As GM, Dudley will help mold young club

April, 14, 2010
4/14/10
11:16
AM ET

Rick Dudley's keen eye for talent has never quite been enough to earn him the respect he deserves around the NHL.

He's a quirky guy, doesn't suck up to owners or people in power like many of his colleagues, and doesn't play politics all too well. He's just a great hockey man; but, unfortunately, that's not always good enough in this business.

Well, he's got another shot now at showing people what many of us already believe: He's one of the game's great talent evaluators and now takes over as Thrashers GM to mold a young team.

Five years ago, he arrived in Chicago to help GM Dale Tallon rebuild the Blackhawks. Dudley's imprints are now all over a Hawks team contending for the Stanley Cup.

"It was a pleasure working with him," Tallon, now a senior advisor in the Hawks' front office, told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "I learned a lot from him. Having him at my side was immense. We made a good team."

It's hard to argue with that. Now Dudley is the man in charge in Atlanta.

"I think he'll do great," said Tallon. "Because nobody works harder and nobody has more knowledge about players. He'll take it to another level, no doubt."

No one should be surprised he's been made GM in Atlanta; the telltale sign was when he joined the Thrashers as associate GM last June. Don Waddell, as planned, had hired his successor, someone he trusted and liked in Dudley. The question was one of timing; would it be one, two or three years down the road before Waddell passed the baton?

Another season out of the playoffs, the ninth time in 10 seasons that's happened, made it the right time. The local fans and media have soured greatly on Waddell.

Personally, I think Waddell has taken too much abuse when you consider the franchise's lamentable state of ownership over the years, not to mention the small payrolls he's had to work with. Nevertheless, facts are facts; after 10 seasons and one playoff berth, it was time. Now, it's a smooth transition, with Waddell moving into the president's role and Dudley being handed the GM keys.

Hang in there, Thrashers fans ... this was a good day for you.

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