@LeafsPR‘s first news announcement since the Martin Marincin signing nearly a month ago reports that Mark Hunter has been given the title of Assistant General Manager.
It struck one as a mere formality when the tweet came across the wire before MapleLeafs.com confirmed as much with a quote from Lou Lamoriello:
“Mark’s new title is essentially a formality as these are duties he’s already been performing,” said Maple Leafs General Manager Lou Lamoriello. “Brendan and I have been discussing this change of title since last season – as it’s a more appropriate recognition of Mark’s role with the organization since joining the Maple Leafs. There are no changes to Mark or Kyle’s duties, or to that of Brandon Pridham, Assistant to the General Manager.”
Hunter will continue to oversee the Maple Leafs’ pro scouting, amateur scouting and player evaluation departments while Dubas will continue as General Manager of the Toronto Marlies, overseeing all prospects within the club’s system, while also leading the Maple Leafs’ player development and hockey research & development departments.
There isn’t much to analyze with this news outside of the obvious — Hunter’s eye for talent and his work ethic has earned many admirers around the league, and keeping him happy in Toronto is imperative to a Leafs rebuild that will only go as far as its ability to draft and develop quality young talent.
Often called the hardest working guy in the room, Hunter has totally overhauled the Leafs’ scouting operation since joining the organization in October of 2014 in the role of Director of Player Personnel — somewhat of an under-the-radar addition by Brendan Shanahan at the time, but really his first significant move on the job as Leafs President.
After the 2014-15 season, Hunter initiated a mass culling of the Leafs’ scouting staff, firing over a dozen scouts, including the Leafs’ director of pro scouting Steve Kasper, and eventually moving former Director of Amateur Scouting Dave Morrison over to the pro side into Kasper’s previous role. Hunter has built up a new roster of scouts, installing a Director of European Scouting in Ari Vuori — hired away from Detroit — and most recently a Director of Western Area Scouting in Tim Speltz out of the WHL and what figures to be a Director of Eastern Area Scouting in Patrick Charbonneau out of the QMJHL.
Hunter has made 20 selections over two entry drafts as Leafs head scout and also had a big hand in the addition of young free agents such as Nikita Soshnikov, Nikita Zaitsev, Kasimir Kaskisuo and Trevor Moore.
The London Knights owner was also credited by Brendan Shanahan as having a big role in the successful courtship of head coach Mike Babcock (sort of a big deal), who has repeatedly praised Hunter as one of the best in the game at “finding players.”
I can tell you that Mark Hunter was a big part of this [hiring Babcock]. He deserves a lot of the credit for this.
– Brendan Shanahan
Little will change in the Leaf front office in the foreseeable future and one wouldn’t expect the Leafs to now install a Director of Amateur Scouting underneath Hunter, as that remains one of his primary functions.
The AGM seat is a role Hunter has occupied previously before Brendan Shanahan hired Lou Lamoriello as the team’s General Manager in late July of last summer. Rumours swirled in the media at the time, unconfirmed, that Hunter had his eye on the GM’s seat if an external candidate wasn’t brought in.
The question posed to Mark Hunter was a simple one.
“Are you interested in the Leafs GM vacancy?” we asked him recently during the Generals-Erie Otters OHL final in Oshawa.
He could have said no, ending any kind of speculation about being a potential candidate for the job.
But he didn’t.
“I don’t know how to answer that,” he responded. And with that, the intrigue surrounding the Leafs GM job continues.
– May 21, 2015, Toronto Sun
While nothing changes for the time being, it does make for an interesting question looking ahead to the possible succession plan for Lou Lamoriello after his contract expires in less than two years. Lamoriello was quoted upon arrival as saying it will be Kyle Dubas’ fault if Dubas isn’t the one taking his job in three years time. Whether Hunter is actually interested in running his own team one day or if he’s happy doing what he does best while in an AGM capacity — hanging out in rinks around the continent, not in an office setting — isn’t known to us, but there’s certainly a case to be made that there isn’t a more important front office member in Toronto than Mark Hunter right now.