MONTREAL – Rick Dudley and Larry Carriere are back in familiar territory.
After spending two seasons together in the Sabres dressing room in the mid-70s, Dudley and Carriere will be reunited in the Canadiens’ front office this year. Just as he did as a rookie in Buffalo, Dudley is ready to learn the ropes from his former teammate in his new NHL home.
“We’re good friends and we have been for what seems like 100 years now,” joked Dudley via conference call from his home in Lewiston, NY. “We played together and won a championship in the American League. We went to the Stanley Cup Finals in the National Hockey League and we’ve been good friends while he’s worked through a couple of different organizations including Buffalo, Washington and Montreal and while I was with an inordinately large number of organizations.”
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While Dudley, a former winger, may have gone up against his fellow assistant GM in practice over the years before going head-to-head as members of competing organizations, he isn’t anticipating any rivalry ramping up on the Bell Centre’s seventh floor this fall.
“We’ve always maintained a really close friendship,” shared Dudley of his relationship with the former Sabres defenseman. “He’s a guy I respect and like personally. That part of the equation was very easy for me; I have no problem sharing responsibilities with Larry whatsoever.”
From his first day on the job, Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin has stressed the importance of surrounding himself with the right people and listening to different points of view before making decisions. So it was no surprise that on the same day he announced Dudley’s new gig, he also made sure to make room for two “right hand men”.
“Larry has been a pillar since I arrived here. The insight he’s given me on the team and the structure and the landscape of the Montreal Canadiens has been tremendous,” explained Bergevin, who extended Carriere’s contract on Friday. “It was important for me once I hired Rick that we all knew Larry was a big part of it moving forward. I extended Larry because you can never have enough good hockey people around. Having Larry here with Rick just makes the Montreal Canadiens that much better.”
Having laid the foundations for two Stanley Cup winning seasons, the Lighting in 2004 and the Blackhawks in 2010, Dudley knows what it takes to build a championship team. He also knows how to develop young talent, having groomed Bergevin during his first job in professional hockey after the longtime blue-liner finally hung up his skates.
But with two assistant general managers now at his disposal, Bergevin still hasn’t crossed the Ts and dotted the Is on each of their new job descriptions just yet.
“There’s a lot of work to go around,” he explained. “Larry has been with the team the last couple of years, especially last year as an assistant coach. He’s going to help us moving forward with free agents and with signing players in Hamilton and Rick has a vast knowledge of players around the league. It’s going to be great to work with both these men. As of right now I don’t have specific roles until I sit down with them and go over it.”
One role Dudley definitely won’t be adding to his portfolio this summer is helping Bergevin prepare for his first draft with the Habs – something the new GM isn’t worried about in the slightest.
“We have an agreement with the Toronto Maple Leafs that Rick will not work in any way, shape or form with Montreal’s draft this year and we’re going to respect that,” stressed Bergevin, who convinced Brian Burke to let Dudley make the jump to a division rival. “Trevor Timmins has been working with his staff all year and I really have faith in Trevor doing the job. There are a lot of things Rick is going to be able to help us out with a great deal, but the draft isn’t one of them.”
During his first press conference on May 2, Bergevin promised to surround himself with strong hockey minds. On Friday morning, he did exactly that. With more than 70 years of professional hockey experience between them, Dudley and Carriere should prove to be the perfect tag team to help Bergevin navigate his first year in the GM chair in Montreal.