The popular choice among fans for Buffalo Sabres GM of the future, if Darcy gets fired is Rick Dudley. But my question is: Why? The only logical answer is that fans don't know enough about Rick Dudley's history in the NHL, or remember his brief tenures as a General Manager in Tampa, Florida, and Atlanta. The fact is, Dudley may be a solid evaluator of Pro Talent, and would be a great addition to any teams front office as a scout, senior advisor, or Assistant GM/consultant...the fact is: He's a vastly overrated canidate who gets way more credit than he deserves for "building" Stanley Cup Winning Teams then he rightfully deserves among Sabre Fans and is also an atrocious drafter of amateur talent with a shoddy record of hiring head coaches and making decisons.
The Bottom Line is the Sabres need a much better drafting General Manager and Rick Dudley does NOT have a good track record in the NHL Draft. Of Rick Dudley's 6 Draft Classes, only 3 players of 34 Draft Picks from all rounds would play more than 200 games in the NHL, 2 of the 3 were Top 3 picks: Jay Bouwmeester, and Nathan Horton...the other was Gregory Campbell who was taken in Round 3 of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.
Dudley is 2 for 5 in the Top 10 in the NHL Draft. He has drafted First Round Busts in Nikita Alexeev in 2000, Alexander Svitov in 2001, and Alex Burmistov in 2010. Burmistov wasn't necessarily a bust...but he certainly didnt work out in the NHL....things didnt go his way and bolted for the KHL. Anthony Stewart is another player in the bust category as a late first round bust from the 2003 NHL draft.
Rick Dudley's time in Tampa is definetly one thats unforgettable because he did help build a Stanley Cup Winning Team....but it's a damn good thing that he inherited Vincent Lecavalier, Pavel Kubina, Paul Mara, the rights to Brad Richards.
Dudley's task at the draft was to do what he could to restock the franchise for both the immediate and the long term. The picks turned into a high-risk, high-reward gambit that only seldom worked out.
In 1999, Dudley became the first NHL general manager ever to trade the #1 overall pick, dealing it and moving down in the draft to #4 overall. In the process, he passed over either of the Sedin twins, and passed on arguably the next best player in a weak draft class in Tim Connolly twice. The dealing wasn't done there. Dudley traded out of the 1st round entirely. When the dust settled from the trades he had made, Dudley had acquired goaltender Dan Cloutier, defensemen Shawn Burr, and Andrei Zyuzin as well as extra draft picks (including the NY Rangers 1st round pick in 2000).
It was a start. But it was also a finish. The 1999 class produced right wing Sheldon Keefe, Evgeny Konstantinov, Jimmie Olevstad, and Kaspars Astashenko (23 GP). Enough Said.
1999 was not the only time Dudley would trade the Bolts top draft choice. He did it again in 2000 when he traded the #5 pick (and other later-round selections) to the New York Islanders for goaltender Kevin Weekes, defenseman Kristian Kurdroc and the 31st pick in the draft. The second 1st round pick, 8th overall was used on wing Nikita Alexeev.
The general principle of the majority of the drafts under Dudley's guidance was drafting High Risk European talent, spending picks on players coming from Europe and hoping they'd both willingly come to North America and would excel in the North American game. This principle didnt work out too well for Rick Dudley. Most Recently with Alexander Burmistov, a suprise pick in the 2010 NHL draft who bolted for the KHL. Burmistov wasnt a suprise because he was a reach, he was a suprise because he was viewed as a huge flight risk.
Outside of hiring John Tortorella, whom he knew from their Sabre Days....his other head coaching hires have been largely unimpressive. His Trends hiring coaches seems to be hiring hockey men whom are both his close friends whom he knows from his old Sabre Days and with the exception of Mike Keenan, who was a major gamble on Reputation. Luckily for Dudley....he knew Tortorella from his Sabre Days. Dudley also knew the first coach he hired before Torts who was also an assistant in Buffalo.....The First Coach who Tampa hired was Steve Ludzik. That didnt turn out so well, but as it turned out, they had Torts waiting in the wings and ready to go and was just what they needed. In Florida, Dudley would go on to hire Mike Keenan which was a disaster, and in Atlanta....Craig Ramsay, a great assistant coach,who was hired to an unsuccessful tenure.
