Big Thrashers news: Waddell moved up, Dudley in, coaches out

The Thrashers named Don Waddell president, promoted Rick Dudley to general manager and dismissed its coaching staff Wednesday, the AJC first reported. They are three significant moves aimed at changing the direction of a franchise that has made the playoffs just once in its 10-season history.

The moves came four days after the end of the Thrashers season and the day the Stanley Cup playoffs were to begin.

Waddell has served as general manager of the Thrashers since its inception, being named to the position in June 1998. Last offseason he was also named executive vice president of the Atlanta Spirit, the parent company of the Thrashers, Hawks and Philips Arena.

Waddell said Sunday, the day after the season ended, he expected to return to the organization next season but would not be specific when asked in what role.

Dudley joined the Thrashers in June of last year and spent his first season with the team as associate general manager. Dudley, with over 40 years of experience in professional hockey as a player, coach and executive, spent the previous five seasons with the Blackhawks. He spent the last three years at assistant general manager.

Head coach John Anderson did not have his contract renewed after two seasons in Atlanta. The Thrashers were 70-75-19 in his two seasons. Assistant coaches Randy Cunneyworth, Todd Nelson and Steve Weeks also did not have their contracts renewed.

“Absolute disappointment,” Anderson told the AJC Wednesday morning. “From last year, I don’t like to use the word rebuilding mode, but that’s what we were in. Two years later, I think we left the house in pretty good order. We almost made the playoffs. I wish we had. It might have been the difference in my job and some other guys’ jobs.

“I’d really like to thank the fans for all their support,” Anderson said. “They’ve been great. I’d also like to that all  the people I’ve worked with. And especially the players. They really gave me everything they had.”

The Thrashers finished 35-34-13 (83 points) this season, five points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

“One thing I understand about professional sports, is that ultimately if the team doesn’t do well the coach accepts all the responsibility,” Anderson told the AJC on Monday after completing player exit interviews. “And I do rightfully so, no problem. When the team wins, the coach gives the players [the credit]. That’s how it is. … I understand the reality of it. We didn’t make the playoffs. I accept responsibility for that. Whatever happens, happens.”

Perhaps those five points could have been the difference.

“Unfortunately, when a team does not perform as expected, there are going to be changes, usually to the coaching staff,” goaltender Johan Hedberg said. “As a player you feel bad because you had a part in doing it to them. The team has to do what it feels is right. It is performance based. Five more points and we would have made the playoffs and maybe this doesn’t happen.”

Other  reaction:

Boris Valabik – “For me, personally, I’ve known Johnny and Nelly a long time. They coached me in [AHL] Chicago. I think they did a great job. They helped me out so much and did a good job. I have nothing bad to say about them. I appreciate everything they’ve done for me. You never know, maybe I’ll see them again. … It’s a new challenge. I’ve never had another coach. It’s going to be a big difference but I’m excited about the new challenge.

Eric Boulton – “Obviously, it’s no fun when you don’t make the playoffs. I have a lot of respect for all four [coaches]. Unfortunately when you don’t make the playoffs, changes are going to be made. Don is very respected and has been here a long time. Everyone has a lot of respect for Rick Dudley. He’s a good hockey mind. He’s going to be great for the city, great for the organization.”

Slava Kozlov: “Unfortunately, it’s too late. If you don’t make the playoffs I can understand ownership’s frustration and they have to do something. I expected after this season there was going to be changes.”

Colby Armstrong: “As far as the coaches, they are really good people, really great guys. It’s definitely a shakeup. Rick Dudley is a really smart hockey guy. He knows what he is doing. It’s a new era coming up for the Thrashers. They are moving in a positive direction.

Ron Hainsey: “I think we are going to see a change in direction. When a team doesn’t get into the playoffs and it’s not seen as a successful season, things change. Those were four quality people that were let go. That’s the toughest part. We were close this year [to making the playoffs], but the next question is what are you going to do when you get in. You have to do something. We are building going forward. Our identity changed some last season and it will change some more. We have some good young players. If they get developed like everyone hopes, we will have a strong group. That’s the challenge, to build a team that makes the playoffs and ultimately competes for the Stanley Cup.”

Bruce Bodreau, Capitals coach: “It’s a sad day for me and John. He’s a very close friend. He phoned me at 9 a.m. this morning. It’s a tough business sometimes because I think he did a great job with what he had to work with all year. He kept them competitive. It’s unfortunate but John is a very good coach and he’ll land on his feet very soon.”

