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
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