Hello? Yes, this is Dudley.
Many Leafs fans are concerned that Rick Dudley joining the Montreal Canadiens Front Office as an Assistant GM will negatively affect the Leafs at the upcoming entry draft. I’m here to tell you to relax, and maybe even convince you to be happy he’s gone.
As you’ll undoubtedly remember the Leafs will be drafting 5th this year; the Habs 3rd. While no consensus has emerged, the Top 5 will probably be some order of Yakupov-Grigorenko-Murray-Galchenyuk-Reilly. Now for those concerned that Dudley may convince the Habs to take the guy the Leafs have decided on it’s important to remember that all of the projected Top 5 have been heavily scouted and are known by all the GMs drafting there. While the Leafs may well like a particular player, the Habs wouldn’t be going off the board by taking him. While it might look bad, there was always a chance the Habs were going to take Galchenyuk or whoever at #3. It is unlikely that Dudley would “steal” the player the Leafs had targeted at the 5th spot.
Where there is some cause for concern is in the later rounds. Generally speaking scouts don’t watch players ranked outside the first round more than a few times. If Dudley and the Leafs had pegged a player that not many other teams have scouted, he could recommend that the Habs draft that player. If that player turns out to be a late round steal it would be disappointing. But given what I’ve read about Dudley, I don’t think that is too likely of an outcome.
As Kent Wilson has done a great job pointing out, GMs have a tendency to value style over content:
“Here’s the issue: the above is primarily a description of the style of game each guy plays which is not necessarily indicative of how effective he is at providing value on the ice. It’s kind of like asking how fast a car can accelerate from 0-60 and getting a laundry list of it’s various qualities and specifications (such as wheel size, interior space, color, engine size, transmission type) in response. There might be suggestions and clues buried within the descriptors, but the question remains largely unanswered.”
Dudley epitomizes this mindset. Here is an excerpt from an interview he did with Garret Bauman of Maple Leafs Hotstove last year.
GB: When it comes to evaluating players, there are obviously a number of statistical or measurable characteristics that come into play. What are some of the non-measurable characteristics that you look at to differentiate players whose measurables may be similar?
RD: Wow, where do I start? In today’s game, there are two things that are essential: hockey sense and character. If a player lacks a high score in either of those components he is far less likely to be effective. You have to be phenomenally talented to succeed without hockey sense and/or character.
What I would do when I talked to scouts who worked for me in the past was tell them to break down those three components [skill, physique, skating] first. If the players have the three components, then you start to look at their hockey sense and character, and really start to zero in on those because they are so vital.
(Emphasis added) Full Interview can be found here.
Dudley seems overly concerned with how a player looks rather than how he plays. While hockey sense and character are important elements they don’t necessarily translate into an effective NHL player. As Kent puts it:
“it doesn’t matter as much if a guy can skate: it matters if he puts that skill to use in a meaningful fashion. Otherwise he’ll likely be detrimental even if it seems the club could really use some speed. It’s not wrong to desire a mix of qualities or to try to build a team with a balance of abilities. But those concerns should ultimately be subordinate to the question of how effective a guy is at driving possession and goal differential.”
While Dudley was not with the Leafs very long, I think he made an impact. He was brought in just prior to the Draft, and the Tyler Biggs pick has Rick Dudley pick written all over him. I have a suspicion that he was the one who wanted to bring Carter Ashton aboard. Nothing against Carter Ashton, but it gives you a sense of the sort of player Dudley values. Dudley looks like the sort of GM who would take the kid who performed the best at the Draft Combine. Brian Burke already has a blind spot for unnecessary levels of “truculence, belligerence, and testosterone”, and Dudley probably magnified that while he was here.
More than anything the Leafs need players capable of puck possession and driving play in the right direction. I doubt that these attributes would show up anywhere on Rick Dudley’s list. This quote from Gare Joyce’s Future Greats and Heatbreaks sums up why I’m not too worried about losing Dudley: “[he] looks for athletes and athleticism – he’d be anti-Moneyball.” While he may snag a few players Burke had his eye on in the later rounds they’d be guys unlikely to become the sort of players that the Leafs need. The Leafs are better off without him.