Q and A with Thrashers co-owner Bruce Levenson

Here is the transcript from my interview with Atlanta Spirit co-owner Bruce Levenson done Wednesday night after the franchise promoted Don Waddell to president, promoted Rick Dudley to general manager and did not retain its coaching staff.

Q. Why the organizational changes? Why now?

A. We obviously had this in mind when we brought Rick [Dudley] in a year ago. We thought it was a wise investment to have another voice at the table that had achieved a fair amount of success in this league. We wanted to get to know him and it was an opportunity to do that. He’s a rink rat and I mean that in a very flattering way. It was an opportunity for him to do that and see how it goes. We talked about it over the course of the year and in recent weeks it just all came together. If we were going to do this, this was the time. Way ahead of the draft. The decision was made to go into a different direction with the coaching staff and we wanted Rick to head up the effort in putting a new staff together. The timing just seemed right. Over the year, I had the opportunity to see Rick in action. Trade deadline day. It was an opportunity for me to watch him up close over the course of the year. The whole [Ilya] Kovalchuk negotiation and ultimately the trade. I had a really, really good feeling about this and so did Don.

Q. How soon after the season did you decide to go in a different direction with the coaching staff?

A. There is an on-going assessment of this coaching staff throughout the season. At the end of the season, there is a more thorough assessment that culminated in a discussion Monday in which this was the recommendation of our hockey operations people and I agreed with that recommendation.

Q. Waddell has taken a lot of criticism as GM. What was the thinking of moving him to the business side? Was it as much to get him out of the GM position or keeping a loyal person who has worked for you as long as you’ve owned the team?

A. I get a lot of e-mails from fans and season-ticket holders, all very passionate about team and wanting as much success for the team as I want. The e-mails, I’ve never done an actual count as there are hundreds and hundreds of them, run about 50-50 with some saying if you don’t remove Don as GM I’m not going to renew my season tickets. And there are others that say if you do remove Don as GM I won’t renew my season tickets. It’s kind of 50-50. Don has burned a lot of bridges in this town and his built an enormous amount of bridges. I’ve been around professional sports for a couple of decades and of the general managers that I have gotten to know, he brings a pretty unique skill set. He has the hockey personnel piece and he also has a business side to him that I haven’t seen in any other GM. It started to make sense. We need to rebuild both here. We need to rebuild the business side and we obviously need to rebuild the on-ice product. But are pointed in the right direction now and Don has a terrific relationship with our business partners. I spend a fair amount of time with our business partners with Don. So I’ve seen the relationships he’s built over all the years here. Nobody wants more for the success of the Atlanta Thrashers than Don Waddell. We think this is an opportune time for him to channel that passion and his business experience into bringing fans back into the stands. It obviously has to go hand in hand with the on-ice product that we can be proud of and our fans can be proud of.

Q. How will his role be different than that of Bernie Mullin?

A. Since Bernie left, Don took on some of Bernie’s responsibilities. This is really a focus. We have to focus our sales, our marketing, our sponsorship relationships, our season-ticket plans. All of that now is going to get a focus at the very top of the organization. I think that’s needed if we are going to turn this thing around.

Q. How frustrating is it as an owner to see where the Thrashers are as compared to where the Hawks are?

A. It’s been six years [since Atlanta Spirit has owned the franchises]. We have learned an enormous amount. We came in as rookie owners six years ago. We’ve learned an enormous amount about building a sports team. We’ve made mistakes along with way with both teams. We also did some positive things with both the teams. The goal from the beginning, and we said this then, was to bring a quality product on the ice and a quality product on the court. We understood that was what was needed for us to achieve success here. It is gratifying on the one hand to look at what we’ve done with the Hawks. I’m extremely proud of that. We’ve had an improved every year that we’ve owned the team. I don’t think any new ownership group in the history of professional sports has had the string that we’ve had on the Hawks side. That’s gratifying. But yes, it’s been unbelievably frustrating. I can look back at mistakes that we’ve made and wish that we haven’t made them. But it’s been extremely frustrating. After we got as far as we got (in making the playoffs) we hit a wall. We had to start over. Nobody likes to take two steps back, but we had to take two steps back. I’m a three-quarters full guy. I don’t want to overhype the direction I think we are headed in, but based on what we’ve learned over the six years, I feel good about the direction that the hockey team is headed right now.

Q. Do you consider this one-step back?

A. I think this is an important step forward. I think we now have a guy that’s going to be focused on the business side and I know from working with him very, very closely over six years that he’s very good at that. And we have a guy that’s going to be focused on the hockey side, on the personnel side that A has a resume, but resumes and only take you so far but B I’ve had the personal experience of working with him for a year whom I also feel very good about.

