Seattle Kraken General Manager Ron Francis turns 58 years old today. 58 will be an important year for Francis, as he’ll guide the Kraken through their expansion draft and the start of their inaugural season. Kraken fans have gotten well-acquainted with Francis since he was named Kraken GM almost two years ago, but here are a a few fun facts you may not know about him:
One of Francis’ former teammates is still in the NHLEmbed from Getty Images
The 2003-04 Carolina Hurricanes had an incredible 22-year age gap between their oldest and youngest players. In his final NHL season, 40-year-old Ron Francis (far left) captained a Hurricanes team that featured some promising young players. Most prominent among them was an 18-year-old rookie named Eric Staal (second from left) who was drafted 2nd overall just a few months earlier. To further put the age difference into perspective, Francis was already in his 4th NHL season when Staal as born. Take another look at the photo of the two of them next to each other. It perfectly captures the contrast of Staal’s youth and Francis’ experience. It would come to signify both the past and future of the Hurricanes organization. Staal went on to become the Canes captain in 2010 and Francis joined the team as Director of Hockey Operations in 2011. Eric Staal, now 36, is still playing a big role on the Buffalo Sabres. It certainly appears that he took some lessons from Francis’ leadership and longevity.
He’s a 3-time winner of the Lady Byng Memorial TrophyEmbed from Getty Images
Ron Francis had no shortage of accolades over the course of his NHL career. Two Stanley Cups, 4-time All Star, top-5 in games, assists, and points, the list goes on. Although it doesn’t receive as much fanfare, the award that perhaps most spoke to the type of player and person Francis was is the Lady Byng Trophy. The Lady Byng Trophy is presented every year to the “player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability”. Francis won the Lady Byng Trophy three times in his career, one of only nine NHL players to ever do so. Francis competed incredibly hard on the ice, but played a clean game that earned him the respect of his peers. He continues to bring that stellar reputation to the Kraken as GM.
This year’s expansion draft won’t be his firstEmbed from Getty Images
While this is his first time in charge of an expansion team, Francis has been a part of seven(!) NHL expansion drafts before. As a player, Francis was eligible to be selected in the 1991, 1992, 1993, and 1998 expansion drafts as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins and the 1999 and 2000 expansion drafts as a Carolina Hurricane. In all six years, he was placed on his team’s list of protected players. As GM of the Hurricanes, Francis navigated the difficult waters of the 2017 Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft. The 2017 expansion draft, the first in the NHL since 2000, ended up making a lot of GMs look bad in hindsight. Many teams overthought their draft strategy and made unforced errors that would cost them for years to come. Francis, on the other hand, steered clear of those mistakes. He traded a 5th round pick to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for Vegas selecting winger Connor Brickley. Brickley never played a game for the Golden Knights and is currently playing in Austria. It’s safe to say Francis isn’t regretting his expansion draft strategy the way some other GMs are.
Let’s all wish our GM a happy birthday and a successful year ahead!