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If Rick Dudley doesn’t stay to GM in Winnipeg, is Kevin Cheveldayoff the next pilot of the franchise?

Jun 3, 2011, 5:56 PM EDT

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One of the uglier parts to seeing a team change owners and locations is that that could mean changes in the front office. After all, new owners might want to go in a different direction than what the previous leadership wanted and in the case of the Atlanta Thrashers that might not be all so bad.

One guy who did a lot to help start turning the corner in Atlanta this past season was GM Rick Dudley. Dudley helped pick apart the Chicago Blackhawks last summer after helping build them years ago. He brough Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien into the fold in Atlanta where they both had great seasons. He staked his faith in Ondrej Pavelec to be a key goalie and helped bring in Craig Ramsay to coach to the team. While the Thrashers missed the playoffs yet again, the new owners from True North might be looking to bring their own guys into the mix.

According to Tim Campbell from the Winnipeg Free Press, that connection to the Blackhawks that brough Dudley to Atlanta might be bringing his successor to Manitoba in the form of Blackhawks assistant GM and senior director of hockey operations Kevin Cheveldayoff.

After a Thursday meeting with True North chairman Mark Chipman and hockey senior vice-president Craig Heisinger at the NHL’s scouting combine, current Atlanta Thrashers GM Rick Dudley does not appear to be a slam-dunk to move with the club to Winnipeg. Nobody at True North will talk about it and there are strong rumblings here that Dudley will either be re-assigned or dismissed, that True North wants to go in another direction with its own people.

The Free Press spoke to Cheveldayoff here this morning. His first response when asked for a conversation was that such a request would have to go through the Blackhawks.

If Cheveldayoff’s name sounds familiar you might recall him from his work with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL as he was their GM from 1997 through 2009 helping lead the team to two Turner Cup titles in the IHL and two Calder Cup titles in the AHL as the feeder team for the, wait for it, Atlanta Thrashers.

Cheveldayoff was a 1988 first round pick of the New York Islanders as a player but never cracked the Islanders roster after spending three years with the Capital District Islanders out of Troy, New York. A knee injury kept him from living the dream as an NHL player but now with things getting figured out in Winnipeg one way or the other, he’s close to becoming the head man in charge of putting together the Winnipeg NHL squad.

As for Dudley, if he doesn’t stick as the GM in Winnipeg he’ll join Thrashers executive and former GM Don Waddell as front office guys not moving north with the team. Waddell made it clear that he wasn’t moving on once the sale was announced and given how successful he was in building teams in Atlanta, that could be viewed as a blessing in disguise.

If Cheveldayoff is brought in as the GM, it’ll be the first sign that True North is going to do things their way and leave as many front office entanglings from Atlanta in the rear view mirror as they can. As for the players, we’re pretty sure they’re excited to have regional favorite Dustin Byfuglien (from Roseau, Minnesota) as well as young forward Evander Kane, Andrew Ladd, Tobias Enstrom, and young center Alex Burmistrov. The building blocks and pieces are there for future success, but with as many front office changes as they’re looking at keeping things moving ahead will be a task. Getting Cheveldayoff in there guarantees they’ll have a guy that has some familiarity with the system.

 

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