Pavel Kubina: “I know Rick Dudley well. He used to be my GM in Tampa (where Kubina won a Stanley Cup). He’s the best GM out there. He built our team in Tampa. This doesn’t change anything about me wanting to come back.”

Jim Slater: “Players have to ultimately to out there and perform. You see the repercussions of that. Management felt very strongly that we had a good team.”

Letter from ownership to season ticket holders:  “As we end the 2009-10 season, we begin the next steps towards achieving our ultimate goal of a Stanley Cup championship. This year ushered in highlights and exhilarating wins, and also delivered a disappointing conclusion when we didn’t achieve a playoff berth. As a result, we have elected to restructure our hockey operations staff to ensure we are maximizing our assets. Today we are promoting Don Waddell to President of the Thrashers and Rick Dudley to the team’s General Manager.

In addition, we, along with Rick and Don, have decided not to retain Head Coach John Anderson and Assistant Coaches Randy Cunneyworth, Todd Nelson and Steve Weeks. We thank each of them for their dedication and contributions to the organization during their tenures.

Rick has been with us for a year, and after his initial tenure of contributing to the hockey operations staff, and assessing the team and organization, we look forward to his guidance over hockey-related activities.

Rick has been pivotal in building highly successful hockey teams, including most recently the Chicago Blackhawks.  He has nearly 40 years of experience and is very well-respected in the hockey community for his expertise in evaluating and developing talent. He will immediately begin the search for a new head coach and will oversee all preparations for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. We are extremely confident that he will do an outstanding job of taking us to the next level.

As all of you know, Don has been an important part of this organization since its inception, and in shifting his focus to concentrate primarily on all business aspects of the organization, he will continue to work closely with Rick and play a vital role for our Thrashers franchise.  Although we all are disappointed with not participating in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, we are excited about our future and will continue to build on the team’s strong core of young players with the goal of creating a competitive and successful squad that will make our fans proud.

We’d like to thank you for your loyal support as a Season Ticket Holder as we enter a new era of Thrashers hockey.”

Bruce Levenson and Michael Gearon

235 comments Add your comment

TrueBlueGreg

April 14th, 2010
9:52 am

Now starts the 3rd five year plan. And again, there is still one thing that hasn’t changed! SEE THE LIGHT!

GaVaHokie

April 14th, 2010
10:02 am

Wow!! Coaching staff fired… Gotta let this swirl around a little bit… that’s crazy.

jakass

April 14th, 2010
10:04 am

Glad Anderson is gone. Tired of playing minor league hockey

GaVaHokie

April 14th, 2010
10:05 am

Sad to see Anderson let go… gotta think Dudley will be looking at Denis Savard.

Smoothie

April 14th, 2010
10:06 am

Wow, miracles DO happen!! Where’s Al Michaels when you need him!

C’mon Duds, go get us some of those young studs from cap-strapped Chicago…and hire Craig MacTavish, John Stevens or Andy Murray!

Telfo

April 14th, 2010
10:06 am

i love it!

glad that Weeks is gone as goalie coach…we havent exactly had a good goalie past

Hip Czech

April 14th, 2010
10:08 am

Good move I believe…I think the Thrashers overreacted to Hartley and the pendulum swung all the way the other way. Anderson was too laid back.

Stevens might be an interesting choice assuming he can work well with younger players and the problems in Philly were the older players with guaranteed contracts.

Smoothie

April 14th, 2010
10:09 am

ACCOUNTABILITY!!!

Still don’t understand why they can’t bring themselves to fire Waddell, but just goes to show Waddell might as well be an owner in the Great Octocluster as he is virtually untouchable! But Duds can get the job done. Just like Evander Kane, he gets the job done.

Mr. Heat Miser

April 14th, 2010
10:12 am

The Gods have spoken.

Tom (Capital T Tom)

April 14th, 2010
10:13 am

It was almost perfect. If we had gotten Waddell out of the organization we could have a nice clean start with Dudley.

Now lets get a coach in, even if we have to overpay him, that will attract quality players. Dudley and a 1st rate coach will show the players in the league that ATL is a worthy destination.

ThrashDawg

April 14th, 2010
10:13 am

Seen this coming! Waddell makes the books work too well for the ASG to throw him out of the organIzation. Dudley seems to be a great talent evaluator and he will be given the chance to hire his own coaching staff. This makes perfect sense to me as long as the ASG and Waddell will let Dudley run his own show. I do not like the way Anderson handled Kozlov. It must have been the hardest thing he has ever had to do by scratching Kozlov 30 times in the last 2-3 months of the season.

