The Seattle 32nds are just three off-seasons away from being a real team and we all know that they’ll constantly be compared to the Vegas Golden Knights because…well, why not?? They’re both coming into the NHL within five years of each other, they both are going to fill out the Western Conference, and we’re a culture of comparisons and results– therefore, it’s time to get the wheels going on the comparisons for nothing more but summer content.
On Thursday, the Seattles made their first plunge into the world with Ron Francis being named the team’s first general manager. Francis comes from the Carolina Hurricanes, where he was GM from 2014 until 2018 when he was let go after new owner Thomas Dundon came in. While he had a year off, Francis will have a fresh slate to start off with being at the helm.
VGK COMPARABLE: The Golden Knights were introduced in June of 2016, with their hiring George McPhee in July of 2016. With only two off-seasons to prepare, the Seattles definitely are giving Francis more time to settle. McPhee was still within the game after being dismissed as the Capitals GM in 2014, though– like Francis– had a year off before moving on in his personnel career.
Back to Francis, his tenure in Carolina was short and not so sweet. With only four seasons, Francis didn’t see the playoffs at all and never cracking the 90-point plateau. While the young core was building, he didn’t get to see it through with his dismissal before this miraculous run this year in the playoffs. While he does have that “good hockey guy” label, it’s not necessarily a good thing if he cannot get results from this new team that he’s specifically putting together.
VGK COMPARABLE: McPhee stepped into Vegas with 14 years of GM experience with the Capitals, including eight 40-plus win seasons, seven Division titles, one Presidents Trophy, and one Stanley Cup appearance. He was through the ups and downs and ups again with the Cup final, blending into the desperate times of acquiring an unmotivated Jaromir Jagr which led to the Caps Fire Sale and then the building up the team around Alex Ovechkin. Being through all of those events definitely helped McPhee be able to adjust and got some fate from VGK owner Bill Foley to give him the reins of the team.
The next big step is to start looking for a coach. With the team not starting for another three seasons will be a hard sell for Francis, which is not something Vegas had to deal with as they only were one season out from their start. The biggest question is will Francis go with someone who’s established and already been through the cycle of the NHL or will he actually start with someone fresh and clean and ready for an opportunity like this.
VGK COMPARABLE: McPhee was able to get Gerard Gallant in April of 2017 in the off-season before their start. Thanks to the Florida Panthers silliness, McPhee really lucked out on him and it’s been the best choice so far, as the Stanley Cup appearance and two consecutive playoff appearances have showed. While it is a bit of a luck of the draw for coaches, you can say that Vegas put their money on the right number on the coaching roulette table.
So there we go– the first round of the comparisons everyone is going to make. When you look at it long-term, Vegas has the advantage in spades. They got a GM who was established, knew the league, knew what to do in different situations, and knew who to put in charge. No disrespect to Francis, but his short track record is suspect; though you can say it may rank up with an “Incomplete” grade considering he was there for a shorter time than some.