Francis steps away to focus on front-office job

Hall of Fame player Ron Francis is giving up his spot on the
Carolina Hurricanes’ coaching staff to focus on his front-office
job with the club.

General manager Jim Rutherford said Tuesday that the mutual
decision to shift Francis back into the front office was not in
response to the team missing the playoffs for the fourth time in
five seasons.

”It was something that is not new – it was something that had
been planned for over the last couple of years,” Rutherford said.
”It’s really what he wants to do.”

Francis was promoted to assistant general manager in 2007 and a
year later took on coaching responsibilities when Paul Maurice was
hired as head coach. Rutherford said Francis will relinquish his
duties on the ice during practices and behind the bench during
games. Rutherford declined to discuss his options for filling that
coaching vacancy.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the end of the
regular season, Rutherford voiced support for Maurice, saying he
”has done a very good job coaching the Hurricanes two out of the
last three years.” Maurice took the Hurricanes to a surprise spot
in the Eastern Conference final in 2009, and after taking a clear
step backwards in 2009-10, they finished this season one win away
from a playoff spot.

”We played a very exciting brand of hockey. We obviously have
some areas that we want to upgrade,” Rutherford said. ”When you
look at the whole 82 games, despite the fact that we all agree it’s
disappointing and we wanted to make the playoffs, this was a good
season in the first year of a transition year.

”We started the year as a 15-handicap and we got our handicap
down to 10,” he added. ”As golfers know, it’s a lot easier to go
from 15 to 10 than it is to go from 10 to five. … If we can do
that this year, we’ll position ourselves to move forward and be a
contending team.”