Why Teflon Don Waddell had become toxic for the Thrashers

ADon Waddell looks upstairs, which is where he was just kicked. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Don Waddell looks upstairs, which is where he was just kicked. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

The Thrashers don’t have many fans, which is a problem. Except in his own organization and, we assume, his own household, Don Waddell had no fans. That was a bigger problem.

Even those few folks disposed to support this hockey team couldn’t bring themselves to endorse the Teflon Don. And there wasn’t  much to endorse. In place since 1999, he’d presided over one playoff appearance and no postseason victories. He’d traded away the two best players in franchise annals because they wouldn’t re-up. Yet he clung to his job like grim death.

As of Wednesday, the Teflon Don clings no longer. The Thrashers positioned his move to president as a promotion, but it’s way more than that. It’s a re-branding.

Advertising 101: When you’ve got a faulty product, fix the bugs and change the name. The Thrashers feel there’s nothing wrong with their personnel that a bit of seasoning can’t remedy. Said Rick Dudley, now the second general manager in team history: “We’re a pretty good hockey team in position to be a really good hockey team.”

But would enough folks in Atlanta have dared to embrace a team with the toxic Don as its point man? He’s not an objectionable human being, and he’s not, contrary to popular belief, a dolt. He had, however, come to symbolize all that was wrong with the Thrashers in the same way Willie Martinez had become the flashpoint of Georgia football.

In other news,  the Thrashers fired coach John Anderson on Wednesday. “We thought we had a good enough team to make the playoffs and we didn’t,” Dudley said. “Someone has to take the blame, and he did.”

The same never applied to Waddell, and nitpickers among us will say that his move upstairs is yet another instance of ineptitude gone not just unpunished but applauded. Those nitpickers need to find a new nit. The Thrashers just stopped being Waddell’s creation. He’s no longer the go-to guy in the organization. He’s just another guy with a nice title, same as Rich McKay.

Rich McKay used to be the Falcons’ GM. Late in 2007 he became team president. The Falcons as a competitive entity are overseen by new stewards — Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith — and the credit for those long-sought consecutive winning seasons has gone to Dimitty & Smitty, not the guy who does with whatever it is team presidents do. McKay is still part of the organization, but he’s not a part the public sees.

Wll you be more apt to support the Thrashers under a new GM?

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And that’s how it will be with the Thrashers. They’re Dudley’s team to run, and this will be Dudley’s draft to wrangle. Waddell, who was apparently very skilled at saving his owners money, gets to work full-time on the business. “This has been going on for some time,” Waddell said Wednesday, speaking of the transition. “My plan was to get Rick in here and let him get his feet wet, and then put him in [the GM's] spot.”

Why the flurry of moves? Said Waddell:  “There’s no better time than to make all the changes at once.”

The purported skill of this team notwithstanding, hockey in Atlanta is at a perilous place. The Thrashers just dumped Ilya Kovalchuk, missed the playoffs for the ninth time in 10 seasons and finished 28th in attendance to boot. Waddell insisted again Wednesday that this team won’t be moving, but at the moment there doesn’t seem much reason to keep it here.

But this is sports, and things can change. The last-place Braves imported a new GM from Kansas City in October 1990 and played in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. “We’re at the point where Chicago was,” Dudley said, speaking of the NHL team that couldn’t draw flies six years ago but enters these playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.

Rick Dudley might or might not be the Thrashers’ John Schuerholz, but he’ll at least be afforded the benefit of the doubt. Too many people had  stopped wondering about this team’s charter GM. Too many people made up their minds about the Teflon Don long ago.

101 comments Add your comment

phoenix falcon

April 14th, 2010
3:47 pm

first………..

Mark Bradley

April 14th, 2010
3:49 pm

Yes, you are, Phoenix. Kudos.

Zing

April 14th, 2010
3:49 pm

Not really a Thrashers fan, but it just seems so… bare… without any comments on a blog. So here’s one!

Bryan G.

April 14th, 2010
3:53 pm

Part of the problem is that hockey tickets seem to be outrageously expensive. They should do like Arthur Blank did when he took over the Falcons and lower ticket prices.

