Knowing that young players are the life blood of any organization, Atlanta Thrashers
Executive Vice President and General Manager Don Waddell decided to bolster his team's efforts Monday with the hiring of Rick Dudley as the team's associate general manager.
In his new capacity, Dudley, who served the last five years with the Chicago Blackhawks
, including the last two as team's assistant general manager, will assist all facets of hockey operations. His primary focus, however, will be on scouting and player development.
"Rick's area of strength is his scouting -- he's good at identifying players," Waddell said during a conference call Monday afternoon. "It's nice to have someone with his experience level because he's been a GM and has sat in my seat. He knows that sometimes you have to make tough decisions and the factors that weigh in to making those decisions."
Dudley is looking forward to joining the Thrashers scouting and management team this weekend in Montreal at the Entry Draft. He accepted Waddell's offer as associate general manager after being courted by three other NHL clubs.
"The first order of business is to get to know the people I'm working with," Dudley said. "Fortunately, I know a lot of them already (including Waddell), but I'll have a good opportunity to meet more of them at the draft. I want to get comfortable with the people I'm working with. I realize this is going to be a challenge because we all know we have a long way to go (in Atlanta), but there's some good pieces in place. It's fun to look at that and imagine where it can go."
It won't be the first time that Dudley and Waddell have joined forces either.
For two seasons in the International Hockey League with the Flint Spirits, Dudley was head coach while Waddell was player/assistant coach. Waddell served in that capacity in 1986-87 and 1987-88 before taking over as head coach/GM the following season.
"We go back a long way," Dudley said of the relationship between he and Waddell. "Donny knows me probably better than anybody in the game and I know him very well. We understand each other and I that's important."
Waddell said that Mark Dobson, Atlanta's director of player personnel, and Dan Marr, the director of amateur scouting and player development, will now report directly to both he and Dudley.
"Having Rick here will also give me a little more flexibility," Waddell said. "Sometimes, I felt I had to run all over the world seeing the top picks and not that I don't like to do that and I still won't do it to a certain point, but it gives me more flexibility to take on other responsibilities within the organization. It'll certainly free up some time knowing there's a guy I trust that has a proven track record who can be out there assisting our organization."
"Rick's area of strength is his scouting -- he's good at identifying players. It's nice to have someone with his experience level because he's been a GM and has sat in my seat. He knows that sometimes you have to make tough decisions and the factors that weigh in to making those decisions."
-- Don Waddell on Rick Dudley
Before joining the Blackhawks, Dudley served as the general manager of the Florida Panthers
for two seasons (2002-03 to 2003-04), spent two-and-a-half seasons as senior vice president and general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning
(1999-00 to 2001-02) and was general manager of the Ottawa Senators
in 1998-99. He is credited with improving each organization he has managed, which includes playing a vital role in building the nucleus of the Lightning's Stanley Cup championship team in 2003-04. While with the Lightning, Dudley acquired Florida Panthers
defenseman Dan Boyle
in exchange for a 2003 fifth-round draft choice (Martin Tuma
"When Rick's contract was up in Chicago after the season, they offered him an extension, but he asked for an opportunity to look around to see if there was something else out there," Waddell said. "They allowed him to do that and he called me and we worked it out. People have known for a while that I was going to do something, so when Rick called me, I put it in overdrive to get this done."
In Chicago, Dudley helped fuel trade talks for Patrick Sharp
in 2005, Martin Havlat
in '06 and Kris Versteeg
in '07. All three players had vital roles in Chicago reaching the Western Conference Finals this spring.
"I enjoy the evaluation process and I have for a number of years now," Dudley said. "It's nice when you make a trade and, in your gut, feel that you just did something good for a hockey team. I've been lucky enough to be involved in some pretty good trades in Chicago and that's the time when I'm most excited.
"When I've got my eye on something that I think can happen, whether it's a draft pick, free agent or trade, that's when it's exciting," he continued. "There are lots of people who are good evaluators, but it's very important that you understand how the pieces fit in the puzzle and I think I do pretty well with that."