Dudley gives Thrashers needed jolt in short amount of time

Craig Ramsay coached Philadelphia to within one win of the Stanley Cup finals in 2000 but was fired early the following season.

Craig Ramsay coached Philadelphia to within one win of the Stanley Cup finals in 2000 but was fired early the following season.

(UPDATED AT 6 p.m.)

Two weeks ago, when I asked new Thrashers general manager Rick Dudley how close the team was to competing for a Stanley Cup, he remarked, “We’re as close as Chicago was two years ago.” Whether he was being realistic with that comment or was setting himself up for a fall has yet to be determined, but you had to admire the man’s confidence.

Now we know something else about Dudley. He’s proactive. In the last 24 hours, he has swung two trades involving nine players, three draft picks and “future considerations” — the major deal bringing forward Dustin Byfuglien from the Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks  – and finalizing the hiring of head coach Craig Ramsay.

This franchise needed a jolt, and Dudley didn’t take long to provide one.

Dudley said he has a mandate to “get better now.” You would like to think that would be written on the door of every general manager’s office. But maybe the sign was a little late arriving to the Thrashers’ headquarters.

No deals and certainly no coach hiring guarantee success. Through most of their 10 seasons — including three head coaches, an oft-maligned general manager (Don Waddell) and ownership that exuded mostly ignorance and little passion or sometimes even a pulse — the Thrashers have mostly proven how not to succeed.

Part of the problem in assuming success now is that the Atlanta Spirit is looking for new investors and may attempt to dump the franchise altogether. The last thing these guys are going to do is provide Dudley with a healthy payroll to work with.

But give Dudley credit. He is giving it a go. The Ramsay pick won’t have anybody screaming, “Inspired!” He is 59 and a relative lifer as an assistant coach. But he very well could be the right choice. (John Torchetti, thought to be the favorite, may still be brought in as assistant.) He was a terrific player for 14 seasons in Buffalo (where he was a former teammate and roommate of Dudley’s), a smart, 20-goal scorer who excelled defensively. He has long been one of the NHL’s most respected assistants.

Dustin Byfuglien likely will have a greater offensive role with the Thrashers than in Chicago.

Dustin Byfuglien likely will have a greater offensive role with the Thrashers than in Chicago.

Ramsay represents stability and discipline, not fire. But the Thrashers need stability and discipline at this juncture. They need a teacher. They certainly need defense because chances are they won’t score a ton of goals next season.

Oddly enough, Ramsay was thought to be a candidate for the Thrashers’ first head coaching job back in 1999 but he never received a call. “I thought I would have a chance to interview for the job, but I didn’t actually [pursue] one,” Ramsay said. “I might not have been as aggressive as I should have been.”

This is his first real chance. He coached 21 games (4-15-2) in Buffalo’s miserable 1986-87 season after Scotty Bowman resigned. In 1999-2000, he took over for the cancer-stricken Roger Neilson in Philadelphia and led the Flyers to the Eastern Conference finals, where they lost in seven games to New Jersey. The Flyers thanked Ramsay for this by firing him 28 games into the following season.

“I’ve been in some awkward situations,” he said in amusing understatement.

And later this, about his attitude with the Thrashers: “We’re not just trying to survive. We’re going in with the attitude where we expect to win.”

Dudley pulled off a nice deal with the Blackhawks. He knew their personnel well from his Chicago days and was aware the team needed to trim payroll. Byfuglien and defenseman Brent Sopel are solid players.

Picks and prospects are just that — picks and prospects. For the Thrashers, that’s so yesterday.

A nice jump-start by the new general manager.

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97 comments Add your comment

Thomas Magnum

June 24th, 2010
9:40 am

A trade that improves the team now and sacrifices the possibility of a 25 goal plus scorer in 3 years (Morin)? Byfuglien will improve the team now but will not be the scoring boost this team needs. Duds better go out and get us a dominant goalie because like Schultz says…this team isn’t going to score a ton of goals next season.