TheAntiMe

April 14th, 2010
3:54 pm

I think, Mark, that you should make that question to your poll, not Yes but Hell Yes!!!

Mark Bradley

April 14th, 2010
3:55 pm

Thanks, Zing.

ccollick

April 14th, 2010
3:56 pm

Anyone hear of any possible coaching candidates as of yet to replace Anderson? Just thought I would ask the obvious….

phoenix falcon

April 14th, 2010
3:56 pm

look, no matter how hard you try, there is no way to justify handing Waddell anything but his walking papers, the fact that he still has a job, and in fact got promoted shows just how inept the ownership and the people in charge really are. as long as the same people stay in the mix, this team is gonna blow chunks, if you switched this team player for player with the red wings or the ducks, this team would still not have made the playoffs, it still would have stunk. the culture of the franchise needs to change, and that won’t/ can’t happen until Waddell is gone, alone with all his cronies. Mark stop making excuses for them, and hold their feet to the fire.

Big Shooter

April 14th, 2010
3:57 pm

See, Mark. That wasn’t so hard to write a decent article about the Thrashers. Compiled a few facts, even got some quotes… much better than your post yesterday!

Matt

April 14th, 2010
3:57 pm

Mark, really, really getting tired of the “Oh, we have a hockey team?” jokes. I think that it is clear, even to you, given the responses on your blog, Rawhides’ blog and Chris’s blog that there are many fans of hockey in this town. They just have to be given a reason to support this disfunctional franchise and this is one step in the right direction.

Mark Bradley

April 14th, 2010
3:58 pm

I listened to Dudley’s teleconference, ccolick. (It was lengthy. He’s a talker of great depth.) He wouldn’t give specifics, as you’d expect. But he did say that with a young team, which the Thrashers have, teaching is essential.

ThrashDawgs

April 14th, 2010
4:00 pm

Dang I get tired of comments like “The Thrashers don’t have many fans”! I expect these lame comments from the Canadian media but do we have to put up with it in our own Atlanta media? Does anybody question the Hawks lack of attendance or the fact the Braves cannot sell out a playoff game in the local media? Yes, we hear it in the national media but not the Atlanta media. Can we put an end to the constant Thrasher bashing?

Matt

April 14th, 2010
4:00 pm

Also, for all of those people who take shots at the Atlanta fans and their supposed failure to support of hockey, I would refer you to the excellent write-up on “Blueland Chronicle” refuting that assumption.

ASHEVILLE DAWG

April 14th, 2010
4:01 pm

Damn they kept Waddell. That is like the dawgs moving Martinez to AAD. The Thrashers will still not see my dollars. The Atlanta Knights put on a better show back in the day.

TheAntiMe

April 14th, 2010
4:05 pm

I’m with you, Matt. I remember this town going crazy for the Knights and Sir Slapshot. If we only had a team that could make the playoffs more than once a decade then there would be plenty of support, I believe.

Mark Bradley

April 14th, 2010
4:07 pm

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not surprised the Thrashers have so few fans; after what this audience has had to suffer through, I’m surprised they have so many fans.

Reid Adair

April 14th, 2010
4:08 pm

If “president” of the Thrashers is similar to “president” of the Falcons, it’s definitely an improvement to get Waddell out of any involvement with personnel.

That being said, I’m not convinced the team is as close to being “really good” as Dorsey thinks. Hopefully I’m wrong.

"Chef" Tim Dix

April 14th, 2010
4:08 pm

Don Waddell sadly is still the face of the franchise.

bugman

April 14th, 2010
4:18 pm

If only I could drink the kool aid.

Sorry Bradz, this cistern still belongs to D-Wad. Dudley is just a yes man brought in by Waddell as a buffer.

D-wad hired this guy. Did his ability to make sound decisions regarding the Thrashers suddenly undergo some sort of brilliance?

Prolly not.

Joe Friday

April 14th, 2010
4:24 pm

You are spot on that Waddell had lost the fan base. He’s the reason why attendance is so low, so many of we former season ticket holders are precisely that (former) because we had lost faith in Don.

