Rick Dudley will be staying on as assistant general manager of the Montreal Canadiens for the forseeable future after agreeing to a more lucrative deal to stay with the franchise. Jace Sternberger Super Bowl Jersey . The move comes after the Canadiens were approached by the Buffalo Sabres for permission to speak to Dudley - a former Sabres player and head coach. "The Sabres called for permission and I appreciate that, Im flattered, Dudley told TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com. "And Berg (Montreal GM Marc Bergevin) said he would never stand in my way which I appreciate, too. But he said, Ive got something for you to think about. He presented me with an option, and you know what, I came to Montreal because of Berg, and Ill stay in Montreal because of Berg. Its been a lot of fun. If youre doing something you enjoy, why would you change it? Dudley said Bergevin phoned the Sabres on Wednesday to inform them he would stay with the Canadiens. In return, he got a contract extension. "It got extended by a lot, said Dudley, who turns 65 in January. "It probably means itll be my last deal. This is a great organization. Id like to help build one more (champion) like the Blackhawks and Lightning, I think it can happen with this organization, and if it does, it would be wonderful. Dudley was hired away from the Toronto Maple Leafs by Bergevin in 2012. Prior to joining the Leafs, he worked with the Atlanta Thrashers from 2009 to 2011, beginning as associate general manager before being promoted to general manager, assuming that role until the franchise moved to Winnipeg. From 2004 to 2009, Dudley worked with the Chicago Blackhawks serving as the teams assistant general manager after starting off as a hockey consultant. In Chicago, his work was conducive to the Hawks first Stanley Cup win in 48 years. Dudley previously had served as general manager of the Florida Panthers from 2002 to 2004. From 1999 to 2002, he was the Tampa Bay Lightnings general manager and played a significant role in building this team for the 2004 Stanley Cup win. Prior to joining the Lightning, he held the position of general manager of the Ottawa Senators in 1998-1999, taking the team to the top of their division for the first time in franchise history. Dudley thanked Sabres executive Pat LaFontaine for reaching out to him. "I think Patty LaFontaine will do the right things in Buffalo and I really appreciate them calling, Dudley told LeBrun. "But we started something here with Montreal and I want to be around for when it comes to fruition. Ray Nitschke Super Bowl Jersey . Granato was an assistant for the Pittsburgh Penguins for the last five seasons, and he was also part of Team USAs staff at the 2014 Olympics. Kenny Clark Super Bowl Jersey . 1-9 on TSN. With more than 65 hours of exclusive live coverage, TSN delivers all the action beginning with Draw 1 on Saturday, Feb. 1 at 2 p. http://www.shoptheofficialpackers.com/Elite-Tramon-Williams-Packers-Jersey/ . TSN 1290s coverage begins with Hustler & Lawless at 3pm. Rick Ralph hosts the Official Jets Pre-game Show at 5pm.Atlanta Falcons Reason for Pessimism The Atlanta Falcons had an excellent regular season last year, winning 13 games. But many of them were by remarkably close scores. I remember the Carolina game and the Hail Mary pass from Matt Ryan to Roddy White to position the Falcons for the winning field goal. That game could have gone either way. The same in regards to the Oakland game - won by three. The Arizona game? Won by four. The Tampa Bay game was won by one. The Saints game was won by four - on the last play of the game. And the playoff game at home against Seattle - a 30-28 win in the last minute. Thats six games that could have gone either way and in a very tough NFC South. The Falcons will need that late game skill again. The rushing attack was 29th and on defence was 24th - being 21st against the run and 23rd against the pass. The Falcons are a very good team that needs to improve. The biggest concern is cornerback. Asante Samuel will take care of one side but the other may be a rookie. Either Desmond Trufant or Robert Alford. Either way, starting a rookie cornerback is a risk but Atlanta may not have a choice. Reason for Optimism Matt Ryan has signed a new big time contract and heres why. He has 56 wins in his first five seasons and the record for wins in their first six seasons is 60 by Ben Roethisberger. Matt Ryan may surpass that significant record as soon as week on Monday night Football at home against the Jets. As a team the Falcons were +13 in takeaway and giveaway and second in third down completion percentage. Thank you, Matt Ryan. All the Falcons need to be the best offence in football is for Steven Jackson to stay healthy and the best three receivers in football - Jones, White and Gonzalez to do what they do. The other key component is Osi Umenyiora as a pass rusher on one side and Kroy Biermann on the other side. They must play well to offset the youth in the secondary. Give credit to the Falcons in that they were one more good play from a Super Bowl appearance and still may have eight new starters in the effort to improve. Reality: Tough, tough division. New Orleans will be better and Tampa Bay as well. Carolina always plays Atlanta