Smoothie

April 14th, 2010
10:14 am

Now someone please take Mr. Waddell’s stapler too!!

Smoothie

April 14th, 2010
10:15 am

Slava’s biggest problem this year was having to play with Todd White!

FormerIslesFan

April 14th, 2010
10:16 am

Wow. Not sure how I feel about Anderson, as I am one of those that think that he is still growing as an NHL coach and would have worked out in the end. Oh well…Bygones.

Is it possible that a new day is dawning in Blueland???

What now?

April 14th, 2010
10:17 am

They kept the incompetent waddell? No wonder they are screwed up.

ThrashDawg

April 14th, 2010
10:18 am

Don’t get me wrong, I do not like the way Kozlov thru Anderson under the bus, but I do believe Slava was well respected in the locker room and could have been a big help in the playoff run. Anderson was so bull headed with Slava that he may have cost him his job by not making the playoffs.

lewis

April 14th, 2010
10:19 am

woodson next

GaVaHokie

April 14th, 2010
10:23 am

Waddell makes the books work too well for the ASG to throw him out of the organIzation. Dudley seems to be a great talent evaluator and he will be given the chance to hire his own coaching staff.

My sentiments exactly… Waddell has made hockey affordable for the owners… now it’s time to get “bang for the buck” with Dudley. I think this move has not only helped the longevity of the franchise economically, but now, from a talent perspective too.

Russ

April 14th, 2010
10:23 am

I obviously like the move, but the ASG has grown so attached to DW’s incompetence they just can’t bring themselves to completely cut ties. If DW is completely out of all personnel decisions, fine, but he really needs to be out of the picture completely to make sure Dudley is in control of all moves.

B. Thenet

April 14th, 2010
10:24 am

John Anderson got a bad hand, and did what he could. The Kovy situation was poorly handled by management, and when you look a the December slide that doomed this teams playoff chances….it likely cost the coaching staff their jobs.

Mr. Heat Miser

April 14th, 2010
10:24 am

I would have given Anderson one more year.

GaVaHokie

April 14th, 2010
10:24 am

Furthermore… we shouldn’t expect Dudley to completely blow up the roster like Burke did in Toronto.

merculf

April 14th, 2010
10:24 am

I’m ready to embrace a new coach and atmosphere in Blueland! When does training camp start?

DOUBLE G

April 14th, 2010
10:25 am

Too bad for Anderson. He won at the minor league level, but couldn’t do it here? Methinks the players he had to work with had much to do with that. Me also thinks that the players were Waddell’s responsibility. Ergo, glad Waddell gone, not so much Anderson.

Your Mammy

April 14th, 2010
10:25 am

It’s the old saying, “If you want to move up in the corporate world, be a complete screw up” Don Waddell followed that advice perfectly, and the Atlanta Spirit promoted him.

ChippersLoveChild

April 14th, 2010
10:27 am

Oh Happy Day, Oh Happy Day!!!!!! I liked you as a person Johnny, but sometimes that’s not enough! Best of luck to the coaches in their future endeavors, let’s finally get this right, Dudley!

Badger Bob

April 14th, 2010
10:29 am

Good move! I must admit I defended JA and his mediocre “system” for a long time, but finally realized he was not NHL calibre with how PATHETIC he allowed our powerplay to be after Kovy left. No plan, no practice, no execution, no video coaching. No excuse for any of that.

Bob H

April 14th, 2010
10:29 am

Waddell must have something dirty on someone with ASG, because it’s laughable that a team with one playoff appearance and no playoff wins in a decade of existence would be permitted to remain in any position. They’re the Clippers of the NHL.

ChippersLoveChild

April 14th, 2010
10:30 am

Oh and next up, please cut ties with Todd White… then this off season will truly be off to a great start.

ChippersLoveChild

April 14th, 2010
10:33 am

Also, anybody else think Johnny is on the Caps coaching staff next season?

Smoothie

April 14th, 2010
10:34 am

Guys, that’s what you get in this world when you are supposed to be a leader of men and then you get behind a mic and complain about lucky bounces and bad luck etc. The most important kind of accountability must come from behind the bench…not behind a curtain!! Kozzy got scape-goated and it probably hurt the room almost as much as Kovy giving up on the team in mid-season. If nothing else Kozzy had earned the respect of most players due to his work ethic and professional demeanor. I don’t necessarily agree with how Kozzy went about voicing his displeasure, but I don’t really disagree with much of what he said.

Blueland News Breaker

April 14th, 2010
10:34 am

BREAKING NEWS:

Rick Dudley is the new Thrashers GM.

