After having a few hours last night and this morning to process things, they still feel just as crazy right now as they did last night. Ron Francis is out as Hurricanes general manager. He will now take a role as President of Hockey Operations, although the new GM will reportedly report directly to Dundon instead of the President of Hockey Ops.
I’ll start by saying that I think Ron Francis did an excellent job turning this team around. He turned a team of almost completely AHL level players, if that, to a team that has legit NHL talent and promise.
2014-2015 (Francis’ first year as GM) 2017-2018 (Francis’ last year) current roster:
roster (with 20+ GP):
Phil Di Giuseppe
Trevor van Riemsdyk
There is no doubt that Francis has completely rebuilt this team. The Canes are now a competitive team who “should” be in the playoff hunt.
There was clearly some disconnect between Francis and new owner Tom Dundon. Dundon seems to want to be aggressive, make some moves, and try to immediately make the team better. Francis has been reluctant, and he has stuck to his five year rebuild plan, and this year is year four. Francis has stuck to the plan, and he hasn’t gone out and made some of the moves that a lot of people seem to think the team needed to make. Don’t get me wrong, he had an aggressive offseason, acquiring goaltender Scott Darling in an attempt to fix the team’s goaltending issues. I know that move hasn’t worked out, but Francis did what any GM in his position would’ve done. He went out and got the best backup goalie in the league and asked him to start. Nobody could have seen this coming. Francis also brought in Trevor van Riemsdyk, Justin Williams, Marcus Kruger, and Josh Jooris. Kruger and Jooris haven’t worked out, as Kruger has been waived and is currently in the AHL, and Jooris was traded at the deadline. Williams has been a nice addition to this young team. He’s a veteran leader who has won a Stanley Cup here, and the way he plays the game is something the team needed. van Riemsdyk has also been a nice addition in my eyes. The bottom pair on defense was an issue last season, and van Riemsdyk is a perfect bottom pair defenseman. He’s quiet, but he gets the job done.
Again, you can’t take any credit away from Francis from the job he has done to this point. He has turned the Canes from a team that would always be in contention for the first overall pick to a team that is almost good enough to make the playoffs. And he has built a very nice prospect system through the draft, which is very nice.
Despite all of those things, I still think that moving on from Francis was the right move. Francis was the right guy to come in and clean up the mess that was left before him. He did that. Now, the team needs a guy upstairs that will help them take that last step. The winning step. Dundon isn’t going to want and sit around. He will want change and results immediately, and I can’t blame him.
What happens next?
What happens next will in all honesty say a lot about Dundon’s time as owner.
It’s been reported that Dundon wants his new General Manager to report directly to him, instead of where the GM typically does, the President of Hockey Operations, which is now Ron Francis. To me, that shows that Francis may not stick around too long. Maybe Francis will stick around to see how the team he has built turns out in what would be the final year of his five year rebuild plan. Maybe he ends up taking the GM job in Seattle when the NHL expands in a couple years. Who knows.
The interesting thing to watch will be Head Coach Bill Peters’ job. It seems as if when Dundon took over, he loved Bill Peters. From the outside looking in, there seems to have been a little bit of a power struggle between Francis and Peters. Peters wanted better players, but Francis would rarely give him that. I think we see who won. But don’t grow too attached to Peters. Dundon will hire a new General Manager, and he should let that new GM hire his own coach, or stick with Peters should the GM want to. It should be up to the new GM. But with Dundon wanting to be directly a part of the decisions, it may not work out exactly how it should.
I like Tom Dundon. I love how he wants to improve the fan experience. I love that he seems to be aggressive and ready to win. But he scares the living hell out of me. While I agree with the decision to replace Francis, it scares me. Dundon is not a real knowledgeable hockey guy, at least not yet. I don’t want him to get too involved. I understand him wanting to be a direct part of the decision making process when it comes to the roster, but I think he needs to be careful. A new owner coming in and pretty quickly replacing his GM, with the GM reportedly considering resigning, in a sport that you aren’t all that comfortable in, it opens some eyes.
First of all, Dundon needs to absolutely nail this new GM hire. My list of targest would begin and end with Kyle Dubas. Dubas is currently the Assistant General Manager with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Dubas is a very good hockey mind. He has been “scouting” the sport since he was a teen. He was named GM of an OHL team at age 25. He was named Toronto’s AGM and GM of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies at age 28. This guy is young, he is smart, and he would be an excellent choice as GM. He is also an analytics guy, which would bode well with the Canes since they have one of the best in the analytics department in Eric Tulsky.
If Dundon hires one of his Texas buddies to be the next Hurricanes GM, we have a problem. I don’t think he’d do that, but it’s a possibility. He. Needs. To. Nail. This. Hire. Dean Lombardi could also be an option, but ehhh. Again, the list should start and end with Dubas. Back up a money truck to his front door. Give him a blank check. Do what you have to do. Get it done.
Like I said earlier, I don’t want to discredit what Francis did to turn this team around. Without him, we probably aren’t in the great position we are in right now. We have a NHL roster that is almost good enough to be a good, playoff team. We have a good prospect pool, and that has to be credited directly to the drafting and the scouting done over Francis’ tenure. Francis did exactly what was needed to be done to get out of the mess that previous GM Jim Rutherford left us in. But now, we need someone who is willing to be aggressive. We need someone that is willing to move some of the assets we have, whether it be prospects, draft picks, or players on the current roster, to push the team over the edge. Ron Francis was never going to be that guy. The patience has rightfully run out in an organization that hasn’t sniffed the NHL playoffs since 2009.
The Canes’ fanbase has been out of patience for a long time. We are tired of waiting. We have suffered long enough. The team is a couple of moves away from being able to win right now, and those moves were not made. I love Ron Francis, but he was never going to be the guy that the Hurricanes needed him to be to take that next step forward.
NOTE: Literally the second I finished this, an article came out from SportsNet saying that Dundon does NOT want to make hockey decisions, at least not directly. That’s an interesting change considering what the idea going around yesterday was. So, some of this article is a little off now, but still, I think it is fair to keep in there.