Q. How is the ownership currently working? There is still the on-going litigation. Can you also speak to how the search for investors is going?

A. It’s working as its worked. And it has worked. It’s worked fine. It has not had any impact. I can understand how a fan could look at it and say Geez, this is dysfunctional group, a bunch of wealthy guys fighting with each other. We have a legitimate dispute between two sides that’s been working its way through the legal process. I would dare you to find one example where that has impacted any of the decisions that we have made on the Hawks and in hopefully rebuilding the Thrashers. It doesn’t impact. It has no impact. It will ultimately come to a conclusion. It’s pretty much disappeared, I think, from the public psyche. It just never did have an impact. We have been ideally looking for an investor to come in and play a role in the Atlanta Thrashers – ideally a local investor who would give us more financial muscle, if you will, in this community. We haven’t found that person yet but we are continuing to look.

Q. If that person comes in, is it to keep the team here? Or could that person come in with majority ownership and move the franchise?

A. We bought the Atlanta Thrashers. In doing that we signed agreements with the NHL. Even if we wanted to talk to somebody about moving, we are forbidden from doing that under our agreements with the NHL. Even if we wanted to talk to somebody who wanted to move it, it’s clearly stated in our agreements. We are forbidden from doing that. We’ve never had those discussions. Every rumor that’s been published, and I’ve seen rumors we were moving to Quebec, to Hamilton, to Winnipeg, Seattle, they’ve been 100 percent unfounded and unfair.

Q. You have 10 unrestricted free agents, how do you see the payroll changing? You are in the bottom third in the NHL in payroll. Do you expect it to stay there? Is there a budget in place?

A. We were running right near $50 million. I hope we can achieve with the Thrashers what we’ve been able to achieve with the Hawks — to build a winning team in a financially responsible manner. That’s what we’ve done with the Hawks. There are ways to measure that like payroll dollars per win. We are at the very top of the NBA and there are a lot of jealous owners with what we’ve been able to accomplish there. I hope we will be able accomplish that. We don’t have an unlimited budget here unfortunately to spend on players. That would make it much easier so we are going to try to do that in a responsible way.

143 comments Add your comment

Kaniac

April 15th, 2010
9:53 am

Sara

April 15th, 2010
9:53 am

Translation: we’re still a bunch of broke mo-fos.

Kaniac

April 15th, 2010
9:55 am

Yea this is the last chance for the Thrashers I hope everyone gets on board because this is it. Oh and he forgot Kansas City as a possible move site.

J(Z)

April 15th, 2010
9:55 am

“And there are others that say if you do remove Don as GM I won’t renew my season tickets.”

Cough – Bull Sh^%&* – Cough

Steve

April 15th, 2010
9:59 am

Pure corporate speak B.S. by the owner. 50 percent of the emails he receives are in support of Waddell. Ha ha ha!

Joe Friday

April 15th, 2010
9:59 am

“I would dare you to find one example where that has impacted any of the decisions that we have made on the Hawks and in hopefully rebuilding the Thrashers. It doesn’t impact. It has no impact.”

Oh. My. Goodness. Is he serious? He really thinks we’re idiots.

“We don’t have an unlimited budget here unfortunately to spend on players. That would make it much easier so we are going to try to do that in a responsible way.”

And then contradicts his first statement and gives us the proof of an example he just dard us to find of where their finances and the litigation have tied their hands. Oof.

Spud Webb

April 15th, 2010
10:00 am

ahhahahahahahah “I’ve never done an actual count as there are hundreds and hundreds of them, run about 50-50 with some saying if you don’t remove Don as GM I’m not going to renew my season tickets. And there are others that say if you do remove Don as GM I won’t renew my season tickets. It’s kind of 50-50.”
REALLY???????????????????? Levenson, you’re a LIAR. That is an out and out lie & we on this blog know it.

Stinker

April 15th, 2010
10:03 am

We used to have a portable-toilet salesman running the hockey operations. Now he runs the business side only. I guess it’s a little improvement.

There’s some irony there too.

Joe Friday

April 15th, 2010
10:08 am

“And there are others that say if you do remove Don as GM I won’t renew my season tickets. It’s kind of 50-50.”

Yeah right! lol. Brendan’s right. These guys think we’re a bunch of morons, I know some lap up their nonsense, but this is beyond the pale.

He knows and has been hit in the pocketbook hard by the boycott of so many of us former season ticket holders who left and told them we’re not coming back until Waddell is gone. So, the best he can do is come up with just more nonsense where they give Waddell and new title but leave him in charge, and they think we’re just a bunch of morons who will believe that real change has been made? Really? No, really?! Your actions belie what you say there, Bruce.

