Thrashers’ search: Pondering Chicago assistant (and Hartley)

Rick Dudley has an important decision to make: Who will coach his team? (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Rick Dudley has an important decision to make: Who will coach his team? (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Given the sports landscape, I don’t expect the masses to obsess over Rick Dudley’s head coaching search the way most did Mark Richt’s search for a defensive coordinator. (Could Kirby Smart fix goals-against?).  But this will be arguably the biggest decision Dudley makes. So for what it’s worth, here are five names to consider:

John Torchetti is a popular assistant coach with Chicago.

John Torchetti is a popular assistant coach with Chicago.

John Torchetti: Some around hockey already consider him the favorite. He’s an assistant with the Chicago Blackhawks, where Dudley worked before coming to Atlanta last year. Torchetti also worked with Dudley at two other NHL stops, Tampa Bay and Florida. His strength is as a teacher and working with young players. He has never been a full-fledged NHL head coach but did have two interim stints with Florida and Los Angeles.

Craig MacTavish: He had a pretty solid first five seasons as Edmonton coach (three playoff berths, one Stanley Cup finals appearance) before the Oilers slid in his last three years, leading to his firing last year. Edmonton’s biggest problem for a while was economics (an inability to keep good players), and then miscalculated on several players. But MacTavish was respected and his teams always played hard. Known for being

Craig MacTavish coached Edmonton to the Stanley Cup finals in 2005-06.

Craig MacTavish coached Edmonton to the Stanley Cup finals in 2005-06.

glib, MacTavish said the following when hired as a commentator by the Canadian sports channel, TSN: “I’m happy to finally be among the experts where the issues are many and solutions obvious.  I appreciate TSN providing a safe haven for unemployed coaches, as we rehabilitate ourselves towards future employability.”

♦ Bob Hartley: A longshot? Yes. But don’t laugh. Hartley, who has been out of coaching since being fired by the Thrashers, would love to get back behind a bench. He still maintains a home in Atlanta. He is the only coach to get this team to the playoffs. He could provide the structure the team needs. He loved coaching here and he never has publicly spoken ill about the organization, ownership or Don Waddell. When I phoned Hartley, he said only that he would like to get back into coaching but declined further comment.

Ken Hitchcock: Yes, it has been a decade since his

John Stevens made the playoffs two of his first three seasons in Philadelphia.

John Stevens made the playoffs two of his first three seasons in Philadelphia.

meteoric success in Dallas (Stanley Cup, two finals appearances, five postseasons in seven years). He had a decent run in Philadelphia (three playoffs in four years, including a run to the conference finals). He made the playoffs only once in four seasons in Columbus but it could be argued he didn’t have a great roster, either. Here’s the thing: Hitchcock is one of the smartest hockey coaches ever, and he excels at preaching defense and getting teams to fight for loose pucks. He’s worth considering.

John Stevens: My pal Craig Custance of the Sporting News is pushing Stevens, who spent three-plus seasons as Flyers coach before being fired 25 games into this season. He made the playoffs two of his first three seasons, losing both years to Pittsburgh (conference finals and first round). Downside: He has a reputation of being player-friendly, and the question is whether the Thrashers want somebody tougher after John Anderson.

So there are five names. Anybody else you would like to see the Thrashers go after. And please don’t say Scotty Bowman. Or Toe Blake. (Old time hockey!)

Previous post: Thrashers make changes, but did they go far enough?

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75 comments Add your comment

Wristshot

April 15th, 2010
6:57 am

JD

April 15th, 2010
7:00 am

I don’t want to see Don Waddell’s fat face at all in the off season or during the season.

brian rudisel

April 15th, 2010
7:19 am

Michel therrien

collegedude

April 15th, 2010
7:40 am

Let’s get Hitchcock.

Falcon fans, come meet & have lunch with 3 Falcon’s legends & support a local charity at the same time. Jeff Van Note, Jessie Tuggle, & Buddy Curry will be there and have a Q&A session with those in attendence. Check it out here: http://www.falconnationcharities.org/lunchwithlegends.html

Resign or Resign?