But I am skeptical of this move. Dudley is a Waddell guy. Waddell is still Dudley’s direct superior. There needed to be a clean break here, I don’t think this will be Dudley’s team, I think Waddell will still be pulling the strings, why else would they keep him?

The key here is the coach that is hired, and I liked what I heard out of Dudley today that they’re going to wait and talk to assistants off of current playoff clubs, or mabye a coach that gets canned for an early exit. Smart move.

Thrashers Season Ticket Holder & FORMER AJC Subscriber

April 14th, 2010
4:30 pm

BREAKING NEWS:

Rick Dudley is the new Thrashers GM!

John Anderson and entire Thrashers coaching staff fired!

The AJC still actually pays money to the “Bradley & Schultz” Team!

Journalism is Dead! (Example: See Above)

Freaknik is still a bad idea!

Mark Bradley needs a better hairpiece!

Atlanta would be BETTER OFF without the AJC!

Jeff Schultz still likes kissing boys and has back hair!

Looters

April 14th, 2010
4:31 pm

This is a good thing and people should recognize it. It shows that the franchise is not willing to sit around and wait and see what happens. Anderson improved the record by 1 from the dismal season 2 years ago which is not good enough so he is gone. Don is kicked upstairs where he belongs and turns it over to a real hockey guy. The guys they have brought in via trade, free agency, or draft the last 2 years have established a strong foundation to build on.So quit dogging them and the number of fans. You may want to worry about the number of “fans” the ajc has especially with the talent of writers they have reporting on hockey.

TheAntiMe

April 14th, 2010
4:36 pm

Even if Rick Dudley does have full autonomy as GM, the ASG is going to have to allow him to do something bold, along the lines of hiring a proven coach or adding some high-quality free agents – which is totally out of charcter for the ASG.

If not, no one is going to buy that Waddell isn’t actually still running the team and fans will continue to boycott the Thrashers until they see something to prove that today’s move actually is a new start, as it is being billed as by the ASG.

Jeff Schultz is Delicious!

April 14th, 2010
4:39 pm

Dear TheAntiMe:

Remember Coach Hartley?

Did winning the Stanley Cup not make him a “proven” coach in your eyes?

No?

How many Stanley Cups have YOU won TheAntiMe?

JD

April 14th, 2010
4:42 pm

I love this team!!!! I am a season ticket holder and will remain one for awhile. I used to go to the Flames games as a kid. It was a great time for my family. When the Flames left, there was an empty feeling inside of me. I don’t want that to happen again. Again I love this team. In the 70’s and 80’s you could go to a Braves game and there was on about 10, 000 people. When the Braves started winning, the stadium started to fill up. The bottom line is!!! YOU WIN AND THEY WILL COME!!!!!!!!!!

BugKiller

April 14th, 2010
4:53 pm

I can now go back to supporting this team.

While I still loathe every single member of the Atlanta Dispirited Bunch of A-Holes (Gearon being number one on my crap list), FINALLY, Waddell is not around to screw up yet another draft.

Because let’s be honest, that’s where his greatest failing has been.

In 11 years, he’s had THREE maybe four quality draft picks. Three no longer play here (Heatley, Kovi, B. Coburn). Evander? Who knows if he’ll be here much longer.

Don Waddell couldn’t spot talent if it were printed on a post-it note and stuck to his overlarge forehead.

Other teams are almost as cheap as the Thrashers, but because they have the right men at GM who can evaluate talent.

Waddell is a moron. He road Scotty Bowman’s coattails for ONE YEAR, and was handed the keys to a franchise.

He’s ruined hockey in Atlanta.

He ruined USA Hockey for a two -year period.

The man has no eye for talent, as much as Estelle Costanza has no eye for fashion.

phoenix falcon

April 14th, 2010
4:53 pm

@Thrashers Season Ticket Holder & FORMER AJC Subscriber

you need to get a life, what kind of fool keeps reading a paper he hates? that’s a MENTAL ISSUE, you need to go and seek help before you hurt yourself or somebody else, there are professionals who can help you, sounds like you need a TEAM of them.

