The NHL’s expansion franchise in Seattle has named Ron Francis as their first general manager. The announcement came down Thursday, as expected, and the league’s 32nd team will take to the ice in 2021-2022.
“I am excited to join NHL Seattle as its first general manager and to work in partnership with Tod (Leiweke), David Bonderman, our ownership group and the NHL Seattle team to continue to build a world-class organization and hockey operation,” Francis said. “12 seasons working in player development, coaching, scouting, and management have led me to this moment and this role. I’m excited to bring that experience to Seattle as we build something truly special and historic.”
Francis, of course, was an executive with the Carolina Hurricanes from 2006 to 2018. He was general manager of that franchise for four years.
Francis was named general manager of the Hurricanes in April of 2014 after Jim Rutherford stepped down. At that point, Carolina hadn’t made the post-season since 2009.
In Francis’ first draft as GM, the team snagged Haydn Fleury with their first round selection and began building for the future. Bill Peters was named head coach in June of 2014, but the Hurricanes were still not playoff bound.
In 2015, Noah Hanifin was the first-round selection for Francis and Co. Sebastian Aho was picked in the second round and we all know how that ended up.
Francis continued to put his mark on the Hurricanes after that, with some wins and some losses in the trade column. He sent Eric Staal away to the New York Rangers in February of 2016, ending an era. He acquired Teuvo Teravainen in June of 2016 and that was largely a success, but the subsequent signing of goalie Scott Darling was not as successful.
In July of 2017, Francis signed Justin Williams.
In March of 2018, new majority owner Tom Dundon named Francis director of hockey operations and Don Waddell is named the new general manager. A month later, the Hurricanes have missed the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season and Francis’ contract is terminated.
Through it all, the Hurricanes never made the post-season under Francis and the rebuild he constructed was extensive and somewhat painful.
But on the other hand, Francis has to be credited with acquiring the young player base Carolina has today. Their return to the post-season could not have happened without his fingerprints and his nose for talent put together an impressive if imposing roster.
Seattle is clearly banking on that nose for the future and they’ll task him with constructing their roster from scratch, no easy feat. While betting on Francis may not have the new team up and rolling in Golden Knights-esque fashion, but he should be able to position the Emerald City’s hockey club for a deep, prospect-rich path.
Photo credit: NHL Seattle