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Confusion and hurt ripples through Maple Leafs in wake of Kyle Dubas’ dismissal



Anger. Confusion. Shock. Disappointment.

Those are some of the feelings reverberating around the Maple Leafs right now in the aftermath of Kyle Dubas’ firing as general manager last week.

The Athletic reached out to several people who work for the Leafs this week. Anonymity was granted to them as they were not permitted by the team to speak to the media.

This story reflects their feelings at the moment and speaks to a level of disillusionment that team president Brendan Shanahan and the next GM of the Leafs will have to work to unwind.


“I’m in mourning right now,” one person who worked in the front office with Dubas during his time with the Leafs said.

There’s a real sense of loss for staff members. Dubas was their leader and the one who hired many of them. Suddenly, he was gone a week after the season came to an end – and without, in their minds, a satisfactory explanation as to why.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” a Leafs front office member said of the way Dubas was let go. “That’s why it’s disappointing.”

Shanahan went from wanting to bring Dubas back to firing him in a matter of days. And then offered his version of events in a press conference that left people inside the organization confused and upset.

Jason Spezza resigned before that press conference even began. The popular former Leaf who retired into a role with the front office after the 2021-22 season has declined to address the matter any further than that. That was intentional. Spezza wanted his actions to do the talking.

Read between the lines and it’s obvious he was unhappy with what transpired and was willing to sacrifice the beginnings of his own post-playing career for it.

Spezza was working for his hometown team. He had his family here. He had every reason to stick with the Leafs, where he could pursue his future in hockey further but left anyway in support of his boss.

Kyle Dubas and Jason Spezza. (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

After a 19-year playing career in the NHL, in which he earned an estimated $90 million, according to CapFriendly, Spezza could afford to walk away. Others who felt the same, who were inclined to follow their leader out the door, couldn’t given they lacked that same sense of financial security.

It’s security they have because of Dubas.

Though he wasn’t offered an extension himself, not until after the trade deadline, Dubas fought to extend staff members who entered last season with expiring contracts. He got them extended with one, two, and three-year deals.

At least one staff member was inclined to ride things out with Dubas for an uncertain year. Dubas insisted — take the security, protect your family.

“Don’t worry about me,” he told his people. “I’ll be OK.”

Those close to Dubas insist they liked working for him. Dubas put them first and had clearly grown into his leadership role.

It was early last season, when the team was stumbling badly out of the gate in October, that Dubas gathered the entire Leafs operation together for a meeting.

He calmed a tense group down. “Be the best you can be,” he told them all. “Just do what you do.”

The overriding message: Everything was fine. The team would be OK. And indeed, the Leafs finished with the second-best record in the league from Nov. 1 onward.

To at least one person who works for the Leafs, this past season felt like the first time when everybody in the organization was pulling in the same direction. It was about their shared mission, of course, of trying to win the Stanley Cup.

But it was also about Dubas. Everyone knew he was in the last year of his deal. And though everything appeared the same on the outside with Dubas, that he was treating the job exactly as he had before, they knew as well as he did that his job was literally on the line (even if they assumed he would be back after the Leafs’ first-round win over Tampa).

Many in the organization had worked with Dubas before he became GM of the Leafs, when he was toiling under then-GM Lou Lamoriello, leading the Marlies to the Calder Cup in 2018. Over the last five years, they saw firsthand how he built the Leafs into a finely tuned, sprawling machine that sought to maximize everything it possibly could in the organization.

“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.

Staff were encouraged to do the same.

That’s what made the way Dubas was dismissed so unnerving to them. They believe it wasn’t about money or power for Dubas, and they were skeptical he would insist on changes at the last minute. That wasn’t the way Dubas did business.

If he was insisting on changes to the chain of command, as has been reported by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, it would have been so he could operate more efficiently and effectively, in their estimation. As for the family concerns that Dubas alluded to in his season-ending press conference, the belief is he simply wanted to take a beat, look inward, and figure out how to make everything work better for himself, his family, and the Leafs.

There is a sense of disbelief in the organization that Shanahan would be willing to change course from someone who had grown so much over the years and who was so committed to the Leafs and who, in Shanahan’s own telling, performed well last season.

It was “unfathomable” to Leafs staff that it would end like it did.

And now, some staff wonder, how will the Leafs find someone better? Someone prepared to execute a series of franchise-changing decisions in a matter of weeks? Someone who will foster a similar work culture. And what will that mean for the Leafs?

Shanahan’s explanation only left staff more confused and upset, that Dubas would be maligned like that, with an odd play-by-play of negotiations and inference that more money was insisted upon at the last minute, on the way out. It irked them that this was how Dubas was being portrayed.

He deserved better, they said.

Dubas wasn’t the type to defend himself either, one of the staff members said, so those suggestions would go undefended.

And indeed, in his only public comments, Dubas has declined to address any specifics.

(Top photo: Lance McMillan / Toronto Star via Getty Images)



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Blue Jays pound out 14 hits in win over Brewers – TSN



TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays were quick to set the tone in their three-game series opener against the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday, scoring early and often in a 7-2 victory at Rogers Centre.

Alejandro Kirk and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had three hits apiece and Whit Merrifield drove in a pair of runs for the Blue Jays, who scored four times in the first inning for a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

“Today was a perfect example of doing things that we’re good at,” said Blue Jays manager John Schneider. “It was good starting pitching, it was clean defence and really good at-bats.”


It was Toronto’s fourth win in seven games.

Blue Jays starter Yusei Kikuchi (6-2) gave up a two-run homer to William Contreras in the opening frame but settled in after that, allowing just three hits over five innings.

