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Nonis impressed by Dubas' moves, says first-round series shouldn't determine fate

Kyle Dubas Kyle Dubas - The Canadian Press

Former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis thinks current GM Kyle Dubas has done a good job leading up to the March 3 trade deadline.

So much so that Nonis believes Dubas should potentially get the chance to keep his job even if the Leafs don’t advance past the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Nonis joined the Ray & Dregs Hockey Podcast with TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger and Ray Ferraro and said during Tuesday’s episode that the result of Toronto’s first-round series shouldn’t influence people’s perception of the job Dubas has done.

 “I think it’ll have some effect, but at the end of the day, it really shouldn’t. If we’re all praising [Dubas] for the job he’s done, I think most people are, he’s done a really good job in the last several weeks of adding some key pieces to that team,” Nonis said.

“You know, if we’re as a group – you say as a group, the media, the fanbase – saying that Kyle has done a really good job of giving this team a chance to win and they don’t, how do you change that evaluation? How do you say he’s done a really good job right now and then say ‘Well, we lost in seven, so he’s got to go.’ I just don’t think that’s the way of looking at it and evaluating it.”

Nonis joined the Leafs in 2010 and served as general manager for just under two and a half years from 2013 to 2015.

Dubas is in the last year of a five-year deal and was informed by team president Brendan Shanahan in September that no contract extension would be offered at that point in time. This led many to believe Dubas’ future hinged on the Leafs’ 2022-23 season, one that sees them on track to meet the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the playoffs again as they aim for their first series win since 2004.

“I’ve fully acknowledged that we haven’t gotten it done at the end of the season. I would much rather be evaluated on the full term, anyway,” Dubas said last September.

Dubas has taken two big swings this month, acquiring Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Mikhail Abramov, Adam Gaudette and three draft picks, including this year’s first-rounder. On Monday, Dubas sent Joey Anderson, Pavel Gogolev, a conditional 2025 first- and a 2026 second-round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for Jake McCabe, Sam Lafferty and two conditional late-round selections.

“I think he’s done a really good job. And I think you have to evaluate the job he’s done based on the pieces he’s added and how he went about doing it,” Nonis said.

Dubas spoke to reporters Monday and said he’s focused on adding to the team, not his job security.

"I wouldn't say it feels like pressure," the 37-year-old insisted. "You feel a duty in this job to do everything you can to help the group of people that are a part of it. We are fortunate to have great staff and great players that deserve everything from my end to help them get over the top and reach their potential, which is to win."

The Leafs have 82 points in 60 games while the Lightning have 78 in 59 contests as both teams trail the league-leading Boston Bruins. Nonis pointed out that despite all Dubas has done to put his team in position to win, the Leafs are still going to face stiff competition.

“You can make that argument that they have a better team on paper. What they don’t have is the experience that Tampa has, and they don’t have that goalie. So, those are two things that could be difference-makers, and Toronto could still lose that series,” Nonis said.

“I don’t think it’s the fault of the general manager in this case for adding enough pieces or putting enough bullets in that gun if they have the chance to compete because he did do that.”