Thomas Magnum

June 24th, 2010
9:40 am

J.B.

June 24th, 2010
9:45 am

Alot of online chatter from overnight leads the casual reader to believe we got robbed in the deal, but I just don’t see it. I’m thinking anyone outside the Thrashers small but extremely dedicated fan base has the mindset that we can do no right regardless of the trade or draft pick. I hate to lose Marty just because he’s a great guy but his on ice presence isn’t irreplaceable. Losing Morin kinda sucks too but he’s unproved and there’s concern about him reaching a plateau with his skating ability that isn’t as high as it needs to be for play in the NHL. Alot of scuttlebut indicates Dudley isn’t done trading yet, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens and who else comes and goes, but I think this was about as close to a win-win trade in the NHL as you can get, especially since we’re pretty deep with good prospects.

EA

June 24th, 2010
9:46 am

We can’t wait three years. Hats off to Duds for realizing the time for the Thrashers to win is now.

Jeff Schultz

June 24th, 2010
9:54 am

Thomas — I’ve seen too many fizzled prospects to just assume Morin is going to be a 25-goal scorer. Put it this way — he’s less of a sure thing than past “sure things” we’ve seen. But we do agree that more scoring is needed — as is strong goaltending. Wouldn’t be surprised to see team say goodbye to Moose and hello to somebody else.

Jeff Schultz

June 24th, 2010
9:56 am

J.B. — I’m sure Chicago’s position is that they got two early draft picks (which they did) and traded a forward who has never scored more than 36 points in a season. But each team got something out of this. And no way do the Hawks deal Byfuglien if they don’t have a cap crunch.

Telfo

June 24th, 2010
9:57 am

losing Reasoner sucks. but those two picks likely wont turn into very good players… and Morin is a boom or bust type of prospect.

overall we got a lot bigger and tougher to play against.

Dudley is also hinting that he isnt done yet and will acquire another 20 goal scorer and a replacement 2nd rounder as well

Smoothie

June 24th, 2010
10:02 am

Thank you Jeff, I see Duds has even you thinking something might be cookin’ up real nice here. He’s not done. And getting Torch, if true, to be 2nd in command is a real coup. And doesn’t it show the ASG is willing to spend a little more on a top assistant to lure him away from Chicago? Duds is probably begging the ASG right now to approve the pay package to make the deal official.

Jeff

June 24th, 2010
10:07 am

It may or may not work, but at least they are being aggressive and trying something. A trait that has been lacking for a while. Now if they only find a taker for Todd White!

J.B.

June 24th, 2010
10:08 am

Schulz/Teflo – In addition to stating he’s looking for another scoring forward and a replacement 2nd round pick, Dudley was reportedly in on trade negotiations with Montreal for Halak before he was sent packing, so I’d be real surprised if we didn’t try to pick up a goalie somewhere along the way too to replace Moose. The UFA goalie pool is pretty deep and talented… I’m thinking Ellis, Quick, maybe Niitymaki just so we won’t have to play against him?

J.B.

June 24th, 2010
10:10 am

Before everyone jumps on me for that last comment, I know Quick is not a UFA. I read LA was shopping him, so I considered him available to an extent when thinking about options in goal. Carry on.

J.B.

June 24th, 2010
10:12 am

…thought of one more decent choice. Jose Theodore will not be back in Washington. He’s good too.

Jeff Schultz

June 24th, 2010
10:35 am

Telfo — I knew Reasoner was a fan favorite but, honestly, guys like Marty Reasoner are not in short supply in NHL. Just my opinion.

hip czech

June 24th, 2010
10:36 am

Love the deal…if nothing else for the fact that for once the Thrashers are making bold moves. I trust Dudley’s ability to evaluate talent and at worse this is a good deal for both teams. At best we get a 20 goal scorer with needed size, a reliable DEFENSEman an energy guy and a prospect for a prospect and an aging third line center.

