Hurricanes Lose a Legend in Firing Francis

The Carolina Hurricanes have been a bustle of activity over the past couple of weeks. One of those activities brought to an end the services of former general manager and executive vice-president, Ron Francis. Francis enjoyed a long-running tenure as one of the most beloved names in Hurricanes’ history.

But, that was as a player. As a general manager he was patient and deliberative, two traits that served to bring about his ultimate demise.

Ron Francis
Ron Francis (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

Firing Hall of Fame Legend Ron Francis

The announcement from the team was short and to the point:

The Carolina Hurricanes today announced that the team has terminated the contract of President of Hockey Operations Ron Francis. Francis served as the team’s executive vice president and general manager from Apr. 24, 2014, until Mar. 7, 2018.

There was no fanfare, no “we wish him the best in his future endeavors.” Just like the ice Francis has spent so much if his life on, it was cold and unyielding. The business of hockey moved on as it has for decades and will for decades more.

Francis, the Greatest Whaler

Ron Francis. An NHL legend is no longer part of the team in any fashion. The Hartford Courant described the career of Francis, the greatest Whaler:

Francis, 55, is a four-time All-Star who played 10 seasons with the Whalers, won the Stanley Cup twice with Pittsburgh in the 1990s and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.

The Courant also noted, “Francis, whose No. 10 hangs from the XL Center rafters in Hartford, stockpiled draft picks during the three-plus seasons he spent rebuilding the Hurricanes, but he was criticized for not making enough moves to help the current club and failing to orchestrate a consequential player-for-player trade during that time.”

Francis the GM

That is pretty accurate. Francis did a good job building the team from the ground up, using draft picks and the occasional trade. He leaves behind a team that is full of young, talented players but he never pulled the trigger on bringing a difference-maker to the Hurricanes. He once asked who that might be, at the time a valid question as the free-agent market was not overrun with available players.

Is Francis to blame if former owner Peter Karmanos would not let him spend the money necessary to get a proven scoring forward or two? We will never know. That discussion will now be relegated to being a topic around wings and beer.

Ron Francis is no longer relevant to the plans of the owner, CEO and Governor of the Hurricanes, Tom Dundon. Whatever it was that these two could not agree on is not important. Whatever it was that separated the two philosophically is already part of the past. The future of the Hurricanes includes Dundon and his most recent hire, Rick Dudley, the new senior vice president of hockey operations for the Hurricanes

The Hurricanes also announced that Joe Nieuwendyk has resigned his position as pro scout and advisor. Nieuwendyk is good friends with Francis and likely left because of the Francis termination. Like Francis, Nieuwendyk has had quite a storied career in the NHL, last serving as general manager of the Dallas Stars before coming to the Hurricanes in 2014.

What Happened Between Dundon and Francis?

Looking back to earlier this year when relatively new owner Tom Dundon purchased the team, one has to wonder if he had any inkling that his latest venture would require this type of time and attention. When he demoted Francis he said that he hoped he would stay with the team. Francis had been working from home for the past several weeks, which might cause one to question, “What happened?”

Tom Dundon
Tom Dundon, center (Carolina Hurricanes)

If Dundon wanted Francis to stay with the team, and Francis was working from home, presumably out of sight and not bothering those involved in the day to day operations of the team at the PNC Arena, what suddenly broke and caused Dundon to give Francis a pink slip? Did he terminate Francis to make room for Dudley?

We may never know what the ultimate breaking point was between Dundon and Francis. The bottom line is that Francis is a beloved figure in Raleigh and in Hartford. He was crucial to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ winning the Stanley Cup twice. He is a Hall-of-Famer and a legend. And now, he’s gone from the Hurricanes organization.