Thrashers fire coach Anderson, promote Dudley

The Atlanta Thrashers made a major shakeup Wednesday after again

missing the playoffs, firing coach John Anderson and appointing

Rick Dudley to replace Don Waddell as the general manager.

Waddell was bumped upstairs to team president, where he will be

responsible mainly for the business aspects of a franchise that has

made the postseason only once since entering the NHL in 1999 and

ranked near the bottom of the league in attendance.

Dudley, who joined the Thrashers as associate general manager

last summer, will run the hockey operations, looking to bolster a

roster that dealt its top player, Ilya Kovalchuck, at this season’s

trade deadline when it couldn’t come to terms on a new

contract.

“We have a lot of important pieces in place, and I look forward

to building this organization even further and working closely with

Don, the owners and our staff towards achieving our goals,” Dudley

said in a statement. “I’ve been in this situation before and we

will accomplish our objectives. I appreciate Don and the owners

giving me this opportunity to build on what has already been put in

place.”

The 61-year-old Dudley served as general manager of the Ottawa

Senators in 1998-99 before moving to the same role in Tampa Bay,

where he spent three years and was credited with putting together

much of the nucleus for a team that won the Stanley Cup in

2004.

Waddell had been the only general manager in Thrashers’ history.

While responsible for drafting future stars like Kovalchuk and Dany

Heatley, he never put together a consistent winner and became the

most visible target of fans upset about the Thrashers’

direction.

There have also been numerous reports speculating that the team

could leave Atlanta unless the situation improves, both on the ice

and at the gate.

“My role within the company has evolved and grown the last few

years, and the owners and I agree that it’s the appropriate time to

have Rick assume all hockey-related responsibilities while I shift

my primary focus to the business side of the Thrashers,” Waddell

said.

“I will be less involved with the team on a daily basis, but

will continue to make myself available to Rick and to lend my

experience in any way that allows him to succeed and for us to

build this club into a perennial contender.”

Anderson served only two years as the Thrashers’ coach after

being promoted from the same job with the team’s top minor-league

affiliate in Chicago. He was 70-75-19 and had a nasty falling-out

with one of the team’s leading offensive players, Slava Kozlov, who

said the team had the talent to make the playoffs but was poorly

coached.

The team also fired Anderson’s three assistant coaches: Randy

Cunneyworth, Todd Nelson and Steve Weeks.