ramsay-lucic-2008

Craig Ramsay, left, seen with Boston forward Milan Lucic, has been an NHL assistant coach for nearly two decades. ((Mike Dembeck/Associated Press))

The Atlanta Thrashers have hired Craig Ramsay as their new head coach, the team announced Thursday.

Ramsay, 60, has been an assistant coach with the Bruins the past three seasons. He's also served in that capacity with Buffalo, Florida, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia.

The Weston, Ont., native has served as an interim coach before but has never been hired on a permanent basis.

Ramsay, 59, said he wasn't sure he would have another chance to direct a team after a successful but short stint as an interim head coach for the Flyers in 2000.

"It goes through your mind," Ramsay said. "I've been in this business an awfully long time as a player and a coach. … You start to look at it and think maybe that opportunity won't present itself again.

"When this came up and Rick and I got to talk, I relished the opportunity."

Ramsay replaces John Anderson, who was fired after the Thrashers (35-34-13) missed the playoffs for the ninth time in their 10-year existence.

Atlanta general manager Rick Dudley said hiring Ramsay was an easy choice. The two played together with the Buffalo Sabres and AHL Cincinnati. When Dudley was Tampa Bay's general manager, he hired Ramsay as an assistant coach on a team that won the 2004 Stanley Cup.

"The simple truth is I've never had a doubt Craig could be a coach in this league from many years ago," Dudley said. "I brought him into Tampa because he understood exactly what was needed. … There's never been a doubt in my mind. This was something that I thought was long overdue."

Dudley said he was looking for a coach who can teach.

"When you look for a head coach you're looking for somebody who can bring players to their optimal level as quickly as possible, and I've seen him do that before," he said.

What makes the Thrashers, who have made only one playoff appearance, an attractive job?

"That's pretty simple, actually," Ramsay said. "That would be Rick Dudley. I've known Rick Dudley since 1971. He was my first roommate [with the minor league Cincinnati Swords]. We played together on two different occasions [also with the Buffalo Sabres]. I went to work for him in Tampa Bay. He put together a great product there and we won the Stanley Cup.

"I know what he can do as a hockey person. He's one of the best in the business."

Ramsay spent his entire 14-year NHL playing career with the Sabres and was known as one of the best defensive forwards of his era.

Atlanta picks eighth in Friday's NHL entry draft and is hoping to find a player that can one day complement promising youngsters Zach Bogosian, Tobias Enstrom and Evander Kane.

The Thrashers gave up one of the two first-round picks they possessed on Wednesday in a multi-player deal that netted them Chicago playoff hero Dustin Byfuglien.

The Thrashers have restocked via the Byfuglien and Ilya Kovalchuk trades this year, acquiring depth they needed with NHLers Nicklas Bergfors, Johnny Oduya, Brent Sopel and Ben Eager, as well as prospects Patrice Cormier and Akim Aliu.