TheAntiMe

April 14th, 2010
4:54 pm

Actually, JSiD, I think that Bob Hartley was the best coach this franchise has ever had. He did all that could have been expected with the talent that he was given by his GM and the franchise ownership.

I’m open-minded about this, I have even – on your tasty friends blog – suggested that maybe the Thrashers should give Darren Eliot a shot as coach. The main point being, if they come up with another unknown minor league coach then the franchise runs the risk of losing any credibility it may have gained from todays moves.

By the way, JSiD, what are your great suggestions and just how many Cups have you tasted? And I’m talking Stanley Cups, not Schultz Cups.

On Another Subject

April 14th, 2010
4:59 pm

Regarding Jim Nantz’s remarks on Tiger Woods, Jim is not one to judge. This story is from the NY Daily Post:

At least he didn’t lose his voice.

CBS star sportscaster Jim Nantz’s divorce settlement still cost him plenty: nearly $1 million a year in alimony and child support, two Connecticut homes and his wife’s $70,000 country club membership.

Nantz – who has admitted to an affair – will also cover the college costs of his 15-year-old daughter under terms of the divorce that ended his 26-year marriage.

Nantz, who testified tearfully at the divorce trial, was ordered to pay his ex-wife, Lorrie, $916,000 annually. She will also keep their six-bedroom Westport home and a nearby condo where her mother lives.

While Bridgeport Superior Court Judge Howard Owens found neither spouse at fault, it was Nantz – the lead voice of CBS’ NFL, college basketball and Masters coverage – who took the financial hit.

Nantz has acknowledged an ongoing romance with a 29-year-old woman, saying the romance ignited last year when his marriage was long “dead.”

The alimony lasts until either his death or her remarriage, while the child support covers the next two years.

Nantz, 50, earns $3.2 million a year from CBS, court documents indicated. Nantz will not appeal the decision.

Also – if I remember correctly back in the 1970’s Nantz was a sideline reporter doing college football.

I have a hazy memory from 40 years ago of a young sideline reporter doing a game down in Florida and a police officer down there recognizing the guy while he was on TV as someone who allegedly had an outstanding warrant for not showing up for a court hearing for being busted for a little bag of a smokable substance when he was on a college vacation break a few years before. I think they came and got the guy on the sidelines or right after the game. It made the media including the AJC because I remember reading about it and the AJC was the only paper in town. I could be remembering wrong about this.

Do any of you other old codgers remember this? Was it Nantz or someone else? Just wondering.

Mavis Beacon

April 14th, 2010
5:00 pm

phoenix falcon @ 4:53 pm –

There is a difference between Subscribing (i.e. Paying) to support a paper and reading it whenever the Thrashers are covered.

I am also a person who HATES the AJC (and wouldn’t pay for it) but who LOVES the Thrashers. Unfortunately, there isn’t another newspaper in Atlanta where those of us how cherish Thrashers Hockey can follow the team.

Frankly, you may be too stupid to live, phoenix falcon.

Please go kill yourself.

That is all.

GT Falcon

April 14th, 2010
5:04 pm

I don’t even like the fact that Waddell is still getting a pay check from the thrashers. He needs to be 100% gone.

Steve

April 14th, 2010
5:14 pm

This column provides some good perspective. It still think it should have been a clean sweep – Waddell along with the coaching staff. But if Waddell is strictly a bean counter and doesn’t meddle in hockey operations, there might be hope.

Still, this team needs better players! I don’t care what Dudley says, the Thrashers were not a playoff caliber team this year (does anyone think they were better than any of the 8 teams in the conference that made the playoffs?), and it’s wishful thinking to compare this team to Chicago of a couple years ago. There simply isn’t enough talent.

Netminder

April 14th, 2010
5:19 pm

“Part of the problem is that hockey tickets seem to be outrageously expensive. They should do like Arthur Blank did when he took over the Falcons and lower ticket prices.”

