May 20, 2015
TORONTO—Leafs assistant general manager Kyle Dubas has continuously preached the organization’s new philosophy and that development is key to success.
That, however, doesn’t just mean developing players.
Dubas announced on Tuesday that Marlies head coach Gord Dineen was relieved of his duties after only one season in charge.
Dineen, 52, a veteran coach with 16 years of various experience behind the bench – including the past six with Toronto– doesn’t fit the new mold as the club wants to go younger with its development team’s bench boss.
“A big organizational shift in philosophy and part of that is wanting to bring along an elite, young coach that we can groom here,” said Dubas.
“This decision today is a reflection of the organizational shift we talked about previously.”
The name most commonly linked to potentially taking over the Marlies is Sheldon Keefe, who is the coach of the Ontario Hockey League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. The 34-year-old Keefe was hired by Dubas to coach the junior squad in 2012 when Dubas was general manager in the Soo.
Dubas confirmed in a conference call on Monday that Toronto has asked for permission to speak with Keefe, but added he isn’t the only coach they are looking at—although he’s the one who seems to make most sense right now.
Dubas said that what he wants in his new coach is simply someone who “wins and develops,” which is something Keefe has been successful doing with the Greyhounds.
Going younger with its coach benefits Toronto in other ways, according to Dubas.
Because of the NHL’s compensation package, teams that want to hire coaches and hockey personal from other clubs must give up a draft pick to make it happen. Dubas sees the new Marlies coach as an asset value that one day could benefit the organization if another team wants to come knocking.
“We hope that we’re developing coaches that teams want to pay us draft picks to one day hire,” said Dubas.
The Marlies struggled to start the season under Dineen, but turned it around and finished as the seventh seed in the Western Conference. They were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Grand Rapids Griffins.
The moment Toronto was eliminated, Dubas, along with fellow assistant GM Mark Hunter and team president Brendan Shanahan decided it was time to see what options were available to align with their philosophy.
“Since the Marlies have been eliminated it was a process where we really discussed it at lengths,” said Dubas.
“It was a decision made collectively after a long discussion. After the series ended against Grand Rapids we decided to move ahead with (looking at) a new head coach.”
Dineen has been offered an associate coaches position with the Marlies and would be in charge of grooming the up-coming defencemen if he chooses to stay.
“We really value Gord and what he brings to our organization,” said Dubas. “(He’s) one of the most wonderful people I have worked with in hockey.”
While Dineen could stick around, the same cannot be said for assistant coach Derek King, who was let go after six seasons with the club. Also, assistant coach Ben Simon will be taking a new role somewhere else within the organization.
Whoever takes over will be the fourth head coach in as many years with the Marlies after Dallas Eakins, Steve Spott and Dineen.