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Kingerski: FSG Got Dubas Decision Right … on Both Counts



Pittsburgh Penguins, Kyle Dubas, Tom Werner

Credit where it is due. Naming Kyle Dubas as the Pittsburgh Penguins president of hockey operations is unquestionably the right choice. On several levels, the Fenway Sports Group got it right.

Wednesday, this space stopped just short of ripping FSG for its protracted Penguins GM search. It was six weeks since they cleaned house of Ron Hextall and Brian Burke, and it was more than a week since the team met with Dubas.

With the NHL Draft a few weeks away and free agency one month away, the ticking clock grew louder.

This writer criticized FSG’s lack of hockey ops engagement before firing Hextall and Burke. During the process, we poked at the need to seek counsel from sources far and wide. And we cited their lack of parameters regarding the existing front office structure. 

While the statements hold up, their process was ultimately successful. It was the scenic route, but FSG got there.

They got it right on both levels: The person and the job.

Dubas is the proper person with a forward-thinking philosophy and reputation who can and should lead a hockey department. They have someone with a vision that can carry them into the future, not rely solely on ways of the past. By making Kyle Dubas the president, FSG also removed a barrier to implementing his philosophy.

“I grew up for one in the locker room in Sault Ste. Marie and then in scouting and then in player development. And what I came to know — that that’s the reputation of what I came to deeply appreciate — was that the data and objective information can provide you with a lot of detail and a lot of great insights that you can use to make better decisions.”

The new president of hockey operations began as a scout at 17 years old for Sault St. Marie.

After six years as a GM, and popular thinking regarding analytics and team construction that was changing in his favor, it was time for him to assume more responsibility.

It would have been a disservice to both parties if FSG hired Dubas as GM and then hired a president to oversee him. Dubas had the vision and philosophy that attracted FSG, so why put someone in the middle who would assert his (or her) direction or be a feckless glad-hander?

Reportedly, Toronto declined to give more control of the hockey process. Their loss is the Penguins’ gain.

After telling candidates for the position they expected first to hire a GM, FSG seemingly saw the inherent flaw and course-corrected before creating an untenable situation.

Boston Red Sox president Sam Kennedy was heavily involved in the GM search process. Despite not being a hockey person, he hit a home run.

No, the Penguins haven’t yet hired a GM, but they have a hockey person who will lead the hockey operations department. Dubas will act as the interim GM through July, but if you watched any part of Dubas’ press conference, you quickly realized he’s probably not the egomaniac set on micromanaging all aspects of the organization.

He comes across as a genuine human who admitted he was “too honest” in his final Toronto press conference, ultimately leading to his firing.

Give me honesty every day of the week over cliche tripe, obfuscation, and avoidance.

And with a hockey person at the helm, FSG can again focus on the matters of arena development and sports ownership that previously dominated its efforts.

Credit the Penguins ownership, which despite an unorthodox process, passed the first real tests of its ownership reign. They wasted no time expunging the prior tenants of the front office, removing them hours after the regular season finale. And despite a shaky search, they got the best person and put him in the proper role.

A Stanley Cup victory will not define Dubas’ tenure because the odds are long that there will be another during the Sidney Crosby era or soon thereafter. Success won’t be defined by the silver chalice as much as it will by his ability to reshape the organization and put it on stable footing with a path to future success.

Penguins fans have every reason to be a little bit optimistic today. FSG got it right.

All is well that ends well.