Anyone that buys this stuff that comes out of the Spirit Squad’s mouth needs a serious wake up call.

Another Steve

April 15th, 2010
10:08 am

The response to the Waddell question is a clear indication of the hopelessness of Bruce Levenson to have any insight as to why the Threashers have failed as a franchise. I suppose its his money to lose, but as a fan of hockey, it is painful to watch.

Da Coach

April 15th, 2010
10:08 am

Levinson and Waddell: As they say in Vegas: “That’s a pair that beats trips!”

What a slap in the face to the fans (all 10 of us).

Whitaker77

April 15th, 2010
10:09 am

It is not the last chance for the Thrashers, it is the last chance for the ASG to get there act together before the NHL steps in and takes back the team in the hopes of finding a better owner. Bettman said as much a few months ago “We are keeping a close eye on the situation here in Atlanta…” The NHL knows that there is a market here for Hockey and currently that market is being hurt more by the owners and then GM than it is by the team on the ice. I for on would LOVE to see the ASG get slapped by the league.

thrasherbelle

April 15th, 2010
10:17 am

Ah Uncle Bruce, we all have the litigation on our minds and we have not forgotten because you guys are broke until this gets settled. And unitl then you will continue to run the team on the cheap side. Just sayin

Whitaker77

April 15th, 2010
10:27 am

I just want to know what photos Waddell has of the ASG. I met Bruce Levenson this past season at one of the town hall meetings, to me he is nothing but a fan with money, he has no idea what he is doing as he proves by saying basically Waddell is a God.

Hey Bruce, news flash you can bring in someone else and they can build just as good if not better relationships with the Thrashers partners. ALso one would like to think that after dealing with the partners over the past 10 years Waddell should have created a relationship with them.

I am sure I am the only Thrasher fan who see how big of a push the Hawks get over the Thrashers. I mean seriously it has to be me, after all uncle Bruce would not lie to us, would he? The Thrashers and Hawks are equal in their minds. Bruce said it so I should beleive it, right?

Oh, wait I know what it is when he speaks on topics such as Waddell and the Hawks Bruce uses his mouth and when talkinga about the Thrashers he is speaking out his @$$, I thought I noticed a voice change.

Sam

April 15th, 2010
10:48 am

So basically, they had decided to clear out the coaching staff months back…maybe back to the trade deadline…and perhaps in time to keep Kovy here or influence his decision. But they waited out the season?

They had these moves in mind last year??? Sounds like they were willing to sacrifice this season and our superstar in order to “evaluate” and “assess” this coaching staff and Rick Dudley?

So I spent my money on season tickets this year on a Rick Dudley, John Anderson “trial” season? Glad I could help finance your decisions, Bruce.

teflon don

April 15th, 2010
10:48 am

I am glad to see that many of you guys can see through our lies. Well, at least I can say that while I am a part of this organization, I have to be on their side. You know how they have been, and so have I. I get paid well for lying to you guys, and for doing my job THEIR way. Sorry, this is America, and business at its best.

John A.

April 15th, 2010
10:50 am

Joe Friday
April 15th, 2010, 10:08 am
“He knows and has been hit in the pocketbook hard by the boycott of so many of us former season ticket holders who left and told them we’re not coming back until Waddell is gone.”

Yeah Joe Friday, I think I heard him say, “Boycott? What boycott?”

Unfreakinbelievable that people continue to inflict self-injury by denying themselves year after year of going to NHL games so they can “show them there owners that we’re in charge and sooner or later they’re going to fire Waddell and do everything else we want them to do!”

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yeah, fire Waddell….Just like they just did yesterday! Isn’t that right, “boycotters”? It just goes to show you how stubborn you people really are and nothing makes you happy. Don’t any of you even “get it” yet? Can’t you see how Don was TAKEN OUT OF THE LOOP yesterday and it’s now Dudley’s team? Are you truly that thickheaded? You got what you wanted and you’re still too dense to even recognize it because to you guys “Don Waddell is no longer Thrashers GM” somehow doesn’t mean the same to you as if the headline was “Don Waddell fired as Thrashers GM”….Truly amazing that you people don’t “get it”!!

You’re also quite obviously CLUELESS Joe Friday about your boycott’s “success”. The HIGHEST ATTENDANCE OF THE YEAR was the season finale when the team was clearly out of the playoffs and had nothing but respect to play for. The REAL FANS showed up! Remember the first home game after the Kovalchuk trade when you nimrods were clamoring for everyone to BOYCOTT that game? LOL….It was the SIXTH HIGHEST attendence of the year….The REAL FANS showed up!!!

