There has been plenty of speculation about the apparent lack of urgency on the part of Seattle Kraken general manager Ron Francis when it comes to hiring a coach. Do none of the currently available candidates, despite many having impressive résumés, fit the role to his satisfaction? It could be that he wants more overall control over the player selection process, and by bringing in a coach late in the game, his own Expansion Draft preferences will rule the day. That wouldn’t be unreasonable, as personnel decisions are generally the domain of the GM, but one would think a coach needs to be involved, at least to some degree.
We’ve already seen coaches exit their teams in 2020-21. First in Montreal, where Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin wasted little time after a hot start fizzled out, replacing his bench boss Claude Julien on February 24th. The Calgary Flames followed suit shortly after, replacing Geoff Ward with a familiar face, former 2003-06 head coach Darryl Sutter, who returns for a second stint, now with two Stanley Cups to his name. The waiting game should see other candidates enter the market, but there’s a chance that a very late arrival might be the perfect choice.
Longtime Teammates and Coworker
Francis retired in 2004 after a long and productive playing career. His last five seasons were played on a Carolina Hurricanes’ roster that included Rod Brind’Amour, who two short seasons after Francis’ retirement would lead the team from Raleigh to their first and only Stanley Cup victory. While Brind’Amour continued to play until 2009-10, Francis entered the team’s hockey management structure, holding multiple titles such as director of scouting, associate coach, and ultimately general manager.
In 2010-11 when Francis was Director of Player Personnel and Associate Coach, Brind’Amour accepted a role as Director of Player Development (Forwards), and when the former became Director of Hockey Operations, the latter took an assistant coaching role with the team.
Both men spent a large chunk of their careers with the Hurricanes (or Whalers as they were when Francis was drafted) and went through the many ups and downs that the franchise has seen in the past twenty years together. Now, as the Kraken GM prepares to embark on a new adventure on the west coast, his longtime coworker is unlikely to be relieved of his duties in Carolina but has a contract that is set to expire this summer.
Brind’Amour, who inherited the captain’s “C” upon Francis’ retirement, certainly knows and respects Francis as the fifth all-time point producer in NHL history, and that respect is no doubt mutual. And while the team Brind’Amour coaches in Carolina, one that has Francis’ fingerprints all over its roster construction, is exciting, the challenge of building a brand new franchise into a champion has to be a tempting one.
Francis Knows Hurricanes Coach Brind’Amour
None of this suggests there is any foul play or collusion is at work here. Brind’Amour is still under contract with his current team, and Francis is under no “set” timeline to select his head coach. The thought that a capable and competent coach, with whom he has decades of familiarity, just might be available if he simply waits until the end of the playoffs has to at least enter Francis’ mind. On the other side of things, Brind’Amour is allegedly amongst the lowest-paid coaches in the league and might be willing to hit the market, if only to listen to offers and gauge his true worth rather than simply extending his current deal. If a friend and former teammate offers him a substantial raise, he’d be a fool not to consider it.
The Kraken have a surprisingly large talent pool already on their payroll, assessing players visually and statistically, and that could allow them to delay the coach hiring, secure in the knowledge that they can quickly get a successful candidate up to speed. There are a number of options out there, some of whom have already expressed interest in the job, and while some of them could be hired by other teams in the interim, each hiring means another potential coach is available. Whenever the carousel stops, Francis will be ready, and Kraken fans will be one step closer to seeing NHL hockey in Seattle.
Canadian, Hockey Fan since birth, Husband, Father, and follower of all things Oilers and Kraken.