Ron Francis will be the first ever General Manager for Seattle’s expansion team. How has his time with the Carolina Hurricanes set him up for it?
Having Been named the inaugural general manager of the incoming Seattle expansion franchise, the former Carolina Hurricanes legend brings with him a vast array of experience. Both his success, and failures, should inform his upcoming position; and Seattle should reap the benefits of a Hall of Fame hockey mind.
Ron Francis will always be a Carolina Hurricane. This city is where he made his mark. It is always interesting discussing his career with fans of the sport. They know of his success in Pittsburgh, but it isn’t really home to one of the game’s best.
He began as a player in Hartford, was able to lift Stanley’s Cup in Pittsburgh, and enjoyed a long and fruitful career cementing his status as the greatest player in Carolina Hurricanes history, and one of the best players the game had seen.
That experience, knowing the game the way that Ronnie Franchise does, played a big role in the success that Francis experienced when he transitioned to the Carolina front office in 2011. There were many ups and downs during Francis’ tenure in the front office, but his presence, and his steady hand as the team’s General Manager from 2014 to 2018, laid the foundation for a lot of what has made this team so successful.
Consider some of what he had done in Carolina as GM. He never really drafted a bust in the first round. Haydn Fleury is an NHL-caliber Defenseman for the Hurricanes, Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm are both NHL contributors outside of Carolina, and Jake Bean is one of Carolina’s best prospects, and a player who could be a major factor in this upcoming season.
Where Ron really made a name for himself was what he was able to do after the first round in drafts. He got Alex Nedeljkovic in the second round, who is now the Hurricanes top goalie prospect. He drafted Warren Foegele a round later, the same Foegle who tied the franchise record for most playoff points by a rookie. Lucas Wallmark 97th, and Clark Bishop 127th, both players played roles on last year’s team.
Sebastian Aho was a second-round pick, Teuvo Teravainen was traded as incentive to take on Bryan Bickell’s contract, and players like Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce where both taken in the later rounds of the draft when Francis was the president of Hockey Operations.
Often times Francis was criticized for what he didn’t do when general manager. There are few moves Francis orchestrated that reflect poorly on his ability, but there were so few moves made. There where seasons where this team was close to the playoffs, but Francis was always content to let the young guys play the year and look toward the draft.
This way of operating greatly contributed to the team’s ten-year playoff absence, and ultimately cost Francis his job. This doesn’t mean, however, that Francis can’t learn from his mistakes. The greatest example of what a career rebirth can look like is Carolina’s current GM, Don Waddell.
Waddell wasn’t bad as the only General Manager in Atlanta Thrasher history, but that doesn’t mean that he was particularly good. Waddell was often thwarted by bad luck and a really poor market. Financially, Waddell had little assistance, fans weren’t showing up to games, and many of the great players that Waddell drafted would eventually force their way out of Atlanta.
When Waddell came to Carolina, he showed the hockey world that he was ready for another opportunity. He was aggressive, but not in a way that was detrimental to the future of the organization. He drafted well, and he has put in place a coaching staff that may end up being as good as Peter Laviolette.
Francis could mirror this. If he learns from his mistakes in Carolina and adopts an urgent mentality with an eye towards the future, this expansion season could mirror what the Vegas Golden Knights accomplished in their inaugural season. This could definitely be the case, or Francis could rely on his previous method of development, and simply let time and experience build his team; whether the Seattle brass would be so patient is yet to be determined.
It is interesting though; this feels like the perfect job for Francis. He has always strived in the market that isn’t developed. He was the face of Carolina for so many years, a fanbase that was so often misunderstood. Seattle is getting a guy that relishes the kind of underdog mentality they will need to embrace in order to be successful.
One thing is for sure, Carolina has set Francis up for success; whether he learns form the past or not, is up to him.