April 15th, 2010
7:49 am

Is Kurt Russell available? He was really good in that movie! MacTavish? Scottish hockey? I know “The Torch” has a good rep, but why was he passed over in Fla & LA? Hitchcock? “Vertigo” is one of my favorites! John Stevens=John Anderson. Seriously, hope it’s MacTavish or Hitchcock; though one wonders why such supposedly good coaches are still available.

tp

April 15th, 2010
8:20 am

Rick Dudley’s hair stylist. How hard would it be for that person to motivate a team when they’ve already convinced a man like Dudley to proudly wear a squirrel on his head?

Glovesave29

April 15th, 2010
8:28 am

If youre going to consider MacTavish, better keep the mascots away. Just ask Harvey the Hound in Calgary!

douglasville dawg

April 15th, 2010
8:34 am

All I'm Saying...

April 15th, 2010
8:38 am

I say go with the ‘Torch’ or Ted Nolan. If they say no, then bring in Don Cherry as he and his pet pit bulls are typically more entertaining than the hockey.

Sherry Taylor

April 15th, 2010
8:54 am

Sorry, but Old Time Hockey might not be a bad idea, you can’t argue with the success of some of those old time hockey guys, I will refrain from naming them, as you asked. But, player-friendly isn’t going to hack it either, we’ve seen that from the last two years. There has to be a happy median in there somewhere. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing Hartley come back, several of the players who gave him the hardest of times in the clubhouse are now gone, so why not, but you are correct, he is a long shot at best. it is a good list, Jeff.

Laura

April 15th, 2010
9:01 am

I don’t know, Brian – Therrien might be too “soff.”

I kid. He’d probably be able to get them into shape, as would Andy Murray, but you have to wonder if it’s worth it to hire a coach with a “shelf life.” Slater said something in an interview a while back that this team really needs continuity – it’s a shame we can’t find a Barry Trotz kind guy and hold on to him.

At least given their past sour grapes, we won’t have to worry about Dudley giving Keenan a chance.

BugKiller

April 15th, 2010
9:05 am

I say they get Whoopie Goldberg to sit behind the bench as Ida May and get coaching tips from the Ghost of Herb Brooks.

Because this team needs a Miracle if they’re gonna survive in Atlanta.

Waddell and the Atlanta Dispirited Group of A-Holes have just about destroyed hockey in Atlanta, and this seems more a band-aid (I cannot believe they’re keeping Waddell, who also ruined USA Hockey for a four-year period, in the building in ANY capacity) than a true fix.

Why not Mike Keenan? He’s coached all of the other teams, shouldn’t Atlanta be next on his list?

Seriously, though, I’d go with Craig MacTavish.

One of the last NHL players to play without a helmet. Tough as nails. Important, enforcer-ish presence on the 1994 Stanley Cup Champion Rangers team at the end of his career. Coached by Keenan. Played with Messier.

He’s gotta have some good ideas on how to fix this situation. So I say go with MacTavish. At the very least, he’ll get this team playing defense.

And possibly an offense that just isn’t “dump the puck in and let’s see what happens.”

GaVaHokie

April 15th, 2010
9:12 am

I’d like to see a movie about the Thrashers with Mickey Rourke playing Rick Dudley.

My Top 3 Coaching candidates… I’ll be happy with any of them.

Paul MacLean
Bob Hartley
John Torchetti

Jeff Schultz

April 15th, 2010
9:28 am

Wristshot — I like Ted Nolan . . . about 10 or 12 years ago.

Jeff Schultz

April 15th, 2010
9:30 am

Brian Rudisel — I almost threw Therrien onto the list. He’s an interesting guy and I thought did a pretty good job in Montreal, which isn’t an easy place to coach. (Think New York with a French accent.) He also got Pittsburgh to the finals — and then got fired the following year.

Jeff Schultz

April 15th, 2010
9:31 am

TP — Fortunately, GM jobs don’t come with grooming requirements. (I like the squirrel line though.)

Joe Friday

April 15th, 2010
9:45 am

Only way Torchetti doesn’t get the job is if he turns down the offer

smokemonster

April 15th, 2010
9:59 am

You forgot Emilio Estevez also.

bdawg1968

April 15th, 2010
10:02 am

The answer is Barry Melrose. The beard alone would get us 50 pts a season!

Seriously, folks...

April 15th, 2010
10:13 am

Any of the guys on my street. We’re all under 35 and can have Chelios buy us beers after the games.

Delbert D.

