If confidence counts, Dudley has Thrashers on verge of Cup

Rick Dudley believes the Thrashers are in the same spot as the Stanley Cup finalist Chicago Blackhawks were two years ago.

Rick Dudley believes the Thrashers are in the same spot as Stanley Cup finalist Chicago was two years ago.

The new guy has a plan. The new guy has a resume. The new guy certainly isn’t short of confidence.

“I like to think I can do things better than somebody else,” Rick Dudley said. “If you want to call that arrogant, I think I’m as good as it gets at what I do. I like to build. I like to put the pieces together. I like to anticipate. I like to be able to look at a situation and say, ‘That human being could do better in a different situation.’ I’m good at that.”

Rick Dudley leaves you with the thought: Why is he general manager of the Thrashers? Shouldn’t he be in Washington? Maybe NASA? At the very least, he would rock on Celebrity Apprentice.

He is the new guy in charge of hockey in Atlanta. It’s his job to make people believe that an organization with one playoff berth (an abbreviated one) in 10 seasons is suddenly going to become relevant. He has done it before.

What do words count for? Not much. But he talks a convincing game. He has revamped the way the scouting staff evaluates players. He thinks too many scouts get it wrong, partly because of laziness, and he’s probably right.

Soundbite: “They say, ‘Oh, he scored 46 goals, he’s going to be a good player.’ But he may be dumber than a sack of hammers.”

He has raised the level of accountability. Comfort is gone in the building.

He refuses to use a potentially low payroll, which is to be expected from an uninterested ownership group, as an excuse for losing.

“Give me the payroll and we’ll make it work,” he said.

And then this: “We can have the greatest city in the world with the best sports fans and if we don’t win we’re not drawing flies. I know everybody in Atlanta will say this city is not a hockey city. Bull. I look at Washington – it’s a hell of a lot better than Washington. But they put something together that excited the people.”

Are you ready to run through a wall for him yet?

The organization was overdue for a new start. There had been too many false starts, too many excuses. Dudley’s job begins in earnest with the draft June 25-26. He also needs to hire a coach (Chicago assistant John Torchetti is the perceived overwhelming favorite.) But that decision likely will not come until after the draft.

Shouldn’t the coach have some input if, say, Dudley wants to make a trade involving veterans at the draft?

“I prefer coaches who don’t care what their personnel is,” he said. “If a coach wants to be part of the personnel decisions, then he’s always going to hate his team.”

Dudley didn't make it onto the team photo when Tampa Bay won the Cup in 2004.

Dudley didn't make it onto the team photo when Tampa Bay won the Cup.

The Chicago Blackhawks are on the verge of clinching their first Stanley Cup since 1961. Dudley helped get them there. He was the Blackhawks’ assistant general manager for three years before coming to Atlanta last summer. Things got ugly in Chicago. General manager Dale Tallon was demoted the month after Dudley left. Tallon goofed when he failed to submit qualifying offers to eight restricted free agents before the deadline, resulting in the team having to pay higher salaries than probably necessary. Still, Tallon’s demotion was unpopular. He eventually left and now is the GM in Florida.

Dudley did most of the ground work for  the Lightning’s 2003-04 Cup team. But he resigned late in February of 2002 after a feud with ownership over whether to trade Vincent Lecavalier, who was in the midst of a salary dispute. Dudley wanted to deal the player. His assistant, Jay Feaster, sided with ownership. There went that relationship. The Lightning reached the second round of the playoffs the following season and won it all a year later.

“Would I like to have a ring? Sure,” he said. “But I take satisfaction in the process.”

How close are the Thrashers in that process?

“We’re as close as Chicago was two years ago,” Dudley said.

So Rick Dudley predicts . . .

“We won’t win it this year,” he said, laughing.

Just move in that direction. That’s all anybody wants.

Recent posts

Countdown: Bucs (busted), Argentina (hubba), Chills (duck!)

Poll time: Pick your Hawks’ coach (I’m going with Johnson)

Jordan Schafer believes he’ll work his way back to Braves

LeBron James is hogging the spotlight during NBA finals

Deck McGuire looks to make amends at Tech before pros call

Selig blows the call worse than umpire on ‘imperfect’ game

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and on Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

77 comments Add your comment

TONE

June 8th, 2010
1:55 pm

TONE

June 8th, 2010
1:57 pm

uh oh I was first now i have to go to the Hockey establishment you mentioned to me Jeff.
I hope my huddle house friends don’t get jealous

One thing for sure

June 8th, 2010
2:04 pm

Supes

June 8th, 2010
2:12 pm

Jeff…Teflon Don is still in the building…and the ownership will still NOT give their full support like they do with the Hawks. They care about Basketball, Hockey, they were stuck with it more or less.

