The Seattle expansion team has officially announced the hiring of their first ever general manager. Ron Francis, legendary NHL player and former Carolina Hurricanes GM has been hired for the job. The team released an exhaustive history of Francis’ hockey career, explaining exactly why they chose him and including several quotes from other executives around the league. One from Mike Vellucci, who was an assistant GM during Francis’ tenure in Carolina, explains how he’ll build the Seattle team:
Ron is an intelligent manager who knows the kind of players he wants. He will draft and acquire players with a high-hockey IQ who understand how to play together, think a couple plays ahead and know the right way to play the game. He looks for players with high-level skills, such as skating, puck protection and stick-handling.
Though he left the Hurricanes before they experienced so much success last season, his fingerprints are still all over the roster. Most notably perhaps was his selection of Sebastian Aho in the second round of the 2015 draft, a player that currently sits fifth in scoring among that draft class behind only Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Mitch Marner and Mikko Rantanen.
Francis will need to find some steals like that if he wants the Seattle team to be competitive quickly. Though they will have the same rules for the expansion draft that Vegas took advantage of, teams will likely be much more prepared this time around. An advantage he will have however is the almost two full years of preparation he now has, as the Seattle front office including CEO Tod Leiweke have committed to a GM earlier than any other expansion team. Francis will have a say in the training facilities for both the NHL team and the proposed AHL affiliate in Palm Springs, building the entire player development department from the ground up.
Still, it will be a tough task for Seattle to follow in the incredible footsteps of the Golden Knights and GM George McPhee. Reaching the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season should not be an expectation, and likely isn’t even a goal of this group. Francis’ plan in Carolina included a slow build through the draft given the team’s limited resources, and even with an increase in those it seems as though he’ll follow a similar path.
The Seattle team—which still does not have a name as of now—will begin play in the 2021-22 season.