Agreed we need a goalie, but this is the year to snag one off the FA heap…Mason, Ellis, Nittymaki, etc.. Rumors have Quick available from LA. Lot of options for a goalie.

Jeff Schultz

June 24th, 2010
10:37 am

Smoothie — I always liked Dudley as a personnel guy. He was guy who really put that Cup team in Tampa together. Just don’t know how hamstrung he’s going to be here with salary.

Jeff Schultz

June 24th, 2010
10:38 am

Jeff: Good news! Todd White has only one year left on his contract! What a disaster of a contract that was.

[...] AJC: Dudley gives Thrashers a needed jolt with trades [...]

Smitty

June 24th, 2010
10:42 am

At least this move is waking a few people up. Maybe even a few UFAs. It is a good start. The prospect, the late 1st round and 2nd round picks we gave up were not going to help us this year. Maybe the ASG is finally realizing that playoff tickets are profitable or at least help the bottom line. This has been a good couple of days for Dudley and the Thrash.

Thrashy Thrashy

June 24th, 2010
10:45 am

You gotta think Dudley’s banking on getting more offense out of a bounce-back year for Little, a full year of Bergfors, and an experienced Evander Kane. Adding a solid veteran scorer is a necessity, but I think any scoring improvement is more likely to come from within than without.

Nevertheless, the defense is what matters. This trade helps change the mentality of the club. Not a bad thing, eh?

Jeff Schultz

June 24th, 2010
10:47 am

To those asking about Jon Quick: He signed a three-year, $5.4 million contract extension that kicks in next season, which could explain why LA wants to move him.

Smitty

June 24th, 2010
10:48 am

At least this trade wakes a few people up. Maybe even a few UFA’s The prospect, the late first rounder and the 2nd rounder were not going to help us this year. This has been a good couple of days for Dudley and the Thrash

Thomas Magnum

June 24th, 2010
11:05 am

I know what you mean Jeff but what other prospect do we have that is projected to a 25 plus goal scorer? It means that we have to nail the 8th pick now. We have no room for error when getting some high end scoring talent.

JSS

June 24th, 2010
11:18 am

All I want to hear is that are going to be better on defense finally!!! Good defense rarely have 6 game pointless spells… That is all I’m saying…

@ Jeff Schultz…
Hossa? Never going to get an article?

Blackhawk Fan in Atlanta

June 24th, 2010
11:22 am

This trade helps both teams. Chicago dumps salary and makes room to keep Sharp and sign Hjarmelson and Neimi. Atlanta gets an immediate shot in the arm and is a better team this morning than yesterday morning. I hate to see Big Buff leave Chicago, but am happy that I get to watch him here in Atlanta. Hopefully Buff will have a better regular season and not be as streaky as the past two seasons. He’s a playoff monster though if Atlanta can get in. Sopel is great on the PK and a shot blocking machine. He’s a bit slow, but in my opinion playing in the east will help as I think the west plays a faster game. Eager adds size and grit with the occasional goal. Nice moves by both Bowman and Dudley.

Sutton's Fro

June 24th, 2010
11:44 am

These moves SHOULD signal to fans and the league that Thrashers are serious about building a solid program, but how many times have we been burned by this team already?

I’m excited by the moves, and can’t wait to see more of them before training camp, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this all blows up again at some point down the road.

Jeff Schultz

June 24th, 2010
11:51 am

Thomas Magnum — Good question but not really focused on that right now. And yes, should be able to get a guy with No. 8 pick. For what it’s worth, here’s HockeysFuture rankings of top 20 Thrashers prospects as of four months ago: http://www.hockeysfuture.com/articles/11888/thrashers_top20_prospects_spring2010/

Jeff Schultz

June 24th, 2010
11:55 am

JSS — Hossa? What about him? Referenced him a couple of times in blog during playoffs but not sure what to say. He was a part of a very good team. Certainly not most important player, maybe top 5. Solid year though. But doesn’t change that he tanked it his last year with Thrashers.

rob

June 24th, 2010
11:59 am

commited coaching, good GM making moves to make the team better, a good young core with prospects in line also……..could it be the ASG is making the Thrashers look appealing to say…..I don’t know…..new investors/owners? Could we get that freakin lucky?!?!? Let this be a good year and IF we get playoffs here and people see we can be a hockey town, then MAYBE, just MAYBE, we can get someone who knows hockey to come take over for the Octotards!!!

