Considering that Winnipeg lost the first iteration of the Jets and then waited a long time for that elusive playoff win – not just series victory, just a playoff win – this current run is a heartwarming success story.
Still, it always felt a little gross how things ended with the Atlanta Thrashers. To be more specific, it seemed really harsh that Rick Dudley received one measly season as GM, and the same went for Craig Ramsay as head coach.
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Now, sure, the 2010-11 Atlanta Thrashers did fall short of the postseason, as all but one of the Thrashers teams did. And while it required a lot of patience, Dudley’s replacement Kevin Cheveldayoff marinated a mouth-watering crock pot of talent. Still, Dudley deserves a lot of credit for some truly remarkable work in what was essentially just one season, and perhaps he’ll help the Carolina Hurricanes make some aggressive strides forward now that he’s part of that front office.
Poaching former Blackhawks
It’s not surprising that Dudley decided to trade for former Chicago Blackhawks during quite the start to his GM campaign from late June to early July 2010. After all, he was in the Blackhawks organization not that long before moving on to Atlanta, and that team had just won its first Stanley Cup.
The difference is that the Thrashers landed more than just “guys who won championships.” We’ve seen plenty of examples in sports of rings misguiding teams (the Raiders paying a ransom for Larry Brown after he won a Super Bowl ranks as a personal favorite), but in the case of the players Dudley targeted, they were instead supporting cast members who could handle marquee roles.
To start, the Thrashers landed Dustin Byfuglien in a, well, Byfuglien-sized trade. While Chicago received picks and a lot of players were involved, that was a big win for Dudley’s side. (To be fair, Chicago was trading from a position of weakness with the first big cap crunch really hurting their depth.)
Not long after, Dudley made another big trade with the Blackhawks, landing future Jets captain Andrew Ladd for Ivan Vishnevskiy and a second-rounder that would become Adam Clendening.
Not just poaching Blackhawks
People joke about the Boston Bruins trading away Tyler Seguin and others in questionable deals, yet Blake Wheeler‘s name doesn’t come up very often. Maybe because it’s tough for some to realize that he was actually with Boston and even enjoyed a 21-goal season.
Anyway, Dudley concocted maybe his best trade in February 2011, acquiring Wheeler and Mark Stuart from the Bruins for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik.
It says a lot about Dudley’s work that, even considering the brilliant talent on hand in Winnipeg thanks to Cheveldayoff, Byfuglien and Wheeler were arguably the biggest heroes from last night’s big Game 3 win.
As an additional point, it’s worth noting that the Ramsay/Dudley regime pushed to best utilize Byfuglien as a defenseman, too.
Now, of course, it’s been quite a while since Dudley conducted those moves. He’s bounced the round the league as an assistant GM for some time, and it’s tough to gauge a) if he had much of a hand in Montreal’s blunders (how did he feel about trading P.K. Subban?) and b) how much power he’ll wield in Carolina, anyway.
For all we know, Dudley could steer the Hurricanes in the wrong direction. Maybe he’d zig toward bigger, outdated players while the league is zagging in the direction of speed and skill? Perhaps the Jets were still wiser to part ways with Dudley rather than keeping him around after relocating?
Those are all fair questions.
If nothing else, Jets fans should salute Dudley’s work. After all, Dudley accomplished more in one year than some GMs manage during fairer, longer reigns.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.