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Thrashers' Dudley sees similarities with young Hawks

by Mike G. Morreale /

"I think it's an organization that's on the way up. I think we have some very good players and what I'm going to try and do are the same things I did in Chicago -- stress patience and build a little more each day." -- Rick Dudley

Rick Dudley, the Atlanta Thrashers associate general manager, admits that in today's NHL, it's extremely difficult to overcome managerial mishaps.

"The big key is to make sure that a player can fit a niche in your organization because it's very difficult to overcome mistakes," Dudley told "Whether your making moves, adding or signing players or making a trade, a mistake can really put you behind the eight-ball."

While conceding he's not perfect, Dudley has presided over some monumental managerial moves in just about every NHL city where he's been employed.

Dudley played a huge role as the general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, acquiring Dan Boyle, Fredrik Modin, Nikolai Khabibulin and Martin St. Louis -- key members of the 2004 team that won the franchise's first Stanley Cup.

He was also instrumental in helping then-Chicago GM Dale Tallon rebuild a Blackhawks team that reached the Western Conference Final last spring -- fueling trade talks for Patrick Sharp in 2005, Martin Havlat in '06 and Kris Versteeg in '07. Not to mention playing a role in the drafting of Jonathan Toews No. 3 overall in 2006 and Patrick Kane with the No. 1 pick one year later.

Thrashers General Manager Don Waddell is hoping his one-time partner in the International Hockey League can help him resurrect the team in Atlanta.

"We're not one of those big-money teams that can afford to bury players in the minors," Dudley said. "If we commit a significant amount of money to a player, he's going to be on our roster as he should be. We just can't make mistakes."

Dudley sees many similarities between this group in Atlanta and the one he had in Chicago when he was hired in 2004 as a consultant before being named director of player personnel in 2005-06. He feels Atlanta, behind defenseman Zach Bogosian and forward Evander Kane, is headed in the right direction.

"I think it's an organization that's on the way up," Dudley said. "I think we have some very good players and what I'm going to try and do are the same things I did in Chicago -- stress patience and build a little more each day."

Dudley was front and center during the Traverse City Prospects Tournament. He'd turn to Waddell every so often to talk shop and pay special attention to those youngsters with high hopes of earning a roster spot -- players like defensemen Paul Postma and Arturs Kulda and 2009 draft picks Kane (No. 4) and Jeremy Morin (No. 45). Of course, Dudley is very familiar with the impact 2008 first-round pick Bogosian had on the organization as a rookie.

"As far as the talent pool goes, in Bogosian I see Patrick Kane and in Evander Kane I see Jonathan Toews," Dudley said. "We became a completely different franchise in Chicago when we added those two young players. Now, we also provided a good supporting cast in Chicago but I think we have a pretty good supporting cast in Atlanta.

"We're probably not where Chicago was last year, but we might be where Chicago was a year or two before that and we've got some very good young players," he continued. "I think kids like Morin or Kulda could possibly step in and be that (Dustin) Byfuglien or one of the kids who came on so strong in Chicago. We do have depth and it's depth that could very quickly transcend into success in Atlanta."

One player who really impressed Dudley in Traverse City was Kane, who led Atlanta's prospects and finished third in tournament scoring with 6 goals and 6 points in 4 games.

"To be quite candid with you, I'd be surprised if he wasn't on our opening day roster," he said. "There are so many good things and so few negatives. I suppose the only thing I can say is he's 185 pounds right now and you'd like him to get around the 200-pound mark.

"But he's a wonderful skater and very intense," Dudley added. "He reminds me of Jonathan Toews' approach to the game because he's all business and he wants to be the best. When he puts on those skates, you can see the motivation. It's hard to imagine a player like that, with the skills he possesses, not being successful too soon."

Contact Mike Morreale at

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