Rick Dudley may be the new general manager of the Atlanta Thrashers
, but he's got a keen interest in how the Chicago Blackhawks
fare in the Stanley Cup Final.
Speaking with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on the "NHL Hour with Gary Bettman" Thursday, the former assistant general manager of the Hawks -- until joining the Thrashers in a similar capacity last summer -- left no doubt about where his heart is when it comes to rooting for a Cup winner.
"I love (Flyers GM) Paul Holmgren
, he's a wonderful guy, and the Philadelphia Flyers
have been one of the top organizations in the NHL since I played (in the 1970s)," he said. "But there are so many kids on the Chicago Blackhawks
that I care about -- when I look at them play I have a real sense of pride.
"This is a good group of kids, all of them. There's not a bad kid on that team."
"We're young, we're talented and up front we have nothing but potential. I think we're a good team waiting to happen. With a couple of notable moves, especially with two first-round draft picks, I think we can be a very, very good team very quickly."
-- Thrashers GM Rick Dudley
Dudley worked with former Hawks GM Dale Tallon
-- recently hired in the same capacity by the Florida Panthers
-- to rebuild a franchise that missed the playoffs for five consecutive seasons before a stunning run to the Western Conference Finals in 2009 and this year's trip to the Cup Final. Tallon was replaced as GM by Stan Bowman last summer and went to the Panthers last month.
"I'm glad to see Dale's getting some recognition for the job he did there," Dudley said.
Dudley feels the young Hawks have developed a camaraderie that has become a big part of their success as they try to end the franchise's 49-year Stanley Cup drought. Chicago takes a 2-1 series lead into Game 4 on Friday night in Philadelphia.
"I look at all those kids, from (Jonathan) Toews, (Patrick) Kane, (Dustin) Byfuglien -- they're a group of kids that are genuinely good people," Dudley said. "When they come to the rink, they enjoy coming (there). I was lucky enough to play in the Stanley Cup Final (with Buffalo in 1975), and I played on a team where all the players on that team enjoyed getting together. I think in the ultimate couple-of-months grind that are the playoffs, I think it's essential that you enjoy each other. "
As for his new team, Dudley feels it has a lot of the characteristics of his old one.
"I don't think people realize how far this team has come," he said. "We're young, we're talented and up front we have nothing but potential. I said this in Chicago and people laughed at me -- I said the Chicago Blackhawks
were an outstanding team just waiting to happen. I think we're close to that -- I think we're a good team waiting to happen. With a couple of notable moves, especially with two first-round draft picks, I think we can be a very, very good team very quickly."