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The Toronto Maple Leafs, Moneyball, and Business Innovations That Transcend Sports Management

In what represents a shift in front office philosophy, the storied Maple Leafs franchise has hired 28-year-old Kyle Dubas wunderkind as assistant general manager. The move is seen as a victory for stats community and a blow to hockey’s “old boy’s club.” Is it the NHL’s answer to Moneyball?

What’s the Latest?

In what could be a Moneyball (or Moneypuck) moment for the NHL, the Toronto Maple Leafs have hired 28-year-old wunderkind Kyle Dubas to the position of assistant general manager. Dubas is one of the hockey world’s rising stars, a statistically-inclined whiz kid who has for the past three years served as general manager of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, a major junior squad in the Ontario Hockey League. An assistant GM hire is not often the cause of any sort of media fanfare; the position is usually filled by former players, sometimes in merely a ceremonial capacity. Dubas’ hiring is different. One of hockey’s oldest franchises is shaking up its front office, ditching the old boy’s club mentality, and investing in the new school. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Although Moneyball is often summed up as an account of the culture war between stat geeks and the baseball establishment, the real focus of the book was how a forward-thinking front office sought out and exploited market inefficiencies. Management teams in any competitive industry should always be on the lookout for undervalued assets and under-served audiences. Part of running a shrewd business is finding ways to fill market gaps and innovate new approaches to success. What sometimes gets in the way is an entrenched obstinance rooted in tradition, or “the way we’ve always done things.” While maintaining respect for the past is vital for building a strong future, institutional stubbornness can bog down an organization in need of meaningful change.

American sports franchises are a special kind of animal because, for the most part, they don’t actually compete against each other outside the arena. The Boston Red Sox don’t operate in a way where they attempt to drive the Baltimore Orioles out of business. Both those teams are overseen and protected by Major League Baseball, which has a vested interest in their continued existence. The same goes for the NBA, NFL, NHL, and other U.S.-based sports leagues. Because of this unique, insular form of competition, moving away from deep-seeded institutional stubbornness can be difficult.

The rest of the business world doesn’t play by those rules. Companies seeking growth and increased market shares need to keep evolving in order to stay competitive. Success sometimes means making bold, radical decisions to evolve business tactics and infuse new energy into daily operations.

Read more at USA TODAY and Yahoo Sports.

Photo credit: meunierd / 


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