LET’S GO THRASHERS!!!!

Reid Adair

June 24th, 2010
12:00 pm

I would agree that this is a nice start for Rick Dudley. Yesterday’s trades were more excitment than Thrashers’ fans have had in quite a while.

rob

June 24th, 2010
12:01 pm

Schultz,
EXACTLY!!!! WHAT ABOUT HOSSA?!?! Concentrate on the Thrashers people! Not the history, but the future ahead of the team!

Thomas Magnum

June 24th, 2010
12:20 pm

Haha..sorry I already knew the answer to that question. There are none unless Esposito pans out (highly unlikely). If we can get Nino, Connolly, or Johansen out of this draft then it will help but I still hate giving up such a great prospect. Hope we end up looking good and Morin’s skating never develops enough for an NHL career.

By the way…LOVE the coaching signings!

hawk

June 24th, 2010
12:43 pm

my wife is from Chicago…. and he is called Big Buff in Chicago.

JSS

June 24th, 2010
12:50 pm

@ Jeff Schultz…
You were quick to point out the man’s flaw during the playoffs… His Cup chasing was always easily typed out, his failures (never his successes)… Like I said when Waddell and Woodson were let go, hey you outlasted them, you rule the day… However, Hossa name is on Lord Stanley’s Cup now… You can write a hate column for all I care; but it should be noted now that he finally lifted it over his head… It is like a Flames fan not being willing to accept it when they won in Calgary in 89… It happened!

@ Rob…
I did concentrate on the Thrashers with my first statement… Thank goodness they are finally going to really concentrate playing defense, maybe try some back checking… Loved seeing how much Chicago spent outside of their end of the ice getting at the opponents with forechecking pressure…

Dudley Do Right

June 24th, 2010
1:06 pm

C’mon! Surprised no one else came up with this name yet……

Dudley Do Right

June 24th, 2010
1:08 pm

I didn’t watch a lot of playoff hockey until the finals. What I did see was a great player in Byfligien with his hard nose intense play. Losing Reasoner as a fan favorite is no biggie as this guy will fill that spot.

Sage of Bluesland

June 24th, 2010
1:13 pm

I’m not ready to get the parade down Peachtree planned for–as I remember all Ken Herock did was “churn” trades/players all to little or no avail–except to the delight of the sheep in his corner…

Only time will tell on the real success of this set of trades. I can’t see one side or the other clearly winning. I think Buff will find it a little tougher not having Kane and Toews as linemates…

BUT, I do like the general ‘message’ this sends–that we are trying to change ’something’ here in the wasteland left by Don Waddell during his wasted decade of “Five-Year Plans”…So, that mindset and thought I will applaud for “Duds”. Something–anything–needed to be done to begin moving in another direction.

I just hope that direction turns out to be up. Only time will tell. Kenny Herock (and his former AJC buddy and defender-of-the-churning-for-churning-sake Len Pasquarelli) is smiling somewhere….

JSS

June 24th, 2010
1:14 pm

They played that stupid “Dudley Do Right” theme song every time his line hit the ice at old Aud in Buffalo…

Jeff Schultz

June 24th, 2010
1:17 pm

JSS — Don Waddell’s name is on a Stanley Cup. … Hey, I’ve said written enough times that Hossa is a terrific player. He was, at one time, one of the five best forwards in the league. But the way he went out here wasn’t pretty (although I criticized the Thrashers at the time for once again letting an elite player go), and it was kind of funny watching him play for the wrong teams in consecutive Cups. Beyond that, not really sure what else there is to say on topic.