The left-hander issued five walks and had four strikeouts, including the 500th of his career.

“Obviously it wasn’t my A-game today,” Kikuchi said via an interpreter. “But I just battled out there and gave it my all.”

Cavan Biggio and Merrifield each had a pair of hits for the Blue Jays, who outhit Milwaukee 14-4.

Brewers starter Adrian Houser (1-1) lasted 4 1/3 innings, allowing six earned runs, 11 hits and three walks. He had three strikeouts.

With the roof open on a glorious spring evening, the Blue Jays gave the Rogers Centre crowd of 32,930 something to cheer about in the early going.

Guerrero and Matt Chapman delivered RBI singles in the first inning and Merrifield sent a roller down the third-base line to bring home two more runs.

“Any four-run inning in a nine-inning game is going to be tough to come back from,” said Brewers manager Craig Counsell.

The Blue Jays loaded the bases with nobody out in the second. Kirk scored on a fielder’s choice and Brandon Belt added an RBI single.

Toronto right-hander Nate Pearson had four strikeouts over two shutout innings. Adam Cimber, Tim Mayza and Yimi Garcia also made relief appearances.

The game kicked off a seven-game road trip for the Brewers (28-26), who lead the National League Central Division standings.

The Blue Jays (29-26) have a better record but started the day in last place in the powerhouse American League East.

Baseball’s hits leader, Bo Bichette, had his eight-game hitting streak come to an end. He was the only Toronto starter without a hit.

Milwaukee shortstop Andruw Monasterio singled in the second inning for his first big-league hit.

The game took two hours 31 minutes to play.


Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier was not in the starting lineup as he continues to deal with lower back discomfort.

Schneider said Kiermaier has made progress over the last few days. Kiermaier hasn’t played since he was removed from a game Saturday at Minnesota.


It was the first game at Rogers Centre for Brewers slugger Rowdy Tellez since he was traded from Toronto to Milwaukee two years ago.

Tellez spent parts of four seasons with the Blue Jays, who drafted him with the 895th overall pick in 2013.


Right-handers were set to square off on Wednesday night with Julio Teheran (0-1, 1.80 earned-run average) to start for the Brewers against Alek Manoah (1-5, 5.53).

Toronto’s Kevin Gausman (3-3, 3.03) was tabbed for the series finale on Thursday against fellow righty Freddy Peralta (5-4, 4.64).

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2023.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

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Pride Toronto director says Blue Jays have opportunity after Anthony Bass apology – CP24



Pride Toronto executive director Sherwin Modeste feels the Toronto Blue Jays have an opportunity to turn a player’s negative action into a positive.

Blue Jays reliever Anthony Bass apologized Tuesday for expressing support on social media for anti-2SLGBTQ+ boycotts of Target and Bud Light. A day earlier, he shared an Instagram post urging others to spurn the companies over the support they showed for the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

“I think (the team can) just continue to do what is right and continue to respect diversity and continue to spread love, continue to show their support for the 2SLGBTQ community,” Modeste said.


“But at the same time, they also have a responsibility to hold all of their staff, all of their players, everyone that’s associated with the Jays, they need to hold them accountable and that I would leave for them to manage.”

Bass spoke outside the home dugout at Rogers Centre before the Blue Jays’ series opener against the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday night.

He prefaced his remarks by saying “I’ll make this quick,” before delivering a statement that lasted 33 seconds.

Bass said he was “truly sorry” for the post and that he’d use team resources to better educate himself, adding “the ballpark is for everybody.”

The 35-year-old native of Dearborn, Mich., who has more than 33,000 followers on Instagram, did not take questions.

Modeste said the amplification of a hateful social media post can have a significant impact.

“Let’s also think about the young person that might be a prospect or might potentially be the next baseball player,” he told The Canadian Press. “And seeing this can deter them. So we need to find opportunities to strengthen our community, not to bring our community down.”

General manager Ross Atkins and team president Mark Shapiro were not made available to speak with reporters.

The annual Blue Jays Pride weekend is set for June 9-10. A rainbow flag jersey giveaway was planned and other details were to be released next week.

“Pride Toronto has a very good relationship with the Jays,” Modeste said. “I personally have worked very closely with the Jays Care Foundation and I know what they stand for because we have been part of this journey together. I don’t believe that one individual is going to change what the Jays are going to do and what the Jays have been doing for the community.

“But ultimately they’re going to have to make a decision on who do they want on the team and how do they want to be seen and reflected in the community.”

Bass apologized to Atkins and Blue Jays manager John Schneider earlier Tuesday. He also apologized to his teammates as a group at the skipper’s prompting.

Since Bass did not speak publicly beyond his brief statement, Schneider was left to handle a series of media questions during a pre-game availability in his office.

“I think the message to the fan base is that we have and will continue to be a huge part of the Pride community,” he said. “We’re looking forward to the ninth and 10th of June. (This situation) doesn’t represent our overall feelings as an organization. We love our fans and we love all the support that we get.

“It was unfortunate that (this) happened. If they take anything, it’s that the accountability was there and the awareness of how it made people feel was there.”

Bass has played for six other teams over his 12-year big-league career.

“As a man, you stand up and you apologize for what you did,” Schneider said. “I think that’s a really good first step.”

Earlier this year, Bass sparked criticism when he tweeted to complain that a flight attendant had asked his pregnant wife to clean up popcorn their toddler dropped on the floor during a flight.

The right-hander also played for Toronto in the 2020 season.

With files from The Associated Press

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Why a Brad Treliving hiring by the Maple Leafs makes the most sense –



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