I respect Jeff Schultz a great deal as a sports journalist, so this isn’t a rant or anything or the sort – nor am I a person who feels even remotely qualified to stand up and say “You! Person with a job who pays you to talk about hockey! I am a blogger, and I think you are WRONG.” That’s actually a bit asinine. I do disagree respectfully on a couple parts in his op-ed regarding the Thrashers’ house cleaning.
I don’t sense any nepotism between Don Waddell and Rick Dudley. Yes, they are friends, but Dudley is one of the top former GMs in the league. He’s responsible for building a competitive team in Florida until Mike “I want to make every fan base in the league hate me” Keenan forced him out. He won a Cup in Tampa Bay with the team he pieced together. Chicago was a ghost town until he helped the Blackhawk Renaissance. How is having him as our new GM anything but a good idea? Yes, Waddell suggested him for the job of assistant general manager, but why complain? He’s part of the reason this off-season was so solid, and part of the reason that this season’s promises to be as well. This wasn’t a quick fix. Dudley was brought in during the last off season as Waddell’s assistant general manager. That screams “successor” to me for some reason. Anderson being brought in was a quick and cheap fix, but he had a track record of success – Dudley has a stronger one.
Waddell staying with the team makes sense. He has a relationship with the players, and he is one of the most respected men in the league – and by that I mean by people who work in the NHL’s management, not journalists or fans. Dudley is as well, but Waddell has a special relationship and understanding of the team. He had to stay. I’m not sure that he didn’t care – he probably cared more than anyone else. Just because you don’t make the right choices all of the time doesn’t mean that you don’t want something to succeed. I think the assumption that no one cares in the management is off. Ownership might be a little late to the party, though – no denying that there. But Waddell has been nothing but concerned and involved with the team since its inception.
And I do realize that some may not think that the Thrashers have an identity, or one other than “lovable losers.” This season and the end of last we were shaping one. We’re young, we’re a little rough around the edges, but by God we can be fast and we have just as much young talent as the Kings or ‘Hawks or Blues do – they just need a coach to shape them.
That’s where I do agree with Schultz. We do need player development in place to transition our outstanding prospects from the farm to the NHL. Coaches shouldn’t necessarily serve as the point, or serve as that only point, and that is where the Thrashers’ plan failed.
I also obviously agree with Schultz regarding, as he put it, Club Med and how that attitude can impact the players gumption, for lack of a better word. Social loafing is a real thing, and we were prime examples of that at many times of the season. You can’t have that.
Things though might be on the pathway to being fixed. This overhaul has been the most reactionary thing we have seen from this franchise since the baby blues became our new home jersey. Someone had to care enough to push this change and make the right move, and whoever that is, I applaud you.