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Maple Leafs hire Kyle Dubas: Did Toronto just enter the advanced stats era?

After downplaying the role of analytics in hockey for a couple of years, the Toronto Maple Leafs have hired one of the sport's most vocal supporters of advanced stats.

Rob Carr

Brendan Shanahan made his first significant move for the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, and it's one that could send the organization in a completely different direction.

The team announced that it has hired Kyle Dubas as its new assistant general manager, replacing Claude Loiselle, who will be leaving the organization. The Maple Leafs also announced the departure of vice president of hockey operations Dave Poulin.

Dubas, 28, was previously the general manager of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League, a job he held since he was just 25 years old. Before then, he was an agent with Uptown Sports Management and the youngest person to ever be certified by the NHLPA.

The most interesting aspect of this hire for Toronto is the way Dubas approaches the game and team management. During his time with the Greyhounds, he was a very vocal proponent of analytics and, along with coach Sheldon Keefe, helped turn what had been one of the worst teams in the OHL upon his arrival into one of the best in just a couple of seasons.

With more and more teams across the league starting to invest in analytics and finding ways to incorporate them into their player evaluation and roster construction (one unnamed team will be using the services of Broad Street Hockey's Eric Tulsky this season), it was only a matter of time until somebody turned to a young, up-and-coming executive like Dubas.

It's just surprising, and maybe even a little stunning, that the team willing to do it is the Maple Leafs.

For a couple of years now, the Leafs have had a tendency to publicly look the other way as their team fell into a black hole of puck possession. It showed in some of their recent roster moves and coaching decisions, including the 2013 buyout of Mikhail Grabovski, the way they seemed to toss aside Clarke MacArthur the very same offseason, and then invested heavily in guys like David Clarkson and Dave Bolland. The Leafs have been one of the worst possession teams in the league (and getting worse) over the past few years, a flaw that eventually powered their second half collapse in the standings last year.

With the hiring of Dubas, it at least signals that perhaps the Maple Leafs are going to start heading in a different direction in the Brendan Shanahan era.

It's the first major move Shanahan has made as team president, and considering where both Dubas and the Maple Leafs are coming from, it might be one of the best -- and significant -- moves the team has made in recent memory.