A little insight into Dudley’s thinking; Draft update

I just finished transcribing my hour-long interview with Rick Dudley for the profile story that is scheduled to appear next week. Now, I just have to write it in between Braves games over the next four days.

One thing Dudley talked about, that I don’t think will find a home in the story, is the following example of his philosophy of scouting players. I thought you folks would be interested in his thoughts about how Dudley and Tampa Bay acquired defenseman Dan Boyle from Florida in 2001-02. Boyle was a key part in the Lightning’s Stanley Cup championship in 2004.

“Here is an example of the type of successes that I’ve had,” Dudley said. “Dan Boyle was a smallish defenseman. Mike Keenan was the coach of Florida and he wouldn’t play him much. I talked to Chuck Fletcher, the interim GM there, and he was very honest. He said our coach won’t play him. I said what do you want for him. He said I don’t know. I said I’ll get back to you. I watched him play seven straight games. He played about three minutes a game. In those three minutes for seven straight games I had to make an evaluation as to whether this guy could help us. I came to the conclusion he could. I had to fight like hell with my bosses in Tampa, but we made the trade for a fifth-round draft pick. Well, you look at the player now, and I could not have done that on someone else’s say so. That comfort level wouldn’t have been there for a smaller D-man. The natural assumption is that he can’t play for the Florida Panthers so why would you be so excited about this player. The truth is he was in a circumstance. I’m not discrediting the coach. Mike liked big defensemen. He did not like small defensemen. Danny was a smaller defenseman. But I saw enough for our team that I felt comfortable that he could play for us. Those are things you have to do. I don’t know how you do it elsewise. There are GMs that do it [differently] and they are successful. But I don’t know how you rely on someone else’s opinion to build a hockey team. I just don’t.”

Here is more on Dudley’s overall thoughts:

“I realized one thing. I don’t give a damn what organization it is, the most important thing you can do is build a team. That’s a fact. … Back in the day you could buy a team if you had $100 million. When we built that team in Tampa, we had $21 million payroll and there were a couple of teams in the league at $80 million.  With the cap system today, no one can tell me there is anything more important than putting all the pieces in place, the right pieces. Everyone talks about capologists. What is a capologist? One of these people that looks at pieces of the puzzle and says that’s worth that much money in that slot. If you don’t watch the players, you don’t understand the players, you can not do that. The only thing you can do is walk in and give a report. You can’t walk in and say you have to move that piece or that piece. That has to be the person that does the evaluation. What I maintain … look at Phoenix, Don Maloney is a scout (and recently nominated for GM of the Year award). He’s watched a lot of hockey games and he knows how to put the right pieces in place. The person who puts those pieces in place is the most important person in the organization, other than the players you are putting there.

“I think we have a hell of a staff [in Atlanta], but if I’m looking at spending somewhere between a half million and five million dollars of someone else’s money, I want to have a comfort level. I don’t mind getting on a plane or hopping in a car to see a hockey player who we might acquire. It makes for a lot of work, makes for a lot of time, makes for a lot of time away from my wife who now understands after 26 years, she knows exactly what I’m about. But it works.”

Look for the story next week.

Watching the Eastern Conference playoffs makes you wonder what could have happened had the Thrashers got into the postseason with No. 8 Montreal knocking off No. 1 Washington and now No. 4 Pittsburgh. Should Philadelphia win Game 7 ,you would have the No. 7 and No. 8 seeded teams playing for a trip to the Stanley Cup finals. You just never know.

Also, I verified with the NHL today that the Thrashers will get the No. 24th pick in the first round as part of the Ilya Kovalchuk trade. As it stands now, here is the order. Only who will pick No. 15 and the final four spots is yet to be determined.

Entry Draft order of selection

Round 1

1. Edmonton Oilers
2. Boston Bruins (from Toronto)
3. Florida Panthers
4. Columbus Blue Jackets
5. New York Islanders
6. Tampa Bay Lightning
7. Carolina Hurricanes
8. Atlanta Thrashers
9. Minnesota Wild
10. New York Rangers
11. Dallas Stars
12. Anaheim Ducks
13. Phoenix Coyotes (from Calgary)
14. St. Louis Blues
15. Boston or Anaheim (from Philadelphia)
16. Ottawa Senators
17. Colorado Avalanche
18. Nashville Predators
19. Los Angeles Kings
20. Pittsburgh Penguins
21. Detroit Red Wings
22. Phoenix Coyotes
23. Buffalo Sabres
24. Atlanta Thrashers (from New Jersey)
25. Vancouver Canucks
26. Washington Capitals

Picks 27-28: The two teams eliminated in the Conference Finals, in inverse order of points
Pick 29: The team eliminated in the Stanley Cup Final
Pick 30: The Stanley Cup champion

64 comments Add your comment


May 19th, 2010
8:10 pm


Great bio on Dudley today. Seriously, I think it was the best written article you have done since you started covering the Thrashers.


May 20th, 2010
8:20 am

Viv… Excellent article on Dudley… thanks!


