Eleven years ago today, Don Waddell was announced as the first general manager of the newly founded Atlanta Thrashers. There has never been another such announcement made by the team since then.
Since that day he has been the man behind the desk of each and every move made by the franchise. From the selection of Patrik Stefan with the very first entry draft pick back in 1999… to drafting Ilya Kovalchuk and Dany Heatley… to bringing in Marc Savard, and then watching Savy depart…to the tragic event leading to the death of Dan Snyder…to the Hossa/Heater trade…to the Zhitnik/Coburn deal…to the Hossa drama of 2007-08…the naming of three head coaches…and now the decision to bring in Rick Dudley to be associate general manager…one thing has been a constant in the organization.
That one thing being… Don Waddell as general manager.
As for the man himself, Don Waddell is indeed a likable person. I’ve spoken directly with him just a few times and he’s been nothing but polite and courteous to me and my sons. One thing that has impressed me about him is how he never has cut the conversation short…citing his schedule or where he needed to be. Instead, he has waited for me to say “Thanks for the time, Don…good luck with the rest of the season”. Maybe those of you have similar stories.
But the job of a GM is to ice a competive team and run the front office. So…just how well off is the Thrashers’ organization after 11 years with on the job for Waddell? Well, I guess that all depends on your “glass half-full” or “glass half-empty” viewpoint.
First off, the cold, hard numbers. The overall record for Waddell and the Thrashers is 273 wins, 367 losses, 53 overtime losses and 45 ties. The team has averages 71.5 points in the nine seasons played. In between coaching hires, he has stepped in behind the bench to coach the team he has assebled for a total of 86 games. His record during those times is 38-39-1-8.
The last two seasons have ended with 76 points…just slightly above the average.
One playoff appearance…zero playoff wins.
So, obvioulsy there have been some sour times in Thrasherville over the course of the past decade…even Don would admit that. To that point, after the 2007-08 season, I was firmly of the belief that his time was up as GM and a change had to be made. Many of you felt the same way…some even thinking he should have been let go before.
But he remained then…and remains still.
Regarding the past two Thrashers’ seasons… even though 76 points are 76 points any way you slice it, last year ended on a much better note than the one before. 2007-08 was a very tumultuous season… what with the terrible start, Hartley firing, Hossa drama and the poor showing down the stretch. But last year, although the team took a while to get things going, they played to a winning record down the stretch.
Personally, I prefer to look at where the franchise is now and what is in store for the future of the club and I think next season holds a lot of promise for this young team. I base that a lot on the way they played since the middle of January to the end of the season… and the fact that the starting roster next fall will be filled with much of the same players as those who took the ice then.
Over the course of the last year or so, a few good moves have been made by Waddell and the team. Starting with the hiring of John Anderson as head coach, then the acquisition of a very solid centerman in Marty Reasoner, to the waiver-wire pickup of Rich Peverly and then the trade deadline moves in which some fairly decent returns were obtained for the players departed. Oh…and drafting that Bogosian kid certainly didn’t hurt things.
So…you can’t call my viewpoint of the team “hopefully optomistic” regarding the future. Then again, I said the same thing last summer.
The most recent big news from Waddell and the Thrashers…that of Rick Dudley’s hiring… seems to have most fans smiling. One reason for the happy faces is that the acquisition of new associate GM Rick Dudley brings with it the speculation that there is a re-org about to happen in the Thrashers’ front office. As I’ve opined previously, I just find it difficult to think that he would leave an assistant GM job with the Blackhawks to make what really is a lateral move to come to Atlanta…not unless there is some sort of understanding that there is a promotion in his future here.
Such a move, of course, would likely mean that Dudley takes over as general manager and Don then wears only the hat of Executive Vice President. I, for one, would be in total favor of that.
But until/unless such a move is made, Waddell is set to go into yet another year as the general manager of the Atlanta Thrashers. And because of that, it is simply inevitable any such discussion of him will eventually lead back to one basic question… “How many years can any GM remain in place given such a record”?
Ummm…well, I don’t know about others… but this one goes to eleven.
At least, so far.
TJ’s Draft Party Update!
Mark just contacted me to let me know of another prize that will be raffled off at Friday’s draft party. It includes 4 premium seats to a game this coming season plus a Zamboni ride in between periods!!!
Remember, the fun starts at 7:00 pm.