Seattle Times writer Geoff Baker has reported that the newest organization in the NHL will make one of the most important decisions facing an expansion team. Former player Ron Francis will be named the club’s first general manager. (From: “Hall of Famer Ron Francis to be hired as general manager of Seattle’s new NHL team” – Seattle Times – 07/16/2019).
Baker says that the 59-year-old will have full-say in his assistant general managers, front office staff and coaches. Although, these hirings aren’t likely to happen anytime soon.
Francis was previously in the Carolina Hurricanes organization. He served as the general manager from 2014 to 2018 before being moved to the president of hockey operations position for just two months. He was then let go by the organization. The decision to fire Francis came shortly after the team was sold to new owner Tom Dundon.
Francis made a number of moves with the Hurricanes that were extremely important to the team’s playoff run in 2018-19. From drafting Sebastian Aho in 2015 to trading for Teuvo Teravainen from the Chicago Blackhawks, his mark was on the roster. There are
Earlier this offseason, there were rumours that Francis was approached by the Ottawa Senators for the president of hockey operations position, but that he turned it down. It’s possible that he was waiting for this opportunity to present itself.
Prior to his front office jobs, Francis was a star as a player in the NHL. He played 23 seasons in the league for the Hartford Whalers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs and the Hurricanes. In 1,731 games, he had 549 goals, 1,249 assists and 1,798 points. His assist total sits second all-time, only behind Wayne Gretzky, and his points are fifth.
Throughout his career, he won three Lady Byng Trophies, a Frank J. Selke Trophy and a King Clancy Memorial Trophy. He was also a four-time all-star. Most importantly, he won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1990-91 and 1991-92.
Francis retired in 2005 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a first-year ballot in 2007.
Seattle was unanimously voted in as the NHL’s 32nd team at the Board of Governors meeting in Dec. 2018. There’s a long road ahead for the Seattle-based team and Francis as the team looks to hit the ice in the 2021-22 season.
What’s Next for Seattle?
As Seattle gets ready to ice it’s first hockey team since the Seattle Totems of the Western Hockey League in 1975, there’s much work to be done. The good news is that Francis, team owners David Bonderman, Jerry Bruckheimer, and CEO Tod Leiweke have some time before their inaugural season.
The next thing to expect from the organization will likely be a name. Many have speculated what that name could be, but there’s been no real word from the franchise. What is known, is that they submitted a list of 13 potential names to be registered with the city. The list consists of the Kraken, Totems, Emeralds, Rainiers, Sockeyes, Renegades, Sea Lions, Seals, Evergreens, Whales, Cougars, Eagles and Firebirds.
Another piece that will be added is a head coach. With the team not starting until 2021-22, this one may take some time. For the Vegas Golden Knights, an expansion team themselves, they hired general manager George McPhee in July 2016, the team name in Nov. 2016 and the head coach Gerard Gallant in Mar. 2017. It may take some time.
What should happen sooner than a coach is the team announcing the hiring of an assistant general manager. With Francis in place, Seattle will want to fill out their front office as much as they can as they get closer to puck drop. Numerous names who were linked to multiple team’s general manager positions this offseason are still on the market, including Mark Hunter, Ron Hextall, Mike Futa, and Mike Gillis. Seattle is just getting started.
Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.