Carolina Hurricanes

Ron Francis Takes Command of Carolina Hurricanes with Bold Coaching Firings

Carolina Hurricanes NHL hockey team Executive Vice President and General Manager Ron Francis takes questions from members of the media during a news conference in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, May 5, 2014. The hockey team announced today that head coach Kirk Muller was dismissed and the search for a new coach is underway. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Gerry Broome/Associated Press
Mark JonesSenior Analyst IMay 6, 2014

Just one week after taking over the Carolina Hurricanes' general manager position, Ron Francis made a strong statement about his leadership abilities and organizational vision.

Monday, Francis did more than sweep the porch. The 51-year-old former Hall of Famer fired head coach Kirk Muller after three seasons, axed assistants Dave Lewis and John MacLean and even reassigned goalie coach Greg Stefan. 

Monday, Francis renovated the house.

Kirk Muller (foreground) and Dave Lewis (background) look on from behind the bench.
Kirk Muller (foreground) and Dave Lewis (background) look on from behind the bench.Phil Ellsworth/Getty Images

"In fairness to Kirk and his staff, it wasn't your typical first three years as a head coach," he said in a press conference later in the afternoon. "Coming in the first year, then having a lot go on the second year and then an Olympic year the third year."

"But for me, it was important to get a fresh start moving forward."

A fresh start indeed. Only seven days removed from his induction press conference, in which he called the coaching situation "a decision that kind of needs due process," Francis' moves on Monday were unprecedentedly swift. 

In the span of a single week—one that Francis called "a pretty rough first week" in one of Monday's lighter moments—the Hurricanes have removed the incumbent from arguably the four most prominent offices on the team. 

MONTREAL - JUNE 26:  Associate Head Coach/Director of Player Development Ron Francis of the Carolina Hurricanes speaks from the podium during the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft at the Bell Centre on June 26, 2009 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Pho
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Yet the quick and sweeping decision also emphasized Francis' unwavering confidence in an executive role, setting forth a standard of decisiveness that already contrasts sharply with Jim Rutherford's legacy of frustrating hesitancy.

Such a standard could prove even more critical for Carolina's team identity search when the draft and free agency roll around. Opposing GMs may take Francis and the reinvigorated 'Canes front office more seriously; interested players on the open market may do the same when considering Raleigh as a destination.

Peter Karmanos addressing fans in 2010.
Peter Karmanos addressing fans in 2010.Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images

Francis' boldness will surely send a message to owner Peter Karmanos, too, who seemed to be on a fast track toward micromanagement over the past few months.

Karmanos received considerable ire in April after telling TV commentator John Forslund, "I like our coaching staff. I think they've made a lot of progress with the team."

Monday, Francis figuratively told Karmanos to be quiet and stay focused solely on the business side.

It takes a lot of bravery for a first-year, much less first-week, general manager to send that kind of public memo to an owner. It also offers a glimpse into Francis' leadership mentality that should excite fans tremendously.

NEWARK, NJ - JUNE 30:  Vice President of Hockey Operations Ron Francis of the Carolina Hurricanes attends the 2013 NHL Draft at Prudential Center on June 30, 2013 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

Francis noted he hopes to have a new coaching staff in place before the NHL draft on June 27.

"I'm looking for a guy that is a teacher," he said in the press conference. "In today's game, you have to be able to communicate extremely well...you have to have strong leadership qualities and...you have to be able to manage people and the different personalities that you're dealing with in that locker room."

Francis mentioned he had "already had...some calls and emails" from prospective coaches, as well.

Monday's decision jump-started an offseason of wide-scale change for the 'Canes organization, an offseason that is really just beginning. If the past week has opened up the opportunities for reconstruction, the months ahead will provide the true excitement of filling them.

It's comforting to know that Ron Francis is prepared to take firm command in the face of such wide-scale change.

 

Mark Jones has been a Carolina Hurricanes Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report since 2009. Visit his profile to read more or follow him on Twitter.

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