April 15th, 2010
10:25 am

I like it when they drive those Zamborghini snow plows. That’s is the exciting part.

Darkhorse

April 15th, 2010
10:29 am

Whoever can be a good teacher for the younger guys and command respect. I don’t think that’s Hartley with this group of players. Some people have thrown out Denis Savard’s name also.

Would love to see Hedberg and Chelios as assistant coaches too.

Rex

April 15th, 2010
10:30 am

Nolan would be great choice , when I lived in Buffalo he took a very average team and put a fantastic hard working product on the ice. IF Dudley shapes this team like he played they should be a tough physical team, he had punches like jackhammers.

thebighairybeast

April 15th, 2010
10:30 am

MacTavish would be my first choice. has experience in dealing with a team that keeps the money strings tight. Therrien would be second. Would love to see what he could do with a team in a less pressurized enviorment. Torchetti would be third. Hes had a hand in building a very good Blackhawks team.

Telfo

April 15th, 2010
10:31 am

there is a reason Hartley hasnt gotten another job….

Hitchcock is notoriously terrible with young players… and Mactavish is way too old school for a young team.

Torchetti is probably the guy, Stevens wouldnt be a terrible choice, but he is a lot like Anderson…. though the problem with Anderson was more the system and the lack of adaptability then it was his demeanor.

Supes

April 15th, 2010
10:35 am

Jeff, whoever gets the job, I hope it is NOT who Teflon Don wanted. I hope this is Rick Dudley’s decision alone!!!

Matt

April 15th, 2010
10:52 am

Melrose is an idiot. There is a reason the Bolts dumped his can so quickly. Leave “The Mullet” on ESPN where he can do no more damage.

Coach Uncle Bob Fan

April 15th, 2010
10:57 am

Coach Uncle Bob got hosed here!

The D

April 15th, 2010
11:10 am

ED LAUTER, anyobody know who he coached?

The D

April 15th, 2010
11:13 am

Let’s get Scott Mchpherson? The dude who coached our PEE-WEE’S to the National Championship, I am sure he could do better, GO THRASH

Steve

April 15th, 2010
11:15 am

Anybody but Hitchcock! Nolan definitley would bring a tougher brand of hockey to town, but he might be TOO defense minded and conservative, and he seems to have a bit of an ego problem (he left the Sabres in a snit because he was only offered a one-year extension, and then had to wait a decade to get another head coaching gig). I agree with Matt about Melrose. MacTavish might be a good choice.
I have a feeling Teflon Don will have a big say in the coach who gets picked.

GaVaHokie

April 15th, 2010
11:16 am

Ted Nolan has been fooled TWICE by the Atlanta Thrashers… there’s no way he steps into anyone’s office for an interview.

He was considered when we hired Fraser, and was all but offered the job before the last second decision to hire Hartley… he made a huge stink about it too in the press.

RFrancis

April 15th, 2010
11:30 am

We need Bob Hartley back. Only man to take us to the playoffs. He was fired for losing the first 6 of the next season. But he warned us ahead of time that the team would be weak to start. Another one of Waddell’s many poor decisions in firing him. Heck, make him an Assistant GM too while your at it.

chc4

April 15th, 2010
11:31 am

Curt Fraser?

Jeff

April 15th, 2010
1:41 pm

McTavish….we need some old school hockey around here for a change.

Smoothie

April 15th, 2010
2:12 pm

How about Jim Schoenfeld?? The game needs more color!!

cobbdawg

April 15th, 2010
4:47 pm

Hire Pat Quinn away from Edmonton!

JSS

April 15th, 2010
6:31 pm

Mike Keenan? Step away from the keyboard and retire your user name!

Where in the hell did Rick Dudley get that suit from? But do what you got to do Mr. GM, go break some knee caps! Can Ida May channel Red Kelly instead?

Thrashfan

April 15th, 2010
11:21 pm

Kudos Jeff on picking out a name like Torch. It depends how deep Chicago goes in the playoffs. As for all the retreads everyone here is calling for please stop now. I am most upset that people actually are suggesting Hartley. Everyone is so upset that Waddell is still here in a magic shell game yet we want to bring back HIS coach as part of the front office shuffle? Makes no sense. Keenan, Nolan, Hitchcock, these are just more retreads that wore out their welcomes.

