Back from seven days of Braves coverage and a couple days off. Below is my story on the Thrashers talking to Craig Ramsay for the head coach position over the weekend. He is one of five candidates.
I’m hearing that Jim Slater may be the first of the Thrashers’ unrestricted free agents to be re-signed.
Upcoming: I did a story on Thrashers strength and conditioning coach Ray Bear leaving to work with the Army. Look for that in the next day or two. Also, meeting with new father Chris Thorburn on Wednesday. Look for a story on him soon.
Here is the coaching search story:
The Thrashers interviewed Craig Ramsay for their vacant head coaching position over the weekend. Ramsay, currently an assistant with the Boston Bruins, is the third candidate to be interviewed by new Thrashers general manager Rick Dudley.
Last month Dudley interviewed AHL head coaches Scott Arniel, of the Manitoba Moose, and Don Lever, of the Thrashers’ minor-league affiliate Chicago Wolves. Dudley met with Arniel at the Memorial Cup and with Lever following the junior hockey tournament.
“I’ve been pretty impressed with the people we’ve talked to,” Dudley said. “These guys are all ready to coach in the National Hockey League. I’m amazed at the level of coach right now. It used to be you would talk to coaches and you would have one guy that would be head and shoulders above the rest because he had learned his craft pretty well.”
Dudley indicated that there was one, or possibly two, candidates he would still like to speak with but could not because their team “was still working.” Chicago Blackhawks assistant John Torchetti is considered the final serious candidate. The Blackhawks are currently in the Stanley Cup Finals, leading the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 with Game 6 Wednesday. Bill Peters, who coaches the Blackhawks’ AHL-affiliate Rockford IceHogs, could also be a candidate. Dudley has stated that it is not his philosophy to speak to a potential candidate while his team is involved in the playoffs because he believes it’s a distraction.
“I was trying to throw questions that were not normal questions that they would get … and they didn’t even flinch,” Dudley said of the interviews. “If I asked them about the neutral zone and playing against a passive fore check, what would you do? They just answered like it was water off a duck’s back.”
Dudley and Ramsay have a history. They played together for three seasons with the Buffalo Sabres. They even skated on the same line at times. Dudley hired Ramsay as associate head coach, to work with John Tortorella, when he was general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Dudley considers it the best hire of his career.
“I was very proud of that,” Dudley said. “… The truth is John Tortorella is a volatile guy. He needed an intelligent guy to come in and know what his role had to be. We didn’t need another volatile guy in there. Craig softened all the blows there. When John undressed somebody, he would go and make them feel good again. He knew that was his role and he did it really well.”
Ramsay has served as head coach of the Sabres (1986-87) and the Philadelphia Flyers (2000-01). After six seasons with the Lightning, including a Stanley Cup title in 2003-04, Ramsay has been an assistant with the Bruins since 2007.
“All [the candidates are] very good in their own way,” Dudley said.
Dudley was also involved in the hiring of Torchetti, when he was assistant general manager with the Blackhawks before joining the Thrashers.
Dudley said the Thrashers were unlikely to have a new head coach in place before the NHL Draft on June 25-26. The Thrashers announced that they would not pick up the option on head coach John Anderson and his staff two days after the end of the season, the same day Dudley was named general manager and Don Waddell was named team president.