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Thrashers fire coach as part of management shakeup

ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Thrashers made a major shakeup Wednesday after again missing the playoffs, firing coach John Anderson and appointing Rick Dudley to replace Don Waddell as the general manager.

Waddell was bumped upstairs to team president, where he will responsible mainly for the business aspects of a franchise that has made the postseason only once since entering the NHL in 1999 and ranked near the bottom of the league in attendance.

Dudley, who joined the Thrashers as associate general manager last summer, will run the hockey operations, looking to bolster a roster that dealt its top player, Ilya Kovalchuck, at this season's trade deadline when it couldn't come to terms on a new contract.

"We have a lot of important pieces in place, and I look forward to building this organization even further and working closely with Don, the owners and our staff towards achieving our goals," Dudley said in a statement. "I've been in this situation before and we will accomplish our objectives. I appreciate Don and the owners giving me this opportunity to build on what has already been put in place."

The 61-year-old Dudley served as general manager of the Ottawa Senators in 1998-99 before moving to the same role in Tampa Bay, where he spent three years and was credited with putting together much of the nucleus for a team that won the Stanley Cup in 2004.

Waddell had been the only general manager in Thrashers' history. While responsible for drafting future stars like Kovalchuk and Dany Heatley, he never put together a consistent winner and became the most visible target of fans upset about the Thrashers' direction.

There have also been numerous reports speculating that the team could leave Atlanta unless the situation improves, both on the ice and at the gate.

"My role within the company has evolved and grown the last few years, and the owners and I agree that it's the appropriate time to have Rick assume all hockey-related responsibilities while I shift my primary focus to the business side of the Thrashers," Waddell said.

"I will be less involved with the team on a daily basis, but will continue to make myself available to Rick and to lend my experience in any way that allows him to succeed and for us to build this club into a perennial contender."

Anderson served only two years as the Thrashers' coach after being promoted from the same job with the team's top minor-league affiliate in Chicago. He was 70-75-19 and had a nasty falling-out with one of the team's leading offensive players, Slava Kozlov, who said the team had the talent to make the playoffs but was poorly coached.

The team also fired Anderson's three assistant coaches: Randy Cunneyworth, Todd Nelson and Steve Weeks.