tough. But the Falcons have great receivers and an improved defence depending on the two young cornerbacks. The two games against New Orleans will probably determine the division. Theyll finish first in NFC South. New Orleans Saints Reason for Pessimism Last year, the New Orleans Saints allowed an all-time record for yards allowed with 7,O42. They also had nine games of 25 points allowed or more. Their total defence was ranked 32nd, their rushing defence was 32nd, pass defence 31st and their scoring defence was also 31st. Can that defence now contain Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and an improving Josh Freeman? Until proven, its the biggest question with the Saints. They do have three good young players in free agent Keenan Lewis from Pittsburgh, John Jenkins at the nose from Georgia and Kenny Vaccaro out of Texas. But can all three be 16-game starters? Reason for Optimism You cant undervalue the presence and accountability of Sean Payton back as head coach. In the last three years with him, the Saints won 37 of a possible 48 games and won it all in 2009. Without him, they were 7-9. Even if the defence plays mildly better, the Saints can win games on their own - second in total offence, first in passing offence, third in scoring offence and fourth on red zone efficiency. The only negative number was rushing offence, which was 25th. But you know that will improve with Payton back. And you know the Saints wont start the season 0-4 again. Reality: If the defence catches up withh the offence, then the Saints are a playoff team again this year. Corey Linsley Super Bowl Jersey. The have two key games with Atlanta to open the season at home, then its off to Thursday Night Football on Nov. 21. That will probably determine the division. The Saints finish second in the NFC South - but not by much. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Reason for Pessimism The Bucs are a team that could finish first or last in the NFC South. They started the season a strong 6-4 but ended it a poor 1-5. And the one win was against an Atlanta team in Week 17 that had little to play for. The concern for the Bucs is quarterback Josh Freeman. He did have a great year in terms of passing yards and touchdowns passes, but threw 10 of his 17 interceptions over three games late in the season - which kept the Bucs out of the playoffs. Still, Tampa Bay spent money in free agency and if that pans out then what was one of the worst secondaries will become one of the best. In one of the oddest years in defence, the Bucs finished first against the run and 32nd against the pass. Can that pass defence catch up with the run defence? Reason for Optimism There are some hidden gems of talent on this years Bucs team. Doug Martin was spectacular last year and a big reason was Carl Nicks at left guard and Donald Penn at left tackle. Vincent Jackson had a good year, Gerald McCoy lived up to his high draft pick status as a defensive tackle and Mason Foster played well at middle linebacker. Finally, Darrelle Revis, Mark Barron, Eric Wright and Dashon Goldson make up talent wise an excellent secondary. A lot will depend on Josh Freeman and the pressure is on. Greg Schiano has not said it is his job to lose and they also drafted quarterback Mike Glennon. The Bucs could be a 10 win team. Reality: Just like the Panthers, the probable is who do the Bucs move ahead of into the playoffs? The Saints or the Falcons? I say its possible but the Bucs will finish third in the NFC South. Carolina Panthers Reason for Pessimism This is probably it for Ron Rivera. For the last two years, the start of the season has been disastrous but and the end of the season has been terrific. Last year, the Panthers won five of their last six but lost six of there first seven. Statistically, there was nothing that outstanding about what Carolina did on offence or defence. They finished Top 10 on defence and 12th on offence - pretty good . Not dominant, but pretty good. They do need to find another receiver other than Steve Smith, but thats been an issue for years and if they do then Cam Newton will have another year as good as his rookie campaign. In that year, Carolina won 12 games and made the playoffs. The pressure is on this year - more than ever. Reason for Optimism Over the last five years, Carolina has won 12, eight, two, six and seven games - so theyre on their way back (only one game from .500 football!). Also, seven of their losses were by seven points or less. With Newton, his touchdown runs are down but his touchdown passes were up. With three good running backs in Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert, Newton does not have to throw thew ball 30 times to win. And with three good linebackers led by Luke Kuechly and two good outside pass rushers, the Panthers made their first and second pick defensive tackles to make it stonger than ever. Reality: The Panthers are a good team in a very tough division. They also have one of the toughest schedules playing six playoff teams. A lot will depend on how well Newton continues to progress, but he will have to out play Drew Brees and Matt Ryan to be a playoff team. Possible, but not probable. Carolinas fourth in the NFC South. ' ' '
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