So, the boy wonder is leaving Houndtown for the Show and taking his new wife with him.
And it’s not just any seat in the Show.
At age 28 — and just three years after being named general manager of the Soo Greyhounds — Kyle Dubas is departing a small-market Ontario Hockey League team to become the assistant GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs on what is the National Hockey League’s biggest stage.
Three years ago, he burst onto the OHL scene as a wet-behind-the-ears, 25-year old pup who had been cutting his hockey teeth as a player agent.
His hiring by the Greyhounds was met with skepticism by fans and the Sault Ste. Marie media alike.
Some pointed to his youthful age.
Others — myself included — pointed to his total lack of managerial experience.
Proving to be wise beyond his years, Dubas quickly grew into the job as Greyhound GM, shrugging off a couple of rookie mistakes to build his hometown team into a 95-point contender in just his third season on the job.
He dared to be different and flirted with danger when he brought former OHL bad boy Sheldon Keefe on as head coach in a move that worked out better than most had thought possible.
Using his sports management background, his obsession with numbers, his intelligence and ability to read and deal with people all in one, Dubas became a rising star.
And as Dubas went outside the box and took a chance on Keefe, new Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan — who as a player, was a former NHL star — stayed clear of the old boys club and made Kyle the kid his first major hire.
“He is good at communicating his ideas,” Shanahan said of Dubas. “I believe we have people in our organization who have maybe been afraid of certain words and certain information. Once you speak with Kyle, he makes it much more logical and easy to apply.
“There are people even in our own organization that he is going to have a positive influence on.”
To be sure, Dubas brings his affinity for analytics — along with history as a dressing-room attendant, an ability to scout and manage and a good knowledge of the NHL’s salary cap from having worked as an agent — to the crusty old Maple Leafs and their new main man Shanahan.
It was Dubas who brought analytics to the Greyhounds when he was hired as GM. And don’t think that he and Keefe were on the same page from the start.
“The first day we met, he didn’t have any idea of anything I was talking about,” Dubas said of Keefe. “Then, the first week, he met with me and the guy who tracks the data and began to build an interest and see the synergy that was there between the theory and what the numbers were saying and the value of altering our strategy a little bit.
“It takes time. It’s slow and you have to present ideas. They may be rejected, they may be accepted, or it may be somewhere in between.”
Shanahan has said Dubas will bring his numbers game to Toronto and present them to veteran Leafs coach Randy Carlyle and his staff.
Do the numbers work?
Here in the Soo, Keefe said he’ll continue to use the Dubas-based stats approach with the Greyhounds.
“Through the numbers and the data that was provided by Kyle, it gave me more answers. As a coach, it’s invaluable when you’re working in short timelines when you’re working towards the next game. It’s about relationships between players and who plays well with whom.
“Some of these things, you have a sense of what’s happening. Sometimes the numbers can point you in another direction. Sometimes they can reveal something you can’t see or you don’t see.
“You don’t always do what the numbers say but what it does all the time is generate discussion and debate among staff members that lead to solutions. And that’s where I found the true value in it,” Keefe said of the Dubas system.
Shanahan has not publicly discussed coaching strategy for the 2014-2015 season but he has suggested that the Leafs will shed their run-and-gun image and try to become more of a puck-possession team.
“There are a number of teams that play different styles but they all get called the same thing,” said Dubas. “The Los Angeles Kings are a great possession team but they don’t play the same style as the Chicago Blackhawks, who are also a great puck possession team.
“Just because this team (the Leafs) didn’t play that way, it doesn’t mean it won’t or it can’t or it’s not in its future,” Dubas is on record as saying.
By the way, Dubas said he believes the NHL’s current stats are not anywhere close to as advanced as Major League Baseball’s, where WAR — Wins Above Replacement — has emerged as a go-to statistic.
In turn, Dubas calls today’s hockey analytics “primitive.”
There is more to Dubas than numbers, though, said the man who hired him.
“He’s got a great understanding of analytics but he’s married that to the complexities and instincts you have to have when you’re putting a product on the ice,” said Shanahan.
The boy wonder is taking his act to the big city.
PHOTO: Kyle Dubas, on the day he was hired by the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Randy Risling.)