RALEIGH — Nearly a month into his new job as general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes, Ron Francis has had little down time.
“There are a lot of things going on,” Francis said Friday. “We have the coaching search, and decisions to be made on the team and the draft coming up. We have to look at the free agent list. We’re taking a look at the budget. It’s just a busy time of the year.”
For the past 20 years, Jim Rutherford headed up those tasks. That changed April 28, when Rutherford stepped down as general manager and Francis was promoted.
A week later, Francis fired Kirk Muller as head coach. On Friday, he said the “process” of finding a new one continues, adding three interviews had been conducted and another three would soon be held.
“We went into it with a big list and shortened it a lot,” Francis said.
Asked how many people had shown interest in the job, Francis said “a bunch” but gave no names.
Francis again said he hoped to have a coach in place before the NHL Entry Draft, which begins June 27 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Francis said there are certain criteria coaching prospects need to meet. He wants someone with a “good message,” he said, and the ability to get that message across to the team. He wants someone who can relate and deal with the differing personalities in the dressing room.
“He needs to be able to teach his system and teach the game,” Francis said. “And he needs to hold everyone accountable.”
Francis said it was important the new coach “get everyone in the right spots” in terms of putting the forward lines together.
“Ideally it would be good to find the right three and then keep the line together for a long time,” he said. “Sometimes that’s not the way it works out, and it may be keeping two together and adding a third based on injuries or matchups. But you need that continuity on the ice.”
Muller, like a number of other NHL coaches, frequently shuffled his lines. But Francis didn’t criticize Muller’s methods.
“We had some injuries and asked some guys to play different roles that maybe they weren’t suited for,” Francis said. “Some of it was out of necessity.”
Francis said Alexander Semin underwent wrist surgery after the season. Semin’s rehab has gone well, Francis said, and the forward should be ready for the start of preseason training camp.
Forward Andrei Loktionov suffered a shoulder injury playing for Russia in the IIHF World Championship in Minsk, Belarus.
“Tough injury for him. First shift of his first game,” Francis said.
Francis said Loktionov, obtained in the March 5 trade that sent forward Tuomo Ruutu to the New Jersey Devils, was scheduled to have surgery in Switzerland. Loktionov will be an restricted free agent and while Francis didn’t address it, the injury could affect whether the Canes make a qualifying offer.
Rutherford remains the Hurricanes’ team president but Francis now handles all the day-to-day hockey operations and makes those decisions. It’s his call.
“I saw Jim the other day. He looks 10 years younger,” Francis joked.
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