I was at both games and you quite simply missed two AWESOME NHL HOCKEY GAMES at Philips Arena those 2 nights. See how that works? The owners still wipe their butts with $20 bills and you deny yourselves in order to “show them who’s boss”….Again, unfreakinbelievable how some people abuse themselves while the owners of this organizations don’t even know they exist.

Dudley’s the RIGHT GUY for the job. Keep peeing in everyone’s Cheerios if it makes you feel better. You guys are gonna feel like the absolute dumbest hockey fans on the planet when this team takes off and plays better than they ever have…..And here you’ll find yourselves regurgitating the same old tiresome, “Well I keep telling them…..Until they fire Don Waddell, I’m just not coming back! I’m gonna hit them where it hurts…Right in their pocketbooks! They’ll do as I command…You just wait and see!”

You’re too stupid to realize that what you wanted to happen actually just happened…….LOL

East Point Bob

April 15th, 2010
11:06 am

Levenson is a complete boob who has no idea what to do or how to do it.
How he ever could get the money to be an owner is beyond me, he is just plain dumb when it
comes to professional sports and his reason for keeping Waddell are simply an excuse to cover his stupidity in that he cannot deal with anything where a decision should be made. Other GM’s, who ?
What sport, involved in pro sports for 20 years, what the girls National Creampuff League ?
This guy is as clueless as Don Waddell, once a loser, always a loser ! BTW Don aint built no bridges, only burned them !

GaVaHokie

April 15th, 2010
11:07 am

Don has a terrific relationship with our business partners. I spend a fair amount of time with our business partners with Don. So I’ve seen the relationships he’s built over all the years here.

In case you glossed over it.

Your season tickets don’t pay Pavel Kubina’s salary… Home Depot and Gas South do.

If Budweiser and Delta say “we’re pulling our advertising if you fire Waddell”, guess who stays?

They can’t afford to severe their business relations for a “new direction” on the ice. But they’re still tuned in to the fact that the fans are restless.

They keep Don and their business relations… the fans get Rick Dudley and hopefully a better product on the ice.

Win-win.

Joe Friday

April 15th, 2010
11:13 am

“If Budweiser and Delta say “we’re pulling our advertising if you fire Waddell”, guess who stays?”

Michelob and Air-Tran?

[...] Q and A with Thrashers co-owner Bruce Levenson Here is the transcript from my interview with Atlanta Spirit co-owner Bruce Levenson done Wednesday night after the franchise promoted Don Waddell to president, promoted Rick Dudley to general manager and did not retain its coaching staff. [...]

kracker

April 15th, 2010
11:25 am

BL saying the emails are 50-50 on Waddell is not really believeable but it’s like political speak, you say things in a nice way rather than dump on people unnecessarily. There are some people posting here that will be enraged no matter what happens. The people that, judging by their comments, would gleefully douse Waddell in gasoline and toss on a match. Literally.

I’m waiting on the lawsuit to finally conclude and Belkin has to pay up. Actually, I expect part of his buyout package will be forgiving the back payments he owes (something like $25M). Whenever a new owner is found, Belkin will probably net a few million when he walks. Good riddance.

Beyond that, I’m fine with Waddell on the business side and Dudley as GM. Dudley wants his own choices for the coaches…fine by me. With Duds making the decisions, I expect our on-ice personnel at all levels to continue to improve.

Payroll will continue to be a hinderance. This will hopefully improve somewhat once Belkin is replaced with a hockey-first owner.

PensFan

April 15th, 2010
11:25 am

At least the other NHL teams do come to Atlanta, they need to market the opportunity to see these teams, and then they will sell some tickets.

Trade Kovy, yea, he may have made the difference in at least 2 game- that would have made the playoffs. What are these Morons (DW) thinking?????

This franchise sucks, bad… 10 years – one playoff- and they lost that in 4 games… Own up to the fans and sell– Quickly.

kracker

April 15th, 2010
11:41 am

You have a short memory, PensFan. Before landing Crosby (how lucky, snicker) the Penguins were much closer to relocating to KC or wherever than the Thrashers ever have been.

Gwinnett Fred

April 15th, 2010
11:43 am

Looking at comments, most of which are pretty good today:

1) No doubt, the fans DO NOT pay the salaries. They pay the front office people, sales people, game day staff, etc., but indeed it is sponsors and more importantly (and why the Flames failed and Thrashers are hurting) television that pays the $50 payroll. An average attendence of 16,000 will gross about $39 million for the year. Just imagine what payrolls would be if the NFL’s TV money was reduced to the NHL’s TV money. There would be just as many franchises in financial disaster!

