GM Rick Dudley on his Thrashers: ‘I think we’re for real’

Andrew Ladd: One of many transplanted Chicagoans. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Andrew Ladd: One of many transplanted Chicagoans. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The Thrashers slipped out of first place in the NHL Southeast this week. (They play Boston tonight, so this is subject again to change.) What’s significant is that the Thrashers were in first place this deep into a season. What’s also significant is that Rick Dudley, the first-year general manager, believes the best still awaits his club.

“If you’re asking for a philosophic outlook,” Dudley said this week, “I think it’s fair to expect us to play well the rest of the way. People around the league are coming up and saying, ‘You guys are for real,’ and I think we are. We should be nothing but better in time.”

Dudley was Don Waddell’s deputy last season, and the chief reason the Thrashers dumped coach John Anderson this spring was the belief  they had enough talent on hand, Ilya Kovalchuk’s forced departure notwithstanding, to have made the playoffs.  (They missed by five points.) Dudley was promoted on the same April day Anderson was canned and in short order went about poaching from the NHL’s upper crust.

In two different deals the GM landed four players — Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Brent Sopel and Ben Eager — who’d just hoisted the Stanley Cup in Chicago. This gave folks reason to believe the Thrashers would be much improved. Said Dudley: “I thought it might take a little while, though. I had no doubt about [head coach] Craig Ramsay and this coaching staff, but I thought it would take half a season.”

It never hurts to mix proven winners into a dressing room that hasn’t known much winning. “The right people can dramatically change the culture,” Dudley said. “We saw that when we got Dave Andreychuk in Tampa. [Dudley was GM of the Lightning from 1999 to 2002; Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup in 2004.]

“A guy like Brent Sopel — the sacrifices he’ll make to win a game will have an impression on a team. And it wasn’t just the Stanley Cup that made these guys winners. They were winners long before.”

The Thrashers were 7-9-3 on Nov. 17 — not great but, all things considered, not awful. “We had so many new parts,” Dudley said. They’re 12-3-2 since, and for a brief shining moment they sat atop the Southeast ahead of the Washington Capitals, who were the NHL’s best team in the 2009-2010 regular season. The Thrashers had a wobble against St. Louis here Monday, but they’ve played well enough long enough to suggest they won’t make wobbling a habit.

Dudley: “With the team we have and the way we’ve played, I don’t expect us to fall off.”

Rick Dudley’s nickname is Duds. His Thrashers haven’t been.

By Mark Bradley

21 comments Add your comment

still@the bar

December 23rd, 2010
3:56 pm

Mark Bradley

December 23rd, 2010
3:59 pm

Kudos, still. Keep it clean, please.

Maddux

December 23rd, 2010
4:03 pm

It is finally fun to be a Thrashers fan. Ramsay is the real deal, and players like the Chicago Four are gritty, legit hockey players that understand defense is part of the game too.

They need to play or trade Bergfors. I’d trade Bogosian too, he’s a big fat bust. I imagine a team would pony up some real talent for those two.

I would love to see a Kane-Burmistrov-Chris Stewart line down the road.

Case Quarter

December 23rd, 2010
4:08 pm

The Thrashers are very exciting. The team is greater than the sum of its parts. This kind of reminds me of the ‘91 Braves…. Bring in the right mix of talent from other organiztion to solidify their weaknesses. Buff = Terry Pendleton.

thUGA

December 23rd, 2010
4:11 pm

Riiiiiight. I’m from Missouri. “Show me” you’re for real for an entire season. Not just one month….

Alan R.

December 23rd, 2010
4:20 pm

Nice to see a good Thrashers blog from you for once, Bradley. I kinda got tired of seeing the dumb blog about the coaching situation from back in June or so.

I’m really happy to see this team doing so well. I’ve got nothing but confidence that the play of this team will improve over the course of the season, as the players become even more accustomed to each other and Ramsay’s system.

It’s a great time to be a Thrashers fan!

ThrasherFan

December 23rd, 2010
4:22 pm

I like what I’m seeing from the Thrashers! They’ve played a lot of games over the last month and been playing great. If they keep it up a few more weeks I WILL find myself at a game.

GO THRASHERS and FALCONS!

T

December 23rd, 2010
4:31 pm

We’re gonna get back to first place tonight!! :)

also, I think I’m gonna buy season tickets after christmas! The games are so fun to watch!

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might_renew

December 23rd, 2010
4:40 pm

I’m thinking of renewing my season tickets again. A product I would pay for.

might_renew

December 23rd, 2010
4:41 pm

Just bought some games on the “flex plan.”

brokeback jacket

December 23rd, 2010
4:47 pm

I’ve seen more fans at Thrashers games this week than I’ve seen nerds at tech’s ugly, tiny stadium. And it didn’t even take free hotdogs and Cokes (just $1 hotdogs and Cokes.) Not bad, Thrashers.

St. Clarkston

December 23rd, 2010
4:58 pm

beauvighn

December 23rd, 2010
5:03 pm

Just keep Dum Waddell as far away from decision making and the Thrashers may have a chance.

Matt

December 23rd, 2010
5:14 pm

Hell has frozen over, the Sun has stopped shining, and the Earth’s rotation has ceased…all because Mark Bradley has written a column on the THRASHERS!! Wow, will wonders never cease?

That being said, this season has been about a pleasant a surprise as Matt Ryan’s rookie year when nobody expected anything of the Falcons. The same with the Thrashers, lose Kovy and get better?? Who would have “thunk it”?

Support this team. They play hard and they play hockey the way it is meant to be played…as a TEAM.

B. Thenet

December 23rd, 2010
5:29 pm

God Bless Rick Dudley and Craig Ramsay, the two best at their roles that we have seen in the teams history.

Hopefully it is not too late for the franchise.

Sweet

December 23rd, 2010
6:22 pm

Hellz to tha yea! Keep up the energy boys

gcs

December 23rd, 2010
7:38 pm

Lotta good young players on this team. Hopefully they can hang on to them.

.

Mark Bradley

December 23rd, 2010
8:29 pm

I see the Bradley mojo is still mighty.

Boston 3, Atlanta 0.

Matt

December 24th, 2010
1:55 pm

Mark-you truly do have that “Kiss of Death” mojo down pat. Couldn’t you write about some Boston teams? I’m sick of the smack-talk from my sibling.

Dwayne

December 26th, 2010
12:34 pm

The Thrashers will finish in third place in the SE division and several points short of making the playoffs. @ Rick Dudley on your Thrashers: “I think you’re delusional.”