Jeff Schultz

June 24th, 2010
1:18 pm

Dudley Do Right — So who is “Nell” in this exercise?

Jeff Schultz

June 24th, 2010
1:19 pm

Sage — You’re are correct to not order the parade permits yet.

Dudley Do Right

June 24th, 2010
1:23 pm

Nell = Tyler Perry. Old time Hockey!

JSS

June 24th, 2010
1:29 pm

If I had Scotty Bowman coaching Heatley, Kolvachuk, Joe Bag of Donuts, Nell Fenwick, Matt Ryan or Chipper Jones plenty of folks would have their names on the Cup!
http://www.themadmusicarchive.com/song_details.aspx?SongID=3392

What time does your vacation start? ;-)

The Real Thrash

June 24th, 2010
1:44 pm

This is what teams like the Chicago Blackhawks that want to win Stanley Cups pay their players!

Contract extensions for Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane (five years, $31.5 million each) and Duncan Keith (13 years, $72 million).

That comes on top of Marian Hossa’s deal (12 years, $62.8 million) signed before last season. In addition, defenseman Brian Campbell just completed the second year of an eight-year, $56.8 million contract.

Goalie Cristobal Huet, who became a pricey backup, has two years left on four-year, $22.45 million deal.

The Real Thrash

June 24th, 2010
1:46 pm

We have two players now who will be playing out their contracts next season. This is only good if we resign them. Any odds on that?

Gwinnett Fred

June 24th, 2010
2:10 pm

Anybody that is miffed about giving up the “future” needs a reality check. If we don’t get better NOW, I have no interest in how good the Winnipeg Thrashers will be in 3 years, cause that’s the end result of things aren’t turned around ASAP!

Gwinnett Fred

June 24th, 2010
2:19 pm

The Real Thrash-

Funny thing – we offered Kovy a contract equal to a COMBINATION of Kane & Keith & he turned it down.

No team with any talent already on it will come close to offering the same contract we did – I admire what Kovy did for the team in his years here, but resent the fact that he obviously never had a single intention of resigning here and put on a facade the he even might.

Minny Sota

June 24th, 2010
2:19 pm

Ramsay , a great defensive coach, Torch a great offensive coach…a big win for Atlanta in the coaching department

DawgDad

June 24th, 2010
2:25 pm

Does anyone really believe the Thrashers will be here after next season?
Has Kovi won a Cup yet? I’m still holding my breath [not!].
I like the idea of Craig Ramsay as the coach and Torchetti as an assistant. Sounds far too good to be true. Adding size up front helps.

KLS1

June 24th, 2010
2:34 pm

This is what good teams do, they give up a little unknown promise for success today. We have so many young players on this team with huge upside, we have to get some known entities to play with them.

Yes Buff will not have Toews and Kane, but think how much better Bergfors, Kane, Little, and Peverly can be with Buff.

Throw in Kulda and Cormier and with a little luck we have base of talent that will only get better. Not to mention that Bogo and Enstrom are not exactly old.

Now we just need to be able to compete at a playoff level today.

DawgDad

June 24th, 2010
2:42 pm

G. Fred: I still believe this team is better off without Kovi.

I expect Ramsay to successfully mold this team into a hard-working defensive minded club that checks both ends relentlessly and attacks the net with size and speed when the opportunities present. If that happens, it won’t take long to see the fans sporting jerseys with the checkers’ names on the back instead of the prima donnas. Hockey is still a blue-collar sport defined by hard work, diligent effort, and willingness to sacrifice your body for the benefit of the team. That’s what will get this team into the playoffs year after year; that’s what will earn the respect of the league and the fans.

I harken back to my days in St. Louis; there were far more Pronger and MacInnis jerseys in the stands than Demitra or Turgeon, more Chase and Twist jerseys than there were Hull jerseys, more Sutter jerseys than Federko, and far more Plager jerseys than Unger. Thrashers need relentless team defense and grit. Some of the pieces are there, they need to be coached up properly.