2) Waddell’s record speaks for itself, and for that reason alone, his continuing to be the GM this entire time was a complete joke. HOWEVER, I will say that a nicer person you will never meet. At the season ticket holders event before the start of the year, he was the most charming person there, giving my 10 year old daughter a personal tour of the benches, penalty boxes, etc., so I’m sure his “likability” has gone a long way toward his longevity. So personally, I think he’s a great guy. Professionally, I’m 100% on the side that he should have been “promoted” about 5 years ago.
3) I have guarded optimism that Dudley will do a fine job stepping into the GM role – his first task is to get a good fit as head coach. Someone that will kick some serious a$$ when the ladies come to play on any given night instead of the men!

Sherry Taylor

April 15th, 2010
11:45 am

I think the move they’ve had in mind since last year is the one to move Waddell into the President’s position not to fire the coaches. That coaches decision was made on Monday. You need to get your bias and emotions out of the way and see what they are saying. That said, I’m not a fan of the Atlanta Spirit, a huge misnomer–the only spirit I’ve seen is for the Hawks, but anyway. Neither have I been a fan of Waddell for about, oh, six seasons. I think he should’ve been gone about the time Kurt Fraser was, but for Levenson to say there have been almost even support for Waddell is, well, hard to swallow. I’ve not heard anyone express that, but then, I don’t talk to everyone in the arena. I am willing to sit back and see what Dudley pulls together. It would be nice to see a coach who brings in discipline without being a hard*#&, but also can teach and work with the younger players. A good combo of old school hockey and new sensitivities(gag) since some newbies must be coddled. The core is there, now hopefully they are willing to put some money where their double speaking mouths are and sign some vets who can bring a consistent stability to the team. One that can play brilliantly for more than one or two games in a row.

Sully

April 15th, 2010
12:06 pm

QUOTE -”I don’t want to overhype the direction I think we are headed in, but based on what we’ve learned over the six years, I feel good about the direction that the hockey team is headed in the right direction”.
Huh? Yu speek Inglish reel goodly, y’all. Perhaps proof reading this mess before you posted it would have been prudent. Is the copy editor also the janitor?
Way to avoid asking the tough questions with Levenson too, what did he do, promise you a suite not to bring up the disaster in management and bonehead moves they’ve made the last 4 years? It’s no wonder you’re a blogger. What a hack. My first question would be…Is there any chance you can get rid of that stupid phrase…Welcome to BLUELAND? Wtf is that all about? Great hockey town here. NOT. And he’s talking out his ass…if the Board of Governor’s decides it’s in the best interest of the franchise to move it, then they move it. Read the NHL Board of Governor’s Rules and regulations. Under the owner’s agreement, they receive a percentage of compensation and since they are continuing to run in a deficit like the Coyotes why would they want to continue to foot the bill when the franchise could actually profit and thrive in a real hockey market? I guess you could have asked him that if you had been a little more educated as a hockey writer. Stick to cars going in circles, hockey is way out of your league.

Steve Belkin

April 15th, 2010
12:15 pm

Hey Bruce, great interview, and thanks for keeping Waddell. Oh, about the emails that said “if you do remove Don as GM I won’t renew my season tickets”, they’re all from me! HA! Suck it Levenson!

Smoothie

April 15th, 2010
12:41 pm

Some of you chronic whiners on this blog should try doing some reading outside of the ajc blogs. Read what Russo from the Tribune has to say about Dudley and how dedicated he is. If you think he’s going to allow Waddell to pull his strings, I think you are grossly mistaken. Now, that doesn’t mean this will work as notorious hot-head Levenson and Duds could come to blows, but I doubt Dudley will compromise his integrity just to please Don or ownership if they don’t buy into his vision. However, I think the moves we’ve made since last June already speak to their willingness to buy-in to Dudley’s plan. From Minny Star Tribune Russo’s Rants:

“Dudley is one of the game’s great talent evaluators. He built the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Cup team even though he doesn’t have a ring to show for it and Dale Tallon credits Dudley for helping him rebuild the Blackhawks. This could be a very good move for the future of the Thrashers.

Next up Dudley will hire a coach. The top contender in my opinion is Blackhawks assistant coach John Torchetti, who was brought into Tampa Bay, Florida and Chicago because of Dudley and played for Dudley on the old ACHL Carolina Thunderbirds. Torchetti was nearly hired a few times by the old Wild regime to coach Houston. He’s a former interim head coach of the Panthers and Kings.