@Bryan G. – Thrashers have lowered prices for next year:
http://thrashers.nhl.com/club/page.htm?id=61757

They have reduced the pricing on a majority of the arena (aka the areas they were not selling tickets anyway) and added in multiple new sections of reduced pricing. I for one saw a reduction for the two seats I purchase every season to the tune of about $1,500 about a 30% drop in what I pay each season.

I would expect that once they release the regular season pricing for next year you will be pleasantly surprised as I was when I received my renewal package.

stone

April 14th, 2010
5:23 pm

Yo Bradley. ‘ol Kincade is killing you. hilarious

Steve

April 14th, 2010
5:24 pm

Enter your comments here

Steve

April 14th, 2010
5:28 pm

Guys, was it really necessary to include “Thrashers? The name doesn’t ring a bell” as a choice?Lame.

MIchael

April 14th, 2010
5:37 pm

On Another Subject,
Pull your head out of your azz, Nantz is talking about Tigers actions ON the golf course, not infidelity….idiot

MIchael

April 14th, 2010
5:38 pm

What the hell does it have to do with the Thrashers anyway…your on the wrong blog.

marty

April 14th, 2010
5:45 pm

they need to dump waddell also

Hockey Puck

April 14th, 2010
5:46 pm

Either DW has some dirt on the owners or he knows a good escort service. I am an Atlanta Hockey Fan waiting on a team to show up.

Mr. Turnip-Green Jeans

April 14th, 2010
5:49 pm

Can’t fathom keeping a guy who generates so much ill-will from fans.

Course I ain’t a hawkee fan. Folks who say hawkee and blawg ain’t generally hawkee fans. Least I don’t say Yahhhkee, like folks up Nawth.

Steve

April 14th, 2010
5:54 pm

Don Waddell is the luckiest man in America. After screwing up year after year, he gets promoted to president!

urm...

April 14th, 2010
5:56 pm

This is a big move in the right direction. If you morons have nothing to say about the thrashers then why read and comment on the blog. For most of us fans we are happy to see this day. And Mark, that title was a little off.

Falcons need more white golfers.

April 14th, 2010
5:59 pm

This is not the first time a worthless retard has been a president.

Mr. Turnip-Green Jeans

April 14th, 2010
6:02 pm

Cushier office, better pay, reduced/non-existent workload, hotter executive secretaries… All for being a cheapskate-in-waiting.

Where might one apply?

4 Jacks

April 14th, 2010
6:05 pm

Waddell certainly needed to go, but lets face it, this so called ownership has shown they will not spend, and are not committed to being a first class franchise. Waddell was hamstrung in alot of areas by ownership, something that Schuerholz never had to deal with. Successful and class organizations usually start at the very top…in this case ownership, and until this ownership shows and proves it is committed to being a class and successful organization, I will spend my money elsewhere

All I'm Saying Is...

April 14th, 2010
6:08 pm

What a joke: Waddell still has a job?! Flippin’ ridiculous. And Bradley says its okay and uses McKay as an example of how this is done … Yet this is the same sportswriter that kept saying former Hawks G.M. Billy Knight had to go (i.e. fired) and wouldn’t forgive him for not drafting Chris Paul yet the Hawks made the playoffs under his complete rebuilding of the team which it only took him one time to get right.

McKay and Waddell get ‘kicked upstairs’ yet Billy Knight gets his walking papers. Explain that one.

DJ

April 14th, 2010
6:14 pm

Mark

Will Rick be responsible for hiring coach or will DW have final say?

Mike W

April 14th, 2010
6:15 pm

Gwinnett Gladiators average half the number of fans and they are ECHL vs NHL.

I’m ready for the team to leave or move. This team is completely inept, not committed to winning, keep executives because they are cheaper than the alternative, and a bunch of dumb arse owners.

If you can’t do it right, just get rid of it. How about taking a few notes from Arthur Blank with the Falcons. 100% committed to a quality product. I’ll save and spend my money on Mr B.

Bushwacker

April 14th, 2010
6:16 pm

Damn it, I’ve spent 30 years working but butt off trying to get promoted by doing great work, and all it takes it doing a crappy job until you get fired then you get promoted.

Can I sue my college professors for not telling me about this.