Jeff Schultz

June 8th, 2010
2:32 pm

Tone — I’m sure you’ll blend just fine.

Jeff Schultz

June 8th, 2010
2:33 pm

Supes — I don’t think Don Waddell is a concern. Dudley will make hockey decisions, ownership will make financial ones. But yes, the budget could be an issue. So the hope is that new owner(s) come in who care about hockey, obviously.

Big Jack

June 8th, 2010
2:38 pm

At least we have a GM with a real plan and talking the talk. I think Teflon Don’s plan never made it to the pouring concrete stage.

Big Jack

June 8th, 2010
2:40 pm

Also if they really cared about the Hawks, a coach would of already been announced. ASG is just a bunch a group of Tools.

Sonny Clusters

June 8th, 2010
2:46 pm

That suit looks just like one Stinky Wintes’ daddy gave to the Goodwill. We was always laughing at that suit.

Andrew

June 8th, 2010
2:57 pm

Kevin Allen is reporting that Afinogenov will probably not re-sign. This would make Dudley’s job a bit tougher. He may have to swing a deal or two during the draft or free agency. Bergfors was great in his short stint here, but we can’t expect him to fill Kovalchuk’s loss.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Oprah Winfrey, Free Photo. Free Photo said: If confidence counts, Dudley has Thrashers on verge of Cup http://bit.ly/aPemMV [...]

Smoothie

June 8th, 2010
3:22 pm

Jeff, good job man. Well presented take on Dudley and done without unnecessary neagitivity…an acknowledgement of a negative past, but fair and balanced nonetheless…Duds is not afraid to do what may be perceived as unpopular, but then again, success does not always come from a consensus of opinion. Sometimes it’s best to take the path less traveled. If nothing else, Duds should stay true to himself and his vision. If he feels he’s getting jerked around, he’ll peace the eff right on out of ATL.

KLS1

June 8th, 2010
3:30 pm

We’ve had a lot of good players and some great players come through this team, lets hope we can get a coach to make the best of what we have and develop what we get because payroll will be an issue.

Afinogenov is a good player and would be a nice piece to keep, but we can probably get the same production from another player that may actually play defense.

Smoothie

June 8th, 2010
3:39 pm

Jeff, good job man. Well presented take on Dudley and done without unnecessary neagitivity…an acknowledgement of a negative past, but fair and balanced nonetheless…Duds is not afraid to do what may be perceived as unpopular, but then again, success does not always come from a consensus of opinion. Sometimes it’s best to take the path less traveled. If nothing else, Dudley should stay true to himself and his vision. If he feels he’s getting the run-around, then he will simply say “peace out!”

Taylor Hanson

June 8th, 2010
3:55 pm

Thrashers huh?

Taylor Hanson

June 8th, 2010
4:19 pm

I’m surpised you’re only getting about one comment every 20 minutes on this one.

Matt

June 8th, 2010
4:21 pm

Talk is cheap, let’s hope it FINALLY translates into concrete action and improvement. Thrasher Fans have been burned way too many years by talk.

Has there ever been an expansion franchise in NHL hockey that has been this pathetic for this long? The Senators of the 90’s were pretty bad, but I can’t recall any others offhand.

BIGG65

June 8th, 2010
4:26 pm

Uh, hello……..Columbus Blue Jackets anyone. They’ve made the playoffs once in their dismal existence and if i recall correctly, they were swept in the first round just like ATL.

Taylor Hanson

June 8th, 2010
4:41 pm

Back the f’ up.
Atlanta has a hockey team? I thought it moved to Calgary.

Pete

June 8th, 2010
4:41 pm

@Matt 4:21

The Oakland Seals played 9 years in the NHL, 182-401.

Brendan

June 8th, 2010
5:26 pm

Excellent start to the Dudley Administration. I’m about an energetic as I’ll allow myself to be, without having seen any results, other than a Jim Slater contract signing. Which isn’t a bad move, but I still don’t have the financial details on that one.

Jeff, shouldn’t there have been a proper ‘roast’ of Don Waddell the day he was promoted to President? Something along the sides of a 2-3 page spread, documenting all the trades, draft picks, and postseason futility that normally occurs when a GM is removed from power? Or is the AJC saving that for the day when Waddell actually get canned?

