion of a skill development program that allowed players to hone their abilities throughout the season.
Auston Matthews and John Tavares, in particular, have raved about the operation. Players like Conor Timmins spent morning after morning with skating coach Paul Matheson while skill development consultants like Denver Manderson joined the team for skill sessions on the road. The Leafs even brought their practice goalie, Andrew D’Agostini, on road trips, even the long ones, to spare their regular goaltenders some wear and tear.
That didn’t exist in the pre-Dubas era. There was no “process” in place, an organization-wide way of doing things that trickled down from the top into every corner of the organization. Information was more siloed in the Lamoriello days. After Dubas became GM that changed. Staff members from the research and development departments started attending practice regularly. The dress code was relaxed. Players and staff were free to sport facial hair and felt more comfortable being themselves.
They saw Dubas pouring everything he had into the organization. They saw that he watched as much or more video than many of his own scouts. That he pursued relationships and information from people in other sports and businesses, anything to push the Leafs forward.
If Dubas does want to work in the NHL next year, it appears likely he will have an opportunity waiting on him in Pittsburgh. Over the coming hours and days, the hockey world will now wait to see what direction that he wants to go.