Francis starts search for new Canes coach

calexander@newsobserver.comMay 5, 2014 

— Ron Francis gave some hints, but no names.

Francis, general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes, has begun the search for a coach to replace Kirk Muller, who was fired Monday. Francis said he did not have one person already in mind for the job, saying he would start with a list, narrow it, then schedule interviews.

“We’ll take the time to do it right,” he said, adding a new coach should be in place before the NHL Entry Draft in late June.

Francis said he received a number of calls and emails Monday from people expressing interest.

“I think if someone from the outside is looking at our team, there are a lot of good pieces that are in place, so I think it will be fairly attractive,” he said.

Asked if he could share some names of potential candidates, Francis said he could not talk about anyone who is under contract. That could include an assistant coach such as Ulf Samuelsson of the New York Rangers, who are facing the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the playoffs.

Samuelsson and Francis are close friends and once were teammates with the Hartford Whalers and later the Penguins, twice winning the Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh.

Then again, Francis said he has several friends in the league who are head and assistant coaches, saying he admires the jobs they have done with their teams.

“I know their kind of personalities and how they operate,” he said. “If you can find a guy who kind of emulates those traits, it wouldn’t hurt.”

Another possibility could be Phil Housley, an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators. Housley, 50, coached the U.S. team to the gold medal in the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship and will serve as an assistant coach on Team USA in the World Championship for the second straight year.

There are some coaches who aren’t under contract. Peter Laviolette, who coached the Canes to the 2006 Stanley Cup, is available. Bringing him back would create a stir among fans, but he apparently didn’t leave on the best of terms with owner Peter Karmanos Jr. when he was fired in December 2008.

Laviolette will be the U.S. coach in the World Championship, being played May 9-25 in Minsk, Belarus.

Kevin Dineen coached the Florida Panthers to a Southeast Division title during the 2011-12 season. A poor start this season led to Dineen’s firing by the Panthers, but he was a competitive, gritty player and once the Hurricanes captain.

Barry Trotz, 51, recently was dismissed by the Predators after 15 seasons as their only head coach. They reached the playoffs in seven of his last 10 seasons.

Francis said the firing of Canes assistant coaches John MacLean and Dave Lewis, and the move of goaltending coach Greg Stefan to the pro scouting staff, would allow the new coach to bring in his own staff and offer more hiring flexibility.

“It’s unfair to bring in a new guy and say these are your two new assistants,” he said.

Rod Brind’Amour will remain on the staff. The former Canes captain has not been behind the bench and has watched games from the press level, although he was actively involved in practices and other coaching duties.

“Rod really didn’t have, in my estimation, a prominent role on the staff,” Francis said. “He wasn’t responsible for the power play, penalty killing. I felt Roddy had a lot more to offer, so that’s why I kept him onboard.”

Regardless of the number of candidates, Francis said he knows what he’s looking for in a coach.

“You have to be able to teach,” he said. “There are a lot of different parts of the systems and different zones and analyzing your talent and finding what system you think is best for your players. So you have to be able to teach that. You have to be able to communicate that system to your players.

“You have to be able to manage the different personalities in that locker room to get them to understand the different roles within that system to be successful. And you have to be the kind of strong leader who is going to take that locker room and get them in the right direction.”

Francis wants more leadership from the younger players – Jeff Skinner, Justin Faulk and others. He wants a coach who can motivate them as well as bring out the best in the veteran players.

“Certainly you want a coach that’s firm and has everybody understanding what he wants accomplished,” Francis said.

Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip

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