Jeff Schultz

June 8th, 2010
5:28 pm

Andrew — Afinogenov was a great pickup but — and I don’t mean to make it sound this harsh — I think there’s a limit as to what a guy like that is worth. Let’s face it, it wasn’t long ago that anybody could have had him for song. He’s replaceable.

Jeff Schultz

June 8th, 2010
5:29 pm

KLS1 — I agree that the Thrashers have had some good players. The problem is that there also have been too many that didn’t pan out and, maybe more importantly, the team just has never been built well.

Jeff Schultz

June 8th, 2010
5:31 pm

Brendan — Think I heard that Slater signed for something like 900,000 and 1 mill, but check Viv’s story. … As for DW, it’s all been said (and written).

Section 119

June 8th, 2010
5:34 pm

After 37 blogs/columns the last month about the Hawks coachng search, glad to see that someone at the AJC (other than Iceman) acknowledges the continued existence of the Thrashers. Will be interesting to see what Dudley does/can do to revive this listless franchise and whether he can repeat his successes in Chicago and TB. He certainly didn’t have the ASG morons to deal with in Chi & TB, so good luck with that …

ScottBravesfan

June 8th, 2010
5:40 pm

Taylor Hanson,

Yes we get it you are very clever. Atlanta’s hockey team is terrible and most people don’t care about it. How is it working out for you? Being clever that is? Does it make you feel special? At least Thrasher fans can actually sell out playoff games. The Hawks have to pray that they have enough people in the building that they can then lie and say they have a full house even though there are thousands of seats empty.

Anyway, I like the way Dudley is talking and his attitude. If anyone can turn the Thrashers around it’s going to be this guy.

Brendan

June 8th, 2010
5:48 pm

Normally, the most important thing a GM does is hire a Head Coach. Normally. But in this case, the most important thing Dudley has to do … is EDUCATE THE OWNERSHIP. That’s right. If he is going to differentiate himself from the previous occupant of the GM chair, then he’s got to forget about seeing how long he can possibly milk a paycheck out of the Spirit, LLC, and instead focus on (1) executing the IDENTITY for this team, (it’s never had one before), (2) assessing the roster, (3) drafting players into the ‘concept’ or ‘plan’ that Dudley envisions, (4) crafting a game plan for Free Agency, come July 1. And oh yes, somewhere inbetween, he does have to hire a Head Coach.

Now, I wholeheartedly agree with you, Jeff Schultz, that Torchetti has long been Dudley’s selection for a Head Coach. Obviously, he knows the guy very well, and liked what he saw. If Torchetti refuses the job, then I hope Craig Ramsay won’t see himself as “sloppy seconds,” as I feel Ramsay is just as worthy of the job as Torchetti, if not moreso.

Jeff, I can tell you what the Red Wings plan is. I can tell you what the plan is for ANY TEAM Brian Burke has managed. So, the $64,000 question is, “What is Dudley’s plan?” And when will he go public with it? Brian Burke goes public with his, at the press conference announcing his hiring.

I think it’s a fair question for Dudley to have to address. If he’s saving it for the PC that announces the Head Coach, fine. That’s as good a time as any for a Head Coach and GM to announce how ‘in lock step’ they are, moving forward, with an IDENTITY and BLUEPRINT for the NEW House of Thrashers. In the old blueprint, Dany Heatley was the foundation, and Ilya Kovalchuk was the roof, and players like Bondra, Holik, and Savard were the furnishings within the house.

That house was essentially bulldozed. I just hope they pour the foundation correctly this time. Make sure there are no surveying errors. That there’s no 100-year flood plane off the back patio. And that we purchase “title insurance,” for the gold-plated faucets, Corian countertops, and berber carpets that get installed. But most of all, that the county issue the “certificate of occupancy.” If this house isn’t able to be lived in, why attend games? LEED certification be darned. I expect this architect and this foreman to be competent and capable. I expect the Spirit, LLC’s dictionary to contain the word, “accountability” in it.

Am I asking for too much? I don’t demand Stanley Cups. I demand an honest effort, in the process, of chasing a Stanley Cup. Don Waddell, to me, was more concerned with maintaining his paycheck than educating the ownership about the dynamics of running an NHL franchise. This GM, Dudley, must point to his chair and name plate and say, “The next GM to sit in that chair … will tell you the SAME THING that I am, right now. This or that or the other … is what MUST BE DONE.” And if the ownership refuses, resign. So everyone knows why. Dudley will land another job after this one, if the reason he got fired was because the ownership refused to exit from its “minor league habitus” in favor of running a ‘big boy’ NHL franchise. One with vision, commitment, and accountability.