I’ll throw a name out there since most can’t think outside the box here – Bob Boughner.

There are 5 ways to go with a new coach. 1) the retread. That might sell a few seats for the first week but it won’t work with this group of young kids. 2) the hot assistant. Since Torch was already mentioned I’ll let that name qualify for this type. We’ll call him our second choice. 3) the top minor league coach. Since we just blew our chances with Anderson who was that type we won’t do that again anytime soon. 4) someone with past ties. This also qualifies for Torch.

5) the wildcard that no one saw coming. That would be the boogie man. Boughner has done a fabulous job in 4 seasons in the juniors. A record setting season and some championships. Currently coaches potential #1 overall pick in next June’s draft. Coached a top 10 pick last year and had 4 other players drafted. Coached a top ten pick the year before and had another first rounder and a few others in later rounds get drafted. The guy can develop young kids. Won CHL Championship last year (and coy). Coached under 18 national team to a gold. Was a former captain in NHL. Served in NHLPA role while player. Currently also involved in ownership group to purchase O-team. Can deal with front office. This would be a sound choice.

Thrashfan

April 15th, 2010
11:24 pm

Kudos Jeff on picking out a name like Torch. It depends how deep Chicago goes in the playoffs. As for all the retreads everyone here is calling for please stop now. I am most upset that people actually are suggesting Hartley. Everyone is so upset that Waddell is still here in a magic shell game yet we want to bring back HIS coach as part of the front office shuffle? Makes no sense. Keenan, Nolan, Hitchcock, these are just more retreads that wore out their welcomes.

I’ll throw a name out there since most can’t think outside the box here – Bob Boughner.

There are 4 ways to go with a new coach. 1) the retread. That might sell a few seats for the first week but it won’t work with this group of young kids. 2) the hot assistant. Since Torch was already mentioned I’ll let that name qualify for this type. We’ll call him our second choice. 3) the top minor league coach. Since we just blew our chances with Anderson who was that type we won’t do that again anytime soon.

4) the wildcard that no one saw coming. That would be the boogie man. He has done a fabulous job in 4 seasons in the juniors. Currently coaches potential #1 overall pick in next June’s draft. Coached a top 10 pick last year and had 4 other players drafted. Coached a top ten pick the year before and had another first rounder and a few others in later rounds get drafted. The guy can develop young kids. Won CHL Championship last year (and coy). Coached under 18 national team to a gold. Was a former captain in NHL. Served in NHLPA role while player. Currently also involved in ownership group to purchase O-team. Can deal with front office. This would be a sound choice.

Brendan

April 15th, 2010
11:33 pm

I don’t know. Let’s see who gets fired, as the playoffs progress. We never know who might suddenly be on the market. We don’t really have to make this decision soon. So, we might as well wait.

n8

April 16th, 2010
7:11 am

It’s definitely going to be Torchetti, Dudley has taken him everywhere he’s been and he’s paid his dues.

Thrashfan

April 16th, 2010
10:54 am

n8 – while I already said who I want I clearly think you are right that it will be Torchetti. That said if Chicago gets knocked out early in the playoffs don’t be so sure. He would still be the leading candidate but it just wouldn’t the lock that he seems to be now.

R. Stroz

April 16th, 2010
11:51 am

I have a dollar that says if Dudley said he wanted Schultz to coach that Waddell would nix the idea.

Jeff Schultz

April 16th, 2010
12:40 pm

Stroz — Can I bet?

David

April 16th, 2010
2:44 pm

Denis Savard would be my first choice.

Brendan

April 16th, 2010
7:06 pm

If Dudley is not free to select the coach he wants, then he is not the GM.

Krust

April 17th, 2010
8:26 am

Bob Hartley is my choice..

Big Al

April 17th, 2010
8:53 am

Please bring back Uncle Bob!

B. Thenet

April 17th, 2010
11:20 am

Head Coach: Dudley is an old school guy, he works with guys he likes and knows(see Kubina and Artyukhin) so I figure it will be Craig Ramsay or Torchetti

For assistant coach: Chris Chelios That guy has hockey in his blood, he is not going to retire and sit on the beach somewhere. If he cannot play, might as well throw him behind the bench. Take a look at the Chicago Wolves records since they signed him,,,,,we have a team full of young defensemen. He would be a nice guy to have around.