On those Thunderbird teams Dudley coached, he used to also drive the bus. From a 2002 feature I wrote on Dudley, Torchetti told me this: “I used to stay up talking hockey with him until 3 or 4 in the morning while he was driving the bus,” Torchetti said, laughing. “I learned so much from him about conditioning, demeanor behind a bench, how to deal with players, the hard work needed to win and loyalty.

“Loyalty is what hockey is all about.”

Dudley has an immense amount of respect for Torchetti, a true player’s coach, tactician and teacher.

You can bet Dudley will be interested in talking to Boston Bruins assistant coach Craig Ramsay, too. When Dudley managed Florida, Dudley fired Mike Keenan and took over behind the bench. But he tried incessantly to get Jay Feaster and the Lightning to let Ramsay come across Alligator Alley to coach the Panthers. Feaster wouldn’t allow that (division rival, in the middle of the year — were the obvious reasons), so Dudley replaced himself with Torchetti (coincidentally, that story broke while I was here in Minneapolis for the All-Star Game — I edited pretentious clause, ha).

But Dudley gushes over Ramsay.

Until these teams are eliminated in the playoffs though, you can bet the Thrashers’ coaching job will be on hold.

I bet you never thought you’d get so much Thrashers info on a Wild blog. Hey, it’s the offseason and I wanted to freshen up the blog.”

Thrashers Family Man/Fan

April 15th, 2010
12:44 pm

Ask anyone who was at the post-Kovy Town Hall Meeting and you’ll find that Waddell wasn’t confronted by an angry mob with torches and pitchforks. Frustrated, but supportive fans is more like it. I don’t find it hard to believe that BL receives many positive messages about Don Waddell, probably more so while they were still in playoff contention than after they were eliminated. The truly angry people only seem to show up on these message boards and they don’t appear to have much of a life beyond trolling these boards and looking for new opportunities to publicly vilify him. In fact, I’d trust him to watch my kids for the weekend…and there are members of my own family I wouldn’t.

I briefly spoke to Don at the Breakaway Grill (he was sitting a couple of booths over from us) following the Wed morn practice after the Tues loss to the Devils when we were eliminated in game 80. He was visibly upset and disappointed. (He was also having lunch with someone so it wasn’t like I sat down and threw a dozen questions at him.) When I was leaving the Grill with my family, I turned to him and said, “We came up just a little bit short.” He nodded in agreement and just said (while trying to chew – isn’t that always how it happens when you take a bite of food?), “Disappointing…” I let him know we would be there for the final game Sat night and he thanked us for our support, specifically saying it was much appreciated. My sons (spring break) were all decked out in their Thrashers gear and the players even signed their jerseys and gave them their practice sticks. You can’t imagine how much that means to little Thrasher fans! I only wish I’d had the opportunity to let my 6-yr old rattle off the players first and last names when given their numbers. He doesn’t miss and it’s quite impressive even if I do say so myself! He was also amazed that Nik Antropov came in with street clothes and stood at Don’s booth talking with him and working his cell phone for several minutes even though he didn’t practice that morning.

My point is I think and hope this is what the doctor ordered for this franchise. They’re all a bunch of good guys, Waddell included, who want the same thing – to win. They just didn’t have a coaching staff that could get them there. I watched a few of the late season practices (5 to be exact) and there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of “coaching” involved. They’d run a few drills, blow a whistle and meet on the other side of the rink and within a minute or two, they’d be doing drills again. One of the practices was over within 30 minutes and only Cheli, Boults, Reasoner and I believe Arty were still on the ice for awhile afterwards. Now I’m no expert, but I believe when you’re in the midst of a playoff race, there probably needs to be more focus, strategy and preparation for the opposing team than I saw. Maybe it happened behind the scenes while watching tape. Maybe it didn’t. I sure didn’t see it on the ice and that’s specifically a coaching issue.

Dudley should do well because he’s been adding young talent all year long, specifically late in the year. He’s got a tall order in front of him, but I can’t think of anyone better to tackle it. He knows how to put the puzzle together with the right pieces instead of trying to make pieces fit with a hammer like has been the case in the past. I also believe Dudley will ATTRACT quality players here because they’ve seen first hand what he’s accomplished wherever he’s been. That just can’t be underestimated. I feel good about the changes and they are obviously much more than cosmetic. Dudley wouldn’t have taken the job if he had someone looking over his shoulder 24/7. Of course he’ll communicate with Don and the owners – I should hope so! Look for Dudley to shock the world with a coaching hire that will get fans and players excited about this team’s future. But it probably won’t happen until the season is over or some teams/coaches are knocked out early.

