Lydia Cruz: Why NHL Seattle decided Ron Francis was right pick as GM
Lydia Cruz of 710 ESPN Seattle’s The Blitz at 6 and Seattle Sports Saturday attended the NHL Seattle press conference Thursday to introduce Hockey Hall of Fame member Ron Francis as the expansion franchise’s first-ever general manager. Here are three things that stood out to Lydia during the event.
1. NHL Seattle spared no expense when it came to selecting its first GM
Before introducing Francis, NHL Seattle CEO Tod Leiweke referred to this move as “perhaps the most important hire we will ever make.” He also explained why NHL Seattle was willing to hire its GM a year ahead of the norm in order to give their organization the best competitive advantage possible.
“Ownership made an incredible commitment – not just David Bonderman but Jay (Deutsch) and David (Wright) and others – in supporting this idea that let’s do this a year early,” Leiweke said. “Because if we’re really here working for our fans, let’s reward their belief. And so they said we’re willing to make this commitment a year early. We’re willing to bring a general manager on earlier than any other expansion team in the history of the NHL. And that gift of an additional year will serve us well and give us a chance to scout and build and plan, but we had to find the right person.”
2. Francis was selected because he fit six distinct criteria for NHL Seattle
Leiweke and company knew this would not be a typical GM search. In Seattle, Leiweke said, “There are unique, unique challenges, so you have to find the right person.”
NHL Seattle retained a search firm in January to help them identify six specific criteria they were looking for in a future GM before kicking off their seven-month hunt.
Those criteria were:
• An experienced leader and team-builder.
• A relentless worker because, to quote Leiweke, “This is gonna be hard work.”
• “A visionary who understood that there are new competitive advantages coming by way of analytics and technology. We wanted someone who, especially in Seattle, had that skill set.”
• Someone with established relationships across the NHL.
• Someone with a keen understanding of how the NHL’s salary cap and draft work.
• Ultimately, someone who can evaluate players.
— NHL Seattle (@NHLSeattle_) July 18, 2019
3. Expect Francis to have fingerprints on every part of the organization
Leiweke mentioned several things that Francis will be tasked with, including building up not just one team but two. Seattle’s AHL affiliate, which will be located in Palm Springs, Calif., will require significant attention and investment in addition to the NHL squad.
Francis will also be a key component in building NHL Seattle’s high-performance staff – everything from coaches to medical staff to strategists and evaluators.
NHL Seattle is also focused on building a world-class training facility in Northgate, and they expect Francis to bring his vision and innovation to its construction.
Leiweke also noted Francis will have a say in the team name as he helps to construct the team brand. Still no news on what that name will be, for those voracious for details.
Finally, according to Leiweke, Francis “needs to set us up for the defining moment of an expansion draft where we’re going to pick the team in about an hour and a half. We are going to spend a lot of money that day. We need to be ready.”
Although June 2021 may seem far off, evaluating players, projecting protected players and contractual restraints begins now.