There has been plenty of good for Rick Dudley as a GM/ executive. As I said earlier....he's a solid evaluator of Pro Talent and a schrewd trader when high draft picks aren't involved of course. He's best known for acquiring a 25 year old Martin St.Louis who would blossom into one of the NHL best players. He also acquired Nikolai Khabibulin, Dan Boyle, Dave Andreychuk, Cory Sarich, and Vaclav Prospal all key components to the Lightning's Cup Winning Team. As a GM....Rick Dudley's work in Tampa may be his best overall work as a General Manager...but over time as said, the poor drafting eventually caught up with the lightning later in the 2000s when they started losing key players and veterans and lacked the prospects to replace them.
In Florida he drafted Jay Bouwmeester at #3 overall and Gregory Campbell later in that draft, and Nathan Horton the following year....granted you should hit on top 3 picks.
In Atlanta, he helped build a portion of foundation for the current Winnipeg Jets Franchise. He acquired Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd in his very first move as Thrashers General Manager. These Two players remain with the Jets today and Ladd is currently the Captain and Byfuglien is a huge key defenseman. He also swung a deal for big forward Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart later in 2011 for Rich Peverly. However, the miss on Alex Burmistov is huge, and they passed on the likes of likes Cam Fowler and Vladimir Tarasenko to select him.
The verdict on Rick Dudley is simple: He's a great evaluator a Pro Talent, not so much with Amateur Talent and the NHL Entry Draft though, and is also a risk taker as a General Manager....sometimes it works and often it doesnt. He was also a apart of the re-building process of the Chicago Blackhawks, but NOT the reason why the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. There were multiple people involved in the Hawks resurgance: Dale Tallon, Stan Bowman, Kevin Cheveldayoff, Marc Bergevin, and Mark Kelly ....not just Rick Dudley...so how much Dudley played into the success of the Blackhawks is debatable. The biggest reason of course is sucking bad enough to land Pat Kane and Johnathan Toews.
But Rick Dudley's draft record is the MAIN Reason why the Sabres need to shy away from him. In a league where the Salary Cap is present, and drafting and developing is as important as ever...the last thing I want is a GM who does not draft well, or who cannot evaluate Amateur Talent as well as hire the right head coach to develop this talent. Being a GM in the NHL is a multifacted job, and it's great that Dudley can trade, wheel and deal and find pro-talent...but finding amateur talent is what drives the NHL today....and we do this via the NHL Draft.
As of right now....Paul Fenton, Assistant General Manager of the Nashville Predators is by FAR the best choice for General Manager of the Buffalo Sabres should Darcy Regeir get fired. Currently the assistant general manager of the Nashville Predators, Fenton has a ton of experience in a multitude of areas in hockey. A Former NHL player who shortly after retiring from hockey joined the expansion Anaheim Ducks as the team’s pro scout. He helped the Ducks draft a number of NHL regulars, such as Paul Kariya, Oleg Tverdovsky, Matt Cullen, and Ruslan Salei, while also being instrumental in organizing the trade for Teemu Selanne in 1996.
In 1998 he joined the Nashville Predators as director of player personnel. He remained in this role for eight seasons, overseeing the drafting of key Predators contributors such as David Legwand, Martin Erat, Scott Hartnell, Dan Hamhuis, Jordin Tootoo, Pekka Rinne, Alexander Radulov, and Patric Hornqvist. His best work was the 2003 Entry Draft he proved amazingly successful, landing two superstar defensemen in Shea Weber and Ryan Suter to go along with two more NHL regulars in Kevin Klein and Alexander Sulzer. On average he landed the Predators just over 2 NHL regulars per draft over eight seasons, a very impressive number which is matched by very few. Only the Detroit Red Wings and the LA Kings can match this number which is very good company.
All of this quality work earned him a promotion to assistant GM in 2006 and the Predators have failed to miss the post-season only once since then while operating on a modest payroll. This team needs to rebuild through the NHL Draft, and Paul Fenton is one of the NHL's best at running a Draft as he's done in Nashville for the past decade.