May 20th, 2010
8:52 am

Oh Boy! Another minor league find that will move this franchise forward!


Alan R.

May 20th, 2010
11:34 am

Another minor league find that will move this franchise forward!

Don’t be disingenuous. Just because he’s currently a minor league coach doesn’t mean he doesn’t have NHL experience. He was an assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres from 2002 to 2006. Last time I checked, the Sabres weren’t “minor league.” But what do I know?


May 20th, 2010
4:02 pm

Chris Viv, that was nice article on Rick Dudley. Thanks.


May 21st, 2010
7:23 am

True dat Alan. My cynicism is really only based on one fact:

The only playoff appearance this team has had came with an EXPERIENCED NHL HEAD COACH at the helm.

Wouldn’t past history kinda influence your prospect search?

But what do I know, I’m just another malcontent…

Alan R.

May 21st, 2010
11:12 am

Wouldn’t past history kinda influence your prospect search?

Not really. I guess I’m open to a new approach. Hartley may have taken us to the playoffs, but he more than lost the locker room. It turned against him. That kind of coaching was looked favorably upon by maybe three players. Everyone else seemed to hate him for what he did after games and how he treated the guys. I know I sure as hell couldn’t work in that environment.

On the other hand, Anderson was too easy. Bad defensive coverage? “Puck didn’t bounce our way.” We got blown out? “Bad puck luck.” Just seemed like a lot of excuses. He definitely played our young guys, but he had a lot of problems himself, fundamentally speaking.

We need a coach that can stress the offensive and defensive aspects of the game, one that recognizes our young talent and can harness it, and a coach who isn’t afraid to throw a few players under the bus if they’re doggin’ it.

Remember also, that one “experienced nhl head coach” was handed a pre-assembled team full of awesome players to win the cup. He didn’t really do anything special otherwise.


May 21st, 2010
4:14 pm

So, what your saying is in Colorado, Hartley actually had a GM. Sorry Hartley was/is a great coach. We can thank clueless/jack Bobby (forgot his last name sorry) for any hopes that this team could actually play well together in the one playoff experience. Then again its obvious that Kovalchoke can’t win in the playoffs.

Alan R.

May 21st, 2010
4:18 pm

Sorry Hartley was/is a great coach.

Not quite. He had a team in Colorado that he didn’t have to coach. When he lost that locker room, he was fired. He got hired on here, and actually had to do some work. When the Thrashers had, arguably, their best team in team history (2005-2006), they still didn’t manage to make the playoffs. Their lone playoff berth the following year saw them go 0-4. Hartley lost the room before those playoffs, and when the regular season rolled back around, the room was still lost.

Good coaches don’t allow their team to go 0-10. Even if they have lost the room.


May 21st, 2010
4:31 pm

your right they should of got rid of the cancers before the season started. ie Bobby Holik. Its a shame that we actually had a coach that believed in accountability and effort


May 21st, 2010
10:38 pm

Alan, I just don’t see courting the latest/greatest minor league whiz kid as something new. It’s been done twice and look at the results.

Give me proven at NHL level every time. Isn’t this supposed to be the “turning point” ? New GM and new direction? Looks like the same old operation to me – find a lo $ minor league’r and sign him to two years.


May 22nd, 2010
3:30 pm

How’s not to win a Stanley Cup when you have a team made of Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Patrick Roy, Adam Foote, Rob Blake, Ray Bourque, etc. That team was just full packed. I know because I was an Avalanche fan before.

On the other hand, how did Joe Sacco made it to the playoff and actually got San Jose into trouble? From this perspective, Joe Sacco is a much better coach then Hartley ever have.

Look at the roster of all the the team that Hartley have when he made into playoff. I would say it’s more about team talents then coaching.

By the way, Mike Keenan also won a Stanley Cup and have NHL experience. You want him here?

Alan R.

May 22nd, 2010
9:31 pm

Give me proven at NHL level every time.

Arniel was an assistant coach 2002-2006 with the Sabres.

That’s NHL level. Might not be head coach level, but the other rumored candidates aren’t head coaches either.


May 23rd, 2010
2:01 pm

Just tossing this out there, on an uneventful offseason for the Thrashers. Do you think there’s a team we can make a deal with to move up? My first thoughts turn to the #4 NY Islanders. They have, in the past, shown stupidity on draft day. They once moved from # 5 to # 9, in a series of trades with Toronto and Phoenix to stockpile 2nd rounders.

Do you think we could offer the NY Islanders #8 and #54 (via NJ) for their # 5? Second question, could a similar deal be made with Columbus? Columbus drafts 4th overall. But if we offered our #24 (via NJ) with our #8, we might be able to move up. In Columbus’ shoes, I wouldn’t do it. Same goes for the NY Islanders.

If you were Boston, would even listen to pick # 2, for Atlanta’s # 8, # 24, and # 55? I know, what if Tyler or Taylor is a “bust?” Then we gave up a lot. Maybe too much. I don’t know. I just wanted hear opinions about it. It’s fun to dream, right? The truth is, I’d be thrilled if we just stay at # 8, and take the best player on the board.