National Post (Latest Edition)

No easy way for Dubas to correct Leafs

- tkoshan@postmedia.com

The next two weeks will define Kyle Dubas’ tenure as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Yes, that’s right, whether the Leafs win the Stanley Cup in 2021 or in any of the following three or four years will be determined between now and Thanksgivi­ng.

No, we’re not serious. But we’re not completely kidding either.

There’s no doubt Dubas has to make some rather significan­t correction­s to his lineup to get it in the proper shape to become a legitimate

Cup contender. It’s not really close to that point, not in the wake of a qualifying- round exit courtesy of the Columbus Blue Jackets in August and a string of first- round eliminatio­ns in the previous years.

What we can say for certainty is the challenges for Dubas haven’t decreased since the Leafs were discharged from the bubble by the Blue Jackets on Aug. 9.

While trades can happen at any time — Dubas has been quiet in that regard since dealing Kasperi Kapanen to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Aug. 25 — the Leafs will focus in the next week on preparatio­n for the 2020 draft, with the first round being held virtually on Oct. 6 and the rest of the draft coming the following day.

If Dubas doesn’t get much done trade- wise, we might assume the groundwork will have been laid to get the wheels in motion in the weeks that follow.

Yet there’s another factor to consider, especially for those who are hopeful Dubas can free up money to sign stud defenceman Alex Pietrangel­o once free agency begins Oct. 9.

During his availabili­ty the day he traded Kapanen, Dubas was asked whether he felt his forward depth was strong enough that he could make another trade.

“It would really depend,” Dubas said. “Not knowing what the schedule is going to be like next year and how quickly the games are going to happen, I think depth is something we really have to be careful about.”

We don’t think Dubas’ answer would change now, even with the idea that Pietrangel­o and the St. Louis Blues appear headed for divorce. And no one can say how the 2020-21 season will unfold, never mind when it will start. Would Pietrangel­o look rather nice in a Leafs sweater? Yes. But it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to bring him in if the clearest path to doing so results in punching holes in other areas.

As for the draft, Dubas would be wise to pick the players his extensive scouting and developmen­t staff has deemed best available. A right- handed shooting, topfour defenceman is what the Leafs require most, and they need one or two on the ice whenever their next game will be.

Yet anyone taken 15th overall won’t step into the lineup and make a desired positive impact in 2020-21.

We know that Dubas can’t really come away empty-handed before turkeys are carved across Canada.

The Leafs’ future, and perhaps that of their GM, depends on it.

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