DULUTH, Ga. --
One of the worst-kept secrets in the NHL became official Thursday when the Atlanta Thrashers
hired John Torchetti
away from the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks
to be their associate head coach.
Torchetti has a long-time working relationship with Thrashers general manager Rick Dudley -- Dudley has hired Torchetti two other times in his career and also was involved in getting Torchetti hired by the Blackhawks as an assistant coach there when Dudley served in Chicago's front office. Torchetti also has worked with Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay
, as the two were assistants together in Tampa Bay.
"I was fortunate to meet Rammer there in Tampa Bay and the short time I worked with him there I learned a great deal," said Torchetti, who also was a candidate for the Thrashers' head job. "I told that to Duds, 'He's one of the coaches that I learned a great deal from.' We kept a good rapport over the years. System-wise, player-wise, if I had questions, he's always there to answer and helped us out.
"I even got him a little bit before the Philly series. We made some good adjustments heading into the Final against them. I know I'm going to learn a great deal from being back on the same bench as him."
"We know he knows every aspect of the game. He's a very personable person. He's a great communicator with the guys and he's had his fair share of coaching around the League and learning from other guys that were head coaches. I know he's won at different levels so I know he understands what it takes to win and he's done a great job here with the young guys so, I mean, you're going to get a quality guy in my opinion. It's a great option for them."
-- John Madden
Torchetti's forte is working with young players. Some of the names he threw out Thursday rank among the game's best: Vincent Lecavalier
, Brad Richards
, Pavel Kubina
, Jay Bouwmeester
, Jonathan Toews
and Patrick Kane
. That's two Conn Smythe winners and five Stanley Cup champions. In Atlanta, he will have the opportunity to work with highly touted young players Evander Kane
, Zach Bogosian
, Bryan Little
, Niclas Bergfors
and Alexander Burmistrov
In April, when the Thrashers' coaching job came open, a few of the Blackhawks' veterans were asked about Torchetti.
"He's communicating with the players lots," Marian Hossa
said. "He's always in the dressing room. (Teaching) the younger guys, show them some things. He's kind of teaching these younger players. It's really good for the young players."
The Blackhawks also were effusive in their praise of Torchetti.
"The entire organization would like to wish John well with the Thrashers and all of his future endeavors," Chicago GM Stan Bowman said in a statement. "We appreciate all of his work during his three years on staff, including being a part of our Stanley Cup Championship team."
Veteran center John Madden
, who won his third Cup with the Hawks last month, also spoke highly of Torchetti.
"You're going to get a well-knowledged coach, if that's the case," he said of Torchetti's potential departure. "We know he knows every aspect of the game. He's a very personable person. He's a great communicator with the guys and he's had his fair share of coaching around the League and learning from other guys that were head coaches. I know he's won at different levels so I know he understands what it takes to win and he's done a great job here with the young guys so, I mean, you're going to get a quality guy in my opinion. It's a great option for them."
"He's a very bright hockey mind," he said. "He and Rammer get along well. He's got an incredible work ethic. He's a guy who will take as much time as it takes to be ready for the next game and that's a very important thing to me.
"Over the years I've know him to be a good teacher and I think they complement each other very well -- very, very well. In Tampa, piece by piece we put together a coaching staff there. This one I think might even be better."
Some have started to refer to the Thrashers as the Atlanta Blackhawks with their infusion of players and staff from the Cup champions. Dudley served with the organization for five seasons before coming to Atlanta in 2009 and being promoted to general manager in April. The Thrashers have made two trades with Chicago in recent weeks, acquiring Dustin Byfuglien
, Andrew Ladd
, Brent Sopel
and Ben Eager
. Adding Torchetti furthers that notion.
Even with all of the players the Blackhawks have lost from their title team -- Kris Versteeg
and Adam Burish
also are gone -- the core remains. Yet Torchetti had no qualms about leaving.
"Obviously, we have a history," Dudley said. "Craig has a history with him. He liked what we were doing here. He got excited about it. So I think it was a fairly easy for him to do.
"I think if he thought they were going to win the Cup next year, as opposed to having just won it, it might have been a little tougher. Maybe if he looked at his team going in. Now he's won it there. Now it's a chance to try and do it again."
While Ramsay, an assistant for the last three seasons with the Boston Bruins
, will have to learn the Thrashers' personnel, Torchetti has a head start. In addition to the four former Chicago players who figure to be on the opening-night roster, so is goalie Chris Mason
, a free-agent signing by Atlanta. Mason was Torchetti's No. 1 netminder with the AHL's San Antonio Rampage in 2002-03 when Torchetti was the head coach there. Torchetti called Mason one of his favorite players for his work ethic and competitive nature.
Torchetti said he's not looking too far ahead as to when he might be a head coach some day -- he's twice been an interim NHL head coach, with Florida and Los Angeles. Mostly, though, he said he's looking forward to the opportunity to work with people he respects and with whom he has worked with in the past.
On Thursday, at the Thrashers' practice facility, Torchetti recounted advice Dudley gave him when he was fretting over what his team's roster lacked after he got his first NHL job.
"'Take your time,'" Torchetti said Dudley told him. "'Look at what you've got and make them better. That's your job as a coach. Don't worry about that.' That's, I think, when I became an NHL coach.
"This roster here (in Atlanta) has nothing but huge potential and I think they were very close to making the playoffs last year and hopefully we can improve upon that."