Tampa Bay Roundtable

By Megan Sexton

What are the greatest accomplishments of the Rick Dudley era?
What are the biggest failings?

CHADDudleyDudley gave more attention to scouting in
three years than has been done for the Lightning in the previous seven.  He drafted 4 goaltenders in 3 drafts (Konstantinov, Eklund, Polukeyev, Lanicek).  In the previous 7, only 3 goaltenders had
been drafted (Tyler Moss, Derek
Wilkinson, Zac Bierk
).  He also
went in with an agenda, drafting first for size and speed and paying close
attention to the European style of player development.  Murdoch seemed to draft with a
dartboard.  Dudley
spoke favorably about the European way of developing players — concentrating
on practices, rather than the North American way on concentrating on
games.  He gave the draft and prospects
so much attention, it became a fault. 
When he traded Adrian Aucoin to the Islanders for Mathieu Biron and a 2nd, he
stated the 2nd would be used to obtain a much needed scoring winger
for the NHL club.  A day later, the pick
was in the hands of the Capitals, in order to move into the mid-2nd
round to pick up Andreas Holmqvist.  He
became too focused on size and speed and ignored skill.  He leaves Jay Feaster with some long-shot
prospects who are physical specimens (Artukhin, Bergfors, Femenella), hoping
they develop their skills.  He also took
a reach taking Nikita Alexeev early, and traded away a 1st overall
and a 5th overall pick.  To
show for it, he’s got a mash of picks and prospects and a back-up goaltender.

PETE – As general
manager of the Lightning, Rick Dudley could boast three player transactions as
his greatest accomplishments: 1.) The acquistion of
LW Fredrik Modin
2.) The plucking of free agent RW Martin
St. Louis
from the Calgary Flames’ scrap heap. 3.) The acquistion
of G Nikolai Khabibulin.
In all three cases the Lightning were able to pick up valuable players at the
expense of players who weren’t core members of the club. In the case of the
third, and perhaps most important, trade it is important to note it was made
possible by the great investment and expansion of the Lightning scouting staff
during his two and a half year reign which allowed the team to absorb the loss
of Mara and Zainullan without much adverse effect on
their prospect system.

However, when consideration is given to Rick Dudley’s trade record as a whole
it becomes obvious to even the casual viewer that he had to be dismissed. The
most recent example is that of the trade of defenseman Adrian Aucoin for prospect Mathieu Biron
and a 2n d round pick. On the surface, perhaps the trade makes sense on paper
purely when market value is considered. However, Aucoin has since become perhaps
the lynchpin of the New York Islanders defensive corps providing steady play
and chipping in points while, at times, logging over 30 minutes of ice time a
night. Yes, Aucoin’s
trade was to dump salary, but when one considers that Matthew Barnaby and Brian Holzinger ($2.45M total) were kept on the opening night
roster rather than Aucoin,
who re-signed for $1.6M, it becomes clear Dudley
mismanaged his resources. Transactions involving Mik Nylander, Chris Gratton,
Darcy Tucker
, and even the waiving of defenseman Bill Houlder also are major stains on Dudley‘s

MEGAN – Rick Dudley
took a system full of half-hearted talent and has-beens and transformed it into
one of the most solid in the league (ranked 6th by Hockey’s
Future).  While much work still remains,
huge strides have been made.  A few years
ago the future of the Bolts was in the hands of Matt Elich, Kyle Kos
and Mario Larocque.  Dudley’s emphasis on
youth helped prepare the team for the future, something no GM in the past ever
focused on, opting for the win-now approach. 
On the downside, with most of the team’s talent a few season’s away,
loses continued to mount.  While some fans
understood the Dudley plan, others grew weary of waiting
to see improvements.

What were Rick Dudley’s ideological strengths? What were his

CHADHe did focus on the cheaper young
players with the goal of finding that diamond-in-the-rough.  That’s both a strength
and a weakness.  It hadn’t been done with
the same vigor before, but perhaps it was given too much attention. The upside
to the deals were fantastic, the downside was the reality that the team needed
to move forward now, not in 4 years.  The
deal was the final straw.  His vision for
a team of big, fast players who held a “nasty streak” was commendable, but the
current team was in need of more immediate help. 