Good guys. Young talent. A new GM that understands what’s needed for success. Ownership that will probably support Dudley with an almost blank check to make it happen. Wadell also wants him to succeed because he hired Dudley. This is a good situation and I’m sure other franchises that missed the playoffs are envious at this moment.

rob

April 15th, 2010
12:45 pm

tough crowd on here today.
Chris,
Thanks for putting all these interviews out for us to see. Maybe we have finally got a push in the right direction going here!!! While he isn’t fired, at least Dumb Wad is out of hockey operations. Now all of those that hated what he put on the ice can complain about what they pay to see the ice. Let’s hope for the best in this situation and give Dudley, a new coach, and the players the support they need to succeed here. Could be worse, we could be Whiney-peg crying because we don’t have a team, or KC watching a minor league team.
As for Levenson, of course he is going to gloss over the fact that so many fans dislike him to the extent they left, but at least they moved him away from the on-ice product, and in the year he was here, Dudley must have seen something he liked, or he wouldn’t have stayed IMO. This can only bode well for the teams future…..and maybe it won’t take 3-5 years to get results?
Chris,
Thanks again for the interviews!

Matt

April 15th, 2010
12:47 pm

Mr. Levenson, really? You really expect us to believe that 50% of the e-mails you received are in FAVOR of keeping Donnie? Man, we really must be suckers if you expect us to believe that.

With all due respect (and very little of that is due as to the hockey team) this ownership group makes Donald Sterling look like a genius.

Wow, it’s almost like playing Corporate “Buzz Word Bingo”.

GaVaHokie

April 15th, 2010
1:31 pm

Ask anyone who was at the post-Kovy Town Hall Meeting and you’ll find that Waddell wasn’t confronted by an angry mob with torches and pitchforks.

This!

People who are generally happy and content don’t go out of their way to express it to everyone… Only angry people find avenues to complain… that’s why reading blogs like this can skew the overall perception of “public opinion”.

ChippersLoveChild

April 15th, 2010
1:33 pm

“And there are others that say if you do remove Don as GM I won’t renew my season tickets. It’s kind of 50-50.”

Interview lost all credibility right here. C Viv, you didn’t think to interject here with a “Really? Or care to explain or expand on that?” I mean there is no way that is the case. I find that really hard to believe.

Your Mammy

April 15th, 2010
1:40 pm

Come on Bruce, that line about “…And there are others that say if you DO remove Don as GM I won’t renew my season tickets. It’s kind of 50-50.” Pure bullshytte!
Do you believe that we are that stupid to believe there is actually anyone out there that sent you an email stating if you do remove Don Waddell from his operations they would cancel their season tickets? If your inbox is indeed flooded with these alleged emails, then I would be willing to bet they could be traced back to Don Waddell’s home computer.

PMC

April 15th, 2010
1:54 pm

Tyler Perry’s “Atlanta Thrasher’s”

PMC

April 15th, 2010
1:57 pm

So Don Waddell’s friends and family have really been stacking the ol Levinson inbox eh?

Spud Webb

April 15th, 2010
1:58 pm

Thrashers Family Man/Fan…I hope that you enjoyed chatting with Don & it is cool for your kids. That said…what does that have to do with the past 11 years of total failure????????? I’m glad Dons a great guy, I am. Nobody has disputed that he isn’t a good guy. But the FACTS are that Don does NOT KNOW HOW TO BE A GOOD GM. That is an unfortunate fact. Thats what the people on these blogs are upset about.

WJ

April 15th, 2010
2:00 pm

to Spud Webb: Does he think that we are idiots? NOPE-He knows you are.

WJ

April 15th, 2010
2:01 pm

How many of you have really spent money on the Thrashers? Can you really complain about the quality of team? Put up or shut up! Let’s see what happens next before starting to destroy the team completely.

Joe Friday

April 15th, 2010
2:11 pm

“Ask anyone who was at the post-Kovy Town Hall Meeting and you’ll find that Waddell wasn’t confronted by an angry mob with torches and pitchforks.”

Of course he wasn’t who was there? Come on, think about it, it’s not that hard.

Think about the Tuesday night games this year? All the empty seats that used to be filled? There’s an answer there, you’re getting close.

Who was invited to the Town Hall? The current season ticket holders (all 289 of you that were left). Those of us that were fed up weren’t invited, eh?

Mike

April 15th, 2010
2:15 pm

By the way, did anyone read Chris’ article about the players reactions? Did anyone else find it interesting that Colby keeps saying “they” in his quotes when referring to the Thrashers? Doesn’t sound like someone who wants to be here next year.

Tim

April 15th, 2010
2:17 pm

The people on this blog are upset that Don Waddell has been allowed to keep processing oxygen!!!

