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Long before he joined the Leafs' bloated front office, Rick Dudley was a heck of a winger



Young Leaf fans may only know Rick Dudley because of his time in NHL management circles (Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Florida, Atlanta, etc.)  But long before he earned his stripes as a respected “management” type, the guy was quite a hockey player.

Personally, I remember Dudley pretty much exclusively as a Sabre in the mid-‘70s.  I’ll look it up in a second, just to see how good or bad my memory is.  But here’s what I remember about Dudley:  he was fast, and as importantly, he was pretty tough.  He could fly into the corners and take the man.  He had some offensive ability, too.

I don’t know where he played his junior or college hockey, or even if he was drafted.  But I remember that he was pretty darn good as a scoring grinder-type with the Sabres for a couple of seasons.

Maybe I’m off here (Sabre fans of that era can correct me) but I seem to recall he was part of the really good Sabre team that made it to the finals in 1975 before losing in a tough 6-game series against the Flyers.

The Sabres at the time had the “French Connection” line of Gilbert Perreault with Rene Robert and Richard Martin.  They also had a very strong second unit with Don Luce flanked by speedy little Danny Gare and two-way winger Craig Ramsey.  (Ramsey and Luce were also outstanding penalty killers.)

And the third line was….well, I believe Dudley patrolled one of the wings with ex-Leaf forward Brian “Spinner” Spencer on the other side.  Maybe someone could refresh my memory.  Was Peter MacNabb their center?

In any event, Dudley (seen at right, though I remember him in his younger years with a mustache) was a real whirlwind.  He and Spencer could really cause havoc in the other team’s zone.  I recall Dudley as a smoother skater than Brian, but both (especially in the cramped old “Aud” in Buffalo) could really get in on the forecheck and bang bodies.  They were fun to watch, except when they were knocking the Leafs around.  (Spencer- click to read about him- was one of my very favorite early ‘70s Leafs.  A knee injury made him “expendable”, though I remember being bitterly disappointed that they let him go in the expansion draft to the New York Islanders, who later flipped him to the Sabres.)

If I’m not mistaken, Dudley ended up in the WHA (Cincinnati??) for a time, and came back to the NHL with the Sabres.  (I just looked it up.  It was indeed the old WHA Stingers and he did come back to the Sabres, though I don’t remember him being as impactful his second time around.  Nor did I remember him finishing his career with the Winnipeg Jets in the early ‘80s.)

It’s funny how there are just certain guys that you remember.  But Dudley is one of them.  He was a scrappy guy.  In his prime, he would have been an awfully good Maple Leaf when the Leafs were already a decent team in the mid and later '70s.

Heck, they could use someone just like him right now.


3 comments:

  1. Long suffering Leaf fanOctober 22, 2011 at 10:00 AM

    Mike, the center between Dudley and Spencer was none other than Jim Lorentz. With the skill set that you so brilliantly pointed out of Dudley and Spencer in the past, Lorentz was a perfect fit with his tenacious checking style. Bad enough that the Sabres would give us Leafs fans fits, this line I despises very deeply because they seem to always score an important goal or shut down the Leafs chances of coming back in their meetings. Unable to post yesterday, but enjoyed everyone's thoughts...and yes we need to give this at least 15-20 games before making a final judgment. Yet, that being said Mike, since your site is vintage Leafs, what advice do you think a Hall of Fame D-man like Allan Stanley would give Cody Franson? From what you posted about Stanley in the past, they seem to have the same temperament...large men who are not overly physical...yet Stanley found his niche in TO playing under the over demanding Imalach! I believe Franson can be just as effective if given the chance.

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  2. Long suffering....Lorentz...now that makes sense, looking back. Pretty good third line, eh?

    You raise a very interesting point about Stanley. He had been "booed" in New York, and found wanting in Chicago before that and Boston as well before he ever got to Toronto and Mr. Imlach. And you're right, he was not overly physical but very effective. He and Horton would have their rough nights, but overall, they were awfully effective together.

    My sense is the advice Stanley would give young Franson is to play his game, not try to be something he is not. That does not mean he can't improve his defensive zone coverage (he surely can!), but don't get caught in a situation where he doesn't use his strengths (skating, moving the puck) and he ends up in no-man's land and providing nothing.

    It strikes me that confidence is key here, and Franson is now worried every night that he will be the guy to sit, since that precedent has already been set. (Personally, I don't like the current set-up- it's one thing to have to compete and not take things for granted, it's another to have no sense of comfort on the ice and worrying that every little mistake will see you end up in the press box...)

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  3. I agree with Long Suffering - those Sabres gave us fits! And I remember Dudley as one of those players who I loved/hated - as Michael said, he'd have been a great fit on the Leafs.
    As for Franson, I agree that a player won't reach his potential if he has to keep getting worried about being benched if he has a bad shift/period/game. I hope for good things from Franson, but he hasn't really been given a chance, and his play certainly seems to have suffered. Having said that, mentioning Alan Stanley is apt because the success of defence pairings seems to be more art than science. He just seemed to "work" with Horton, as Brewer did with Baun. Gardiner worked well with Komisarek in pre-season, and should be OK with Schenn. It's hard not to be concerned that playing him 22+ minutes a game is going to wear him down, though.

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