The quiet force
Is it too late to applaud
Maybe the lack of fanfare was due to his being a passer first. Yes, he scored over 500 goals, but he had almost two and a half times as many helpers -- the second most assists (1,249) behind
He established himself as a star long before arriving in Pittsburgh to begin the '90's, but his exploits were a little out of the way in Hartford. Recognition came more so with the Penguins' Stanley Cups in 1990 and 1991, but the spotlight shone brightest on
As with his playing career, he has been unassumingly building his management resume since last November, first as the Hurricanes' Director of Player Development and, since October, in the dual role of assistant GM. Francis has even hit the ice this season as well, working with the 'Canes power play. Not coincidentally, it ranks second in efficiency in the entire league.
"Getting on the ice is the best way to get the point across," he says." It works better than sitting in a video session."
His career may be just under the radar where the general public is concerned, but his peers have long revered him. They appreciated his night-in-night-out contributions and understood the competitiveness below the surface of his stoic demeanor. As an 18-year-old rookie, Atlanta Thrashers center
"He was extremely competitive, despite being so calm," Holik says. "You could never take him off the ice, in any situation. He was the ultimate complete hockey player -- the last great two-way player."
Holik's comments get at the root of Francis's greatness and the lessons he can impart to the Hurricanes as they continue their recovery from Stanley Cup hangover. It was his belief in this group of players that helped stave off wholesale changes during the summer.
Interestingly, it was the peer group in which Francis recently entered the Hall-of-Fame that he acknowledged as making the honor all the more special. He expertly and unselfishly shared the puck as a player and it is in his personality to likewise give of himself to those close to him. Some in his HOF party being boyhood friends that he has remained close with through it all.
Not surprisingly, the former captain and consummate set-up man remains close to the game, so close the his feet still touch the ice, and the Hurricanes reflect his presence and wisdom. As his career attests, things work better when Francis is involved.
Monday, two of the hottest forward tandems in the game go head-to-head. The Tampa Bay Lightning visit the Atlanta Thrashers, pitting
Meanwhile, the Thrashers are 9-4 under head coach/GM
The rest of the week for Tampa Bay: Rangers (Wed.), at Hurricanes (Fri.), Devils (Sat.)
For Atlanta: at Capitals (Wed.), Devils (Fri.), at Penguins (Sat.)