J.K. Sockey

June 8th, 2010
5:52 pm

I guess you weren’t in a position to ask him what the deal is with is hair? I mean, it looks like a half completed wool knit cap.

Any chance of you doing cutting an audio promo for my podcasts? I’ll double whatever 790 is paying you!

bobby's cox

June 8th, 2010
6:17 pm

this coach that they are talking about hiring…just double checking, he is the blackhawks assistant coach? i hope so, we better not pull an assistant coach from the wolves

Jeff Schultz

June 8th, 2010
6:34 pm

Section 119– I mentioned to somebody the other day about how strange it is that Thrashers’ coach search has been so far off the radar. But I think that’s for 3 reasons: 1) So many other issues being addressed; 2) Sense that the job is probably Torchetti’s; 3) Hockey just generally falling off the map.

Jeff Schultz

June 8th, 2010
6:37 pm

Brendan — You can never ask too much. … I know it’s been speculated that Ramsay is being interviewed largely to be brought in as an assistant. As for whether he would make a lateral move, it’s not out of the question. Factors: 1) Money and contract term; 2) A sense that he might have greater responsibility here; 3) He’s a long-time friend and former teammate of Dudley’s.

Jeff Schultz

June 8th, 2010
6:38 pm

J.K. Sockey — I’m not in the position to ask anybody about their hair.

Brendan

June 8th, 2010
7:06 pm

Jeff Schultz, that would be wonderful! Getting Ramsay and Torchetti sounds somewhat ideal! Ramsay can only help us, defensively. He and Don Luce were staples in the Sabres system, in the 1970’s checkline. I don’t know much about Torchetti. But if Dudley is high on him, then I’ll trust it. For now. This organization is at the crossroads. It’s time for ‘real change.’ But I don’t know that this ownership group is capable of it. Their previous philosophies have not impressed me. And who knows? The Hawks could be sans Joe Johnson and a suitable replacement for him, which would be the Hawks about back where they were, when the Spirit got the teams! To think, Jeff Schultz, all that patient building with Billy Knight and Woodson … netted them three playoff appearances and no trips to the Conference Finals. That was a lot of investment for such little returns. But not half as bad as what they invested in Waddell … for zero playoff wins. But let me quickly jump off that topic, as it is a sore subject for most people.

World Be Free

June 8th, 2010
7:11 pm

Jeff, I haven’t been able to say this to you before on hockey-nice job. Good article on a general manager that, if allowed to do his job could very easily become the best GM in Atlanta, quickly.

That's just 2 bad.

June 8th, 2010
7:12 pm

That wirey looking, mangled up mess on his head looks like a patch of steel wool.

alex

June 8th, 2010
7:17 pm

OK, look like finally they found good drug for prolonged 10 years disease, but many doubts if it be enough to cure with two cancer tumor (asg+dw) still not removed. good luck dud. at least we have hope, alternative – relocations. thank you jeff

Scheff Jultz

June 8th, 2010
7:19 pm

I used to be a serious flames fan. I was at the knights/ft. wayne game when the knights won the championship and I have never been to a thrashers game. It seems ice hockey in atl just can’t get it together. It can’t build a solid structure and remain strong. I don’t know what’s the problem.

Taylor Hanson

June 8th, 2010
7:54 pm

Sell out playoff games? You mean all 2 of them that they’ve hosted at Phillips? That’s some accomplishment.

Being clever is working out well. It is certainly beating the hell out of not being clever. Thanks for asking.

Sage of Bluesland

June 8th, 2010
7:55 pm

I’m not buying the bluster just yet; reminds me too much of Ken Herock upon his arrival in Suwanee in the late 80s (”Don’t worry about the 49ers, I’ll outdraft them.”)…

Nope, I’ll believe the bluster when the ownership takes owning an NHL franchise seriously. Exhibit A to them not is that buffoon Don Waddell still has a job in the organization.

Nope, take the bluster and a dollar–and buy a cup of coffee…I’m not buying (except the coffee)…

LAC

June 8th, 2010
8:53 pm

Sounds good, but as long as that SOB waddell and Atlanta STUPID Group keep ownership, nothing will happen that will allow the team to get better.

Look at Chicago, once old man Wertz died and sons took over with FRESH ideas, the franchise took off and in 24 hours could be winning The Stanley Cup.

