Francis named Hurricanes GM, Rutherford assumes advisory role

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

Peter Koutroumpis