Carolina Hurricanes: The Best and Worst of Ron Francis’ Tenure as GM

RALEIGH, NC - APRIL 28: Ron Francis speaks as he is named the new general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes during a press conference at PNC Arena on April 28, 2014 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - APRIL 28: Ron Francis speaks as he is named the new general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes during a press conference at PNC Arena on April 28, 2014 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images) /
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The Worst

His worst decisions as the GM of the Carolina Hurricanes

1. Goaltending flop after flop

One of the biggest things the Carolina Hurricanes struggled with throughout Ron Francis’ tenure as GM was finding competent goaltending. Far too often, they rolled the dice and hoped that various backups would be able to come in and compete for the starting gig in a 1A 1B situation.

After trading away Anton Khudobin for a whole 47 second of James Wisniewski, Francis traded for Eddie Lack. Lack put together a series of disappointing seasons before getting shipped off to Calgary late June 2017. Soon after, he was placed on waivers and traded yet again to New Jersey before finishing the year in the AHL. Suffering injury trouble, he announced his retirement from hockey earlier this year.

Not learning from the Lack situation, the Carolina yet again gave up assets and signed another backup goalie to a hefty extension before he even played a game in Raleigh. Going 13-21-7 in his first season with the Canes, Scott Darling was a massive flop.

Spending some time in the AHL last season, he went from a potential NHL starter to a borderline ECHL caliber goalie overnight. Somehow, the Hurricanes managed to get out of his horrible contact by sending him and a 2020 6th round pick to the Florida Panthers in exchange for James Reimer.

Instantly bought out, Darling spent last season in Austria. With a GAA of 3.34 and a .898 save percentage in 33 games, it is clear this one of the biggest mistakes Francis made in his tenure.

2. Victor Rask’s hefty contract extension

When Victor Rask signed his hefty six-year contract extension back in July 2016 the expectation was that he would continue to improve and make the deal seem like a team-friendly one similar to Slavin and Pesce but the complete opposite occurred.

Rask suffered a laceration off-ice in a kitchen accident and wasn’t able to recover after having surgery. Spending a lot of time on the fourth line or in the press box, he slowly saw his days with the franchise numbered.

Yet again, the Hurricanes somehow managed to get out from under a terrible deal without having to resort to a buyout. Trading Rask to Minnesota in exchange for Nino Niederreiter, the Canes received a solid middle sixer, while the Wild received an expensive borderline13th forward.

3. Failure to make a big move

The negative side to all of his patience and commitment to a plan, Ron never made that big move. Yes, he pulled the trigger on a deal involving long time captain and face of the franchise Eric Staal, but that was really it.

The Hurricanes had a wealth of depth on the blueline but were in desperate need of help up front. There was often speculation that they would finally pull off a blockbuster trade similar to the Taylor HallAdam Larsson deal or the Seth JonesRyan Johansen move, but nothing ever ended up happening.

Instead, Francis wanted to let the young guys play and improve the team internally. A big factor leading to his downfall, ownership was getting tired of not seeing any real results or improvement and felt it was time to move on.

4. Consistent draft misses

Another big component in his downfall was his constant series of draft misses. While Sebastian Aho and Martin Necas appear to be the real deal, there were way too many elite players left on the draft floor.

Now, this isn’t saying that every pick has been a bust, as the Canes have gotten some solid depth guys drafted under Francis, it is just that he often opted for need rather than selecting the best player available.

Although this isn’t entirely on Francis and has a lot to do with the scouting staff, the Hurricanes really only selected players for other teams during his tenure. Most of his draft selections have been traded or went unsigned once their entry-level deals expired.

When you look and see that NHL Stars like David Pastrnak, Mikko Rantanen, Zach Werenski, Mathew Barzal, Kyle Connor, Thomas Chabot, etc. were all selected well after the Hurricanes went up to the podium you can’t help but wonder what could have been.

5. The Peters situation

Lastly, although not coming out until recently, the way the Bill Peters situation was handled is a bit of a red flag.

A few months ago several former players spoke up about times when Peters used racial slurs and abused individuals on the bench. While Francis claimed that what was brought to his attention was addressed at the time, you’d like to think that he would have pulled the trigger on firing his head coach for the team’s best interest.

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Showing confidence in his players, there was no reason Peters should have been allowed to continue to coach the team if even one of the accusations made against him were true. He has since resigned as head coach of the Flames and headed overseas to the KHL.

All things considered, Francis did a decent job as general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes. The year he was let go was going to be the final year of his five-year plan so it would have been interesting to see how things would have played out.

Either way, Seattle has one of the greatest NHL players of all-time leading the ship and I for one can’t wait to see what he has up his sleeve when the Kraken being play in the 2021-22 season.

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Question for CC readers: What is your favorite memory from Ron Francis’ tenure as the general manager or the Carolina Hurricanes?