MONTREAL – Even though Rick Dudley has been hired by the Montreal Canadiens for his wealth of hockey knowledge, he won’t be sharing any of it in the lead up to the NHL draft.
Dudley is Montreal’s new assistant general manager after leaving behind a similar role with the Toronto Maple Leafs to work for his former protege, new Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin.
Bergevin has a “gentleman’s agreement” with Toronto GM Brian Burke that Dudley, who has worked extensively on the Maple Leafs’ draft preparation, will not take part in the Canadiens’ work on the upcoming draft June 22 in Pittsburgh.
“The truth is that in order to be fair to all parties involved it had to take some time, and Marc was good enough to be patient with it, and Brian was good enough to work with us,” Dudley said in a conference call Friday from his home in Lewiston, N.Y.
Montreal holds the third overall pick while Toronto has the fifth.
Bergevin acknowledged that he would honour his Maple Leafs counterpart’s wishes.
“I have an agreement with Toronto that Rick will not take part in our draft, and I will respect it,” Bergevin said.
A former coach and player, Dudley has spent the last two decades as a senior executive with various NHL clubs, including the Atlanta Thrashers, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Ottawa Senators and Chicago Blackhawks.
It was in Chicago where Dudley was charged with developing Bergevin as a Blackhawks pro scout after the veteran defenceman retired following the 2003-04 season.
Bergevin, a first-time GM who was hired May 2, will have a wealth of experience to help him in his ongoing search for a new head coach.
“It doesn’t hurt, that’s for sure,” Bergevin said. “Rick has been a man that has hired a coach before so he knows the process and I’m sure I’ll use his knowledge and experience to help me in the process.”
Dudley will be splitting duties with assistant GM Larry Carriere, who was given a contract extension. Bergevin said that Carriere’s experience and his knowledge of, and familiarity with, the Canadiens’ lineup and depth chart, has been invaluable to him since he was hired.
“He’s going to help us moving forward with free agents and signing players and (AHL) Hamilton,” Bergevin said. “And Rick, with his vast knowledge of players around the league, it’s going to be great to work with these both of these men, so as of right now I don’t have a specific role until I sit down with these two men and go over it.”
Dudley, a Toronto native, spent seven seasons as a player in the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres, where he was a teammate of Carriere’s, and the original Winnipeg Jets.
He said he is excited about the challenge and potential rewards of building a successful Canadiens team.
“I know Marc has been overwhelmed by the attention he gets every day in Montreal but they are excited by him, and they are excited by the process,” Dudley said. “For me, personally, if we could build something really successful in Montreal it’s probably unlike any other place.
“I may have been lucky enough to be in the one other place, when I was in Toronto, that if you have success it’s magic. Montreal, though, the passion of the fans is unlike anything that I’ve ever seen.”
Dudley was Atlanta’s GM when the Thrashers were relocated to Winnipeg in June 2011. He ultimately was not retained by the re-christened Jets.
Prior to that he was in Chicago where he guided Bergevin to be a pro scout.
“I realized very quickly that he had the affinity to be an excellent hockey evaluator,” Dudley said. “It didn’t take long before he didn’t need any help from me and that was pretty impressive because it was a very short period of time in which he became one of our key guys.”
In fact, Dudley said that Bergevin almost immediately became a part of the Blackhawks’ inner circle, including Dale Tallon, Stan Bowman and himself, that were the only people involved in talking about the team’s trades.
All four were instrumental in fashioning the lineup that won the Stanley Cup in 2010, Chicago’s first in 49 years.
“That was a lot of fun for me,” Dudley said. “You felt like you were part of something special and my gut tells me this will be something special.”
Pierre Gauthier was fired as Montreal’s GM late in the season as the Canadiens missed the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.
Montreal finished 31-35-16, last in the Eastern Conference.
“When he went over the list and the depth charts of the team there was a little more there than maybe you think when you’re looking at a team that obviously didn’t make the playoffs,” Dudley said.
All-Star goalie Carey Price, defenceman P.K. Subban and left winger Max Pacioretty are all under 25.
“There are some pieces in place that are obviously very attractive. There is some work to be done here but there are also some young kids that have been drafted over the last few years that are going to make an impact.”
Canadiens prospects Michael Bournival, Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi all played in the Memorial Cup in Shawinigan.
Dudley says the state of affairs in Montreal isn’t as dire as some believe. In fact, he’s seen worse.
“A situation like Tampa Bay, we had something like three players that could play in the National Hockey League at any level and this is not that situation at all,” Dudley said.
He echoed that assessment for the team he’s leaving behind.
“They’re a lot closer than people think,” Dudley said. “They have a number of very good pieces. There are some obvious areas that need to be addressed, they’re full aware of that. They will address them. I think the Leafs are a team that will surprise some people in the very, very near future.”