PETE – From a
prospect standpoint, one has to applaud the emphasis on speed, particularly at
forward, which Dudley ushered in during his regime. In
previous years the team had preferred to pursue slower physical forwards at the
expense of the advantages mobility can bring in every zone. His pusuit of size and right handed shots on the blueline are also to be commended, although at present time
these assets are wasted, to a certain degree, by the current coaching staff.
What I don’t applaud from the Dudley philosophy is the
almost laughable cronieism displayed in bringing in,
and remaining loyal to, ex-Vipers and ex-Sabres.
Furthermore the overemphasis on European prospects, specifically Russians, has
created a logjam of prospects who have yet to tackle
the cultural challenges of North America as well as the North
American game. Finally, Dudley often bypassed hockey players in favor of
specimens like Evgeni Artukhin and
Nikita Alexeev
who, while tantalizing physically, still need to be taught the game and thus
may be as much as four or five years from having a fully positive impact on the
big club.

MEGAN – Dudley’s
biggest strength was his ability to find a diamond in the rough.  He paid great attention to throw-ins and
throw-away’s, which landed him not only the team’s
leading scorer, but one of its top defensemen. He has also gained much of the
future through odd deals and draft pick swapping. 

Who now is the core of Jay Feaster’s
team? Who is probably gone?

CHAD – Nikolai Khabibulin and Vincent
  Dudley’s philosophy of
building from the net out and down the middle may be kept, or it may be
forgotten, but these two will not be touched. 
Brad Richards holds only a
slight chance of being “touchable” as his game lacks in a few areas (size,
physicality) and given the chance to pick up an equally talented player
possessing those traits, Feaster may give a possible Richards deal some thought.

Ciger, Holzinger
, and Neckar to be moved out slowly over time in favor of some of the grittier
prospects in the system like Keefe, Svitov, and Kudroc who Feaster professes to value highly.

MEGANKhabibulin isn’t just the core, right now he is the team. Lecavalier is
the ad campaign.  Anyone else is fair
game, especially those making over $1 million.

What changes do you foresee in the Lightning’s drafting

Feaster will likely be more mainstream.  Dudley seemed
persistent on making a point with his drafts. 
Taking the high-risk Sheldon Keefe with his first ever pick, being the
first GM to trade the #1 overall pick, taking a project like Alexeev early
and trading anything to obtain more picks all point to a GM giving 100% to make
his mark.  Feaster will listen to the
mainstream and most importantly the people he’s hired around him, and make the
safe decision.  Feaster likes the
old-fashioned game, so physicality will play a part. He may not be so down on
young, small, skilled players, as Dudley was. Had
Feaster been in charge last year, Stanislav Chistov may have been given more attention. 

PETE – The stated philosophical shift for Feaster
is that the team will begin to shift towards a more physical on ice product.
That is all well and good, but as players like Svitov and Kudroc became full time players
that likely would’ve happened under Rick Dudley anyway (Coach Tortorella and Ramsey permitting). What may be more
appropriate to say is the the Lightning will now
begin to shift back west in their drafting, perhaps not out of Europe
altogether, but you will see a marked scaling back of the selection of
Russians. I also suspect you will see the end of the Rick Dudley project picks
as Feaster ops instead to find more mature well rounded players instead of big,
raw skaters. Finally, in three drafts, Rick Dudley only selected two players
who might be in any way considered pure “enforcers”. Aaron Gionet
and Art Femenella
were late round selections who
Dudley took a flyer on, but frankly the position as a whole has not
been emphasized since Jacques Demers dealt Sandy
. Under Feaster, expect the team to look to the Canadian Junior
Ranks to groom more fighters capable of keeping Nikolai Khabibulin safe and to provide
room for the marquee finesse players like Richards.

MEGAN – With the President of the team
expressing concern over the size of the scouting department, I would expect to
see a huge change in drafting.  We won’t
be seeing no-names out of
Siberia, rather over-hyped North Americans.  Dudley liked the chancy, rather unknown pick.  I feel Feaster will take the safe route, with
the more known player.  Also, I think
less emphasis will be placed on size. 
Dudley was all for the big, fast Russians and
didn’t draft a player under 6’3 last year. Feaster will likely take a broader
range of talent, whereas
all fit the same mold.