One of the adjectives used to describe new Carolina owner Tom Dundon is “disruptor.”
Three months into his ownership of the Hurricanes, he has sent shockwaves through his organization and the league. The official team release said Ron Francis “will transition into a new role” as president of hockey operations, but make no mistake, this is a firing without removal from the organization. The new general manager will report directly to Dundon, cutting Francis out of the process.
This has been brewing.
On the weekend, there were rumblings Francis was considering resigning. He did not respond to a few requests for comment, so uncertainty prevented any reporting of the story. The shocker was the timing. Why would the Hurricanes do it during a playoff race, four points out with the trade deadline in the rear-view mirror? (Dundon did not respond to a request for comment, but you have to figure he will address the media Thursday).
According to multiple sources, it became obvious the owner and the GM were a bad match. Francis is patient, preferring a slow, smart build for an organization that did not spend anywhere near the cap. Unafraid to challenge conventional wisdom, Dundon wanted to take more risks. It is believed that, at the trade deadline, those differing philosophies clashed over what moves were available. It was only a matter of time after that.
Francis, one of the franchise’s greatest players ever, was enormously popular in the region and inside the organization. One source said he spent a bit of money out-of-pocket on a gift to staff before this season as a thank you for their hard work prior to the sale. I’m not sure Dundon, who believed a stale team needed a change, will care about that.
But there was anger across the league for how Francis was treated. He was emotionally invested in the Hurricanes, believed they are on the right path and wanted to see it through.
Dundon is tight with Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban, and this is going to give rise to theories that he will be as hands-on with the Hurricanes as Cuban is in the NBA. He has already indicated a desire to add to the team’s analytics staff (they already have one of the best in Eric Tulsky) and any potential candidate now understands the deal going in.
He’s the boss. And, he won’t be quietly lurking in the background.