There will NEVER be winning here until waddell is gone and The Stupid Group is out of the picture.

Still hopeless in Atlanta, Sorry to say…. But facts are facts !

And we keep signing Has Been Players, like Slater… Never won with him and will NOT win with him, a total waste of $ for two years, but remember how CHEAP this ownership group is… They could CARE LESS , about Hockey !!!!!

Jeff Schultz

June 8th, 2010
9:33 pm

World Be Free — Thanks.

Jeff Schultz

June 8th, 2010
9:34 pm

Thanks Alex.

Jeff Schultz

June 8th, 2010
9:35 pm

Sage of Bluesland — That’s understandable. You have every right to take a wait-and-see approach.

KLS1

June 8th, 2010
10:19 pm

This team needs some swagger so I’ll take it, even if it is from the GM. It will be pretty sad if we tank after all the talk…

We’ll know 10 games into the season if the performance can match the rhetoric.

Sherwin-Williams

June 8th, 2010
10:33 pm

Dudley’s serious; he’s already ordered the Thrashers’ mascot to paint his @ss.

Brendan

June 8th, 2010
10:38 pm

That’s the Sage we know! Honestly, I’m thrilled that Dudley is so optimistic and energetic. I just hope he doesn’t run into brick walls. At least when Dudley says he wants to win the Stanley Cup, it’s not with that same bile-inducing lip-service we get from the rest of the Spirit, LLC. Remember Rutherford Seydell, during the banner raising ceremony in October 2007? I swear, from my 300-level seat that night, I even heard the Capitals players snickering, when Seydell declared, “We’re going to do everything in our power to bring the Stanley Cup right here to Atlanta!” Caps players just stared at each other and rolled their eyes, probably thinking, “I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a Thrasher jersey.” And ya know, “that’s a wonderful image for any franchise to enjoy among NHL players.” Thank God there’s a draft every year, to sprout hope.

That said, I’m going into this offseason optimistically. If Kovalchuk Kozlov, Afinogenov, Armstrong, and Kubina are not returning, or not properly/suitably replaced, should I even have hopes of a .500 season? What did we finish with that year? 83-points? 84?? 85??? I can’t remember. But if we don’t keep moving forward, then the playoffs won’t happen next season. Who are our biggest name players?

I’m just asking a question. I think the answers are Kane, Oduya and Bogosian, and maybe Hainsey. Perhaps, Enstrom. We don’t even know if Hedberg will be back. Pavelec is an RFA, who is still un-signed. Relax, his qualifying offer isn’t due yet. Bergfors is an RFA, too, I believe. Cormier may be going to jail. At least, Kozlov won’t be back. That’s something to look forward to. Unfortunately, Todd White is still under contract. And buying him out might sound good, until you watch his cap hit on our books for the next two seasons.

Just Curious

June 8th, 2010
11:17 pm

Hey Jeff…..You come around yet to the idea that Dudley picked Lou’s pockets clean in the Kovy deal? That was simply a MASTERPIECE of dealing an offense-only player that maybe 3 or 4 teams could even afford at his asking price! And look at all we got for a 20-something game rental that turned out to be a BOMB…

Wad’s name may have been in all the papers….But we all know it was Dudley who masterminded the Kovy Dump. I LOVED it when it happened, and I love it even MORE now that we have a rear-view mirror. Wouldn’t we be the typical fools left holding the proverbial bag on June 30th if it weren’t for Dudley? Yes, we would.

What say you, Jeff? Has “The Deal” grown on you yet?

365 day moratorium on mentioning Don Waddel

June 9th, 2010
12:01 am

Nice aritcle but Waddel is still a festering boil. On XM radio Dudley said Waddel is in on every decision. I think he was quoted in the slater article.

Donny ..do ATL Hockey a favor…at least SHUT the HE double hockey stick up for a year and don’t come out of your office. As the king of spin YOU should appreciate the benifit of the perception of a Waddel-free line-up.

Reid Adair

June 9th, 2010
12:53 am

Rick Dudley certainly has a great attitude and sounds committed to success. I just hope Don Waddell and the ownership don’t hold him back too much.

JD

June 9th, 2010
7:21 am

Riiiiiigggggghhhhhht…we are one piece away. LOL. Watch the Cup Finals. Our talent level is no where close it needs to be to seriously compete for a Cup. Macheesemo does not win championships. Let’s just make it to the playoffs and win one game. Jeez.