1. AS cannot afford to pay him to sit at home (they are neither Notre Dame nor an SEC football program) and since he apparently has some skills which aren’t as visible to the everyday fan… they are now using him in a different capacity.

2. He’s no long the GM. I would think that the hand-wringing group of malcontents that post on this blog would be happy. Instead… it’s like you’ve all asked for 20 really awesome Christmas gifts, got the coolest 18 but still throw a tantrum.

3. I acknowledge that many of you act like grown ups in real life and the internet is your opportunity to act like petulant children.

4. A little tip… look for the positive (there’s plenty to go around)… you’ll live longer. Yes, we’ve been burned before… so blippin’ what!!! Being negative about this move gets you what as a fan? The opportunity to say I told you so down the road… that’s all! Have fun with that!!!!!!

Thrashers Family Man/Fan

April 15th, 2010
2:19 pm

Spud, Don isn’t the GM anymore. So there’s no reason to be upset any longer.

I also personally don’t blame Waddell for failing to make the playoffs this year, which was clearly within reach with teams seemingly stumbling over each other trying NOT to get in. I made the observation that Don actually looked hurt that we didn’t get in, like he truly expected we would make it. Anderson just seemed to be afraid of losing his job (according to his interviews) and responding to Kozzy. To Anderson’s credit, he did take absolute full responsibility for not making the playoffs. It makes it somewhat easier to fire a guy who goes around telling everyone he did a crappy job and he know it.

Dwayne

April 15th, 2010
2:25 pm

The ASG is now known as “The Octogeniuses”. Lord Stanley here we come. Hey Sage, please pass me another cup of that kool-aide.

Midfield

April 15th, 2010
2:30 pm

I don’t understand what is so wrong with this guy. Who forced him into this 50-50 email analysis crap? Could you just not say anything about this and not make a fool out of yourself yet again, Bruce?

Ice Man

April 15th, 2010
2:46 pm

Move the team to Calgary !! Ha ha !! No, seriously. Why not move some of these teams to Canada. Hell, even a town like Saskatoon, with a population of maybe 200,000 would still fill an 18,000 seat arena (Saskatchewan Place can be expanded to 18,000 capacity). The whole province of Saskatchewan would rally around the team, just like they support the CFL RoughRiders.
Hockey in places like Atlanta, Miami, Nashville etc has a profile like curling; face it, Southerners care only about football.
The NHL can right itself by doing the following.
-move the Coyotes back to Winnipeg, Manitoba
-move the Thrashers to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
-move the Predators to Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario
-move the Panthers to Halifax, Nova Scotia
-move the Islanders to Salt Lake City, Utah (some US markets could support NHL hockey)
-move the Maple Leafs to Havanna, Cuba (ha ha, Canada hates Toronto; that city
shouldn’t have an NHL team; oh, wait a second, it doesn’t ! :)
-

Bryan

April 15th, 2010
3:00 pm

The business partners would would prefer winning seasons, playoffs, season ticket sales, increased advertising, or to be short, just making money; more than a friendly relationship Waddel. Levinson’s protection of Waddel is unelievable. What business promotes someone who had the greatest influence on a organization after 10 years of failure. Good guy or not, Waddel has to go. Can you imagine what this board will be saying a ayear from now if the Thrashers have yet another losing season. I love hockey and want no more than for the Thrashers to be successful, but this interview makes me believe it’s not possible. Levenson needs to go to, and probably would like to but he is stuck.

Spud Webb

April 15th, 2010
3:03 pm

Ice man, you watch the Phoenix game last night?????? Standing room only!! It was awesome, made me think the Thrashers could be in that spot next season!! Why not??? Bankruptcy last year, now winning a playoff game. Great moves by the GM at the trade deadline…which leads me back to….
Family guy, I’m not really mad at this point and glad Dandy Don and his good personality and disappointment are the “president” of this boat now. Don’t mistake my disappointment for anger about Don and our failures. Fact is Don Waddell was a failure as the GM of this franchise and proved as much when he went behind the bench for 77 games a few years back. His team, no coaching blames, his players, year after year.

Chris Vivlamore

April 15th, 2010
3:33 pm

ChippersLoveChild: Seriously, dude? Levenson something and I’m supposed to say “Really? Carry to expand on that?” I suppose you are right. Then he would he just break down and say “OK, you are right. I lied. No one e-mails me who is happy with Don Waddell. I made the whole thing up!” I asked a question. He answered it. You can choose to believe him or not. Anyone can choose to believe him or not. By the looks of some of the responses here, many don’t. I’m just reporting what he said.That’s not to say that I can’t, or shouldn’t question, someone’s answer. In the case, he said what he said. There were more important things to get to,