John Anderson and entire coaching staff Fired!

Jeff Schultz still likes boys and has back hair.

AM

April 14th, 2010
10:35 am

The corporate management and Wadell are the only constant factor in 11 loosing seasons. They will be loosers as long as the 2 above factors remain in place.

Iceman

April 14th, 2010
10:37 am

These are steps in the generally right direction!

ICE PICK

April 14th, 2010
10:37 am

In the last 5 years, Waddell has traded away all of the best players…What have got in return, zero. It doesn’t take a genius to figure who should get gone. Being from the North, I love to see hockey in the south. We will continue to lose if Waddell stays. Ask yourself who initiated the trades, all of them; “Wading in the Waddell”

DWTOO

April 14th, 2010
10:38 am

Definitely good moves. JA’s a good guy, but, not a NHL coach. You could see in that he could never adapt when a team shut down the offense. Always kept trying the same thing.

Two beer Tom

April 14th, 2010
10:39 am

I still can’t belive it: Don Waddell as President, a promotoion based on exactly what? The Thrashers are truly the laughingstock of the NHL.

Average Sports Fan

April 14th, 2010
10:40 am

Who are the Thrashers?

ChippersLoveChild

April 14th, 2010
10:41 am

To the people complaining about Waddell still being here, I’m pretty sure Dudley is calling the shots now, regardless of what Don’s position is. I like the move, it should be applauded.

ThrashDawg

April 14th, 2010
10:42 am

I really think the ASG likes the fact that Don Waddell knows how to operate a franchise on the cheap. I have to believe the ASG knows that without DW they would be bankrupt now. Let’s face it, he takes all the arrows!

The Carnivore

April 14th, 2010
10:43 am

Somewhere in Detroit, Brad McCrimmon is laughing right now.

Stevo

April 14th, 2010
10:45 am

I think Anderson got a raw deal. The team showed improvement in his second year and barely missed the playoffs. The team traded their FRANCHISE player and still almost made the playoffs. Anderson should have had one more year to see what he could do before being shown the door.

What happens when you bring in a new coach and miss the playoffs again next year? You going to fire that coach too? Or is next year going to be chalked up to another “the players are learning a new system” year?

Personally, I would have fired Waddell entirely. I don’t think the situation is going to change a whole lot except for the titles of DW and Dudley. Waddell, ultimately, will be calling the shots.

Big B CH 99

April 14th, 2010
10:46 am

Lets be optimistic & assume the new GM can’t be any worse than Waddell.

chief of smoke

April 14th, 2010
10:47 am

I think a lot of Dudley. It will be interesting to see who he hires as the next coach.

Richham

April 14th, 2010
10:49 am

The problem still exists though. DW and the goofball Spirit team are still running the show. Guaranteed nothing changes and this is a last ditch attempt to fool the already gullible Thrasher fans and keep the few season ticket holders that remain.

Matt

April 14th, 2010
10:49 am

“Ummm, yeah Donnie. I’m gonna have to ask you to take all your stuff and move it to the storage shed outside the Gulch. Ok, thanks”

It’s a START!!!! Don’t let the Donster make or have any input as to the selection of players or coaches!!

Smoothie

April 14th, 2010
10:50 am

We didn’t ALMOST make the playoffs! We tanked badly when the games counted the most starting with the 6 game winless streak in early March after a nice stretch of scoring post-Kovalchuk. But they rebounded, won 4 in a row and gave themselves a chance to make a run. But then they screwed the pooch cuz Johnny didn’t know how to make any on-the-fly adjustments for teams that were determined to take away the middle of the ice. In the final 10 games, starting with the Boston debacle, we scored a total of 16 goals and were shut-out twice. That’s not nearly making the playoffs as the teams who qualified finished strongly and actually eclipsed 89 and 90 points.

Tanner

April 14th, 2010
10:50 am

The incompetence continues……good moves by getting Dudley in charge, a new GM will always want his guy as the coach. BUT AGAIN, HOW IN THE HECK DOES WADDELL KEEP A JOB!!! HE IS THE WORST GM IN SPORTS…MUCH LESS THE NHL. The Thrashers will never compete until that idiot is out!!

Otto

April 14th, 2010
10:51 am

Well it would be hard to be worse than Waddell………

WGD

April 14th, 2010
10:51 am

@Stevo, I agree with you. No way that Waddell stays without calling the shots. Perhaps if Waddell would leave Dudley alone long enough to actually “manage” we might see a difference.