Let’s establish this right up front: Kyle Dubas has proven to be a capable NHL general manager, and he probably will do pretty well if he agrees to take on that role for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
But let’s establish this, too: Dubas is not Sam Pollock or Bill Torrey at the peak of their powers; he’s not even Joe Sakic on a so-so day.
Why Fenway Sports Group, which owns the Penguins and is conducting the search for a new GM, has been deferring to Dubas like he is all of that — and a whole lot more — is downright baffling.
Now, it was clear even before Dubas was fired by Toronto last month that FSG was interested in him, presumably because his contract with the Maple Leafs was about to expire.
Dubas’ appeal is understandable — he’s young, seems to share FSG’s affinity for analytics and had reasonable success during five years as a GM in the NHL’s most-scrutinized market — but the teams he oversaw in Toronto won one playoff series during his time in charge.
While that might look pretty good when compared to the Penguins’ postseason performances since they last won a round in 2018, it didn’t exactly spawn a groundswell of support for his immediate induction to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
And it certainly doesn’t explain why Dubas has been allowed to let this process drag on for so long.
FSG reportedly told him he could take last weekend to make up his mind. That weekend is becoming a distant memory, and there’s still nothing to indicate that FSG has gotten an answer.
All of that creates the impression that FSG hasn’t just been flexible in dealing with Dubas, but downright pliable, willing to contort its urgent need for a GM to accommodate his whims.
Maybe it’s because, as some suspect, he’s using the Pittsburgh Penguins’ interest as leverage in trying to get a management position in Ottawa, once the sale of the Senators goes through. Or perhaps he just doesn’t make up his mind quickly. Or possibly, he’s just a deliberate, tenacious negotiator.
Whatever the case, it looks like Dubas has been interviewing and assessing FSG more than its executives have been doing with him.
That’s fine, to an extent — there’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a good feel for the people for whom you might be working, because having a bad read could cause a situation to quickly mutate from promising to utterly unbearable — but the search for Ron Hextall’s replacement has been far more protracted than is prudent for the organization.
It presumably began no later than April 14, when president of hockey operations Brian Burke, assistant GM Chris Pryor and Hextall were fired — that planning for the possibility of such moves should have gotten underway much earlier is a separate issue — which means that Thursday is the end of the seventh week of the hunt.
Being thorough obviously is good, but the next GM, who will be coming in from outside the organization, is going to be overseeing a draft in about four weeks, and a potentially pivotal free-agent signing period begins a few days after that.
It would be nice if the people who will be making personnel decisions would be given the time needed to be thorough about preparing for those, too. Then again, that likely would have involved settling on a new GM a few weeks ago.
Oh, and there’s the matter of determining which of the Penguins’ unrestricted-free-agents-to-be — a list headlined by Tristan Jarry and Jason Zucker — they should try to retain, since those decisions could have a profound effect on other moves made over the course of the summer.
If Dubas is, in fact, playing the Penguins against Ottawa to get the most favorable deal possible, that’s fine, but so is one of those parties — or both of them — telling the candidate that the time to make a decision has arrived.
The Pittsburgh Penguins should give Dubas a deadline — one in the very near future, at that — to let them know if he’s going to sign on with them.
If he’s not, they should select one of the assistant GMs lined up behind him — that list appears to include Mathieu Darche (Tampa Bay), Steve Greeley (Dallas) and Jason Botterill (Seattle) and get started on a hyper-critical offseason.
They’ve already invested far more time in hiring Hextall’s successor than was necessary.
Every day — every hour — that the search drags on is costing them time that could be better spent addressing the many pressing issues confronting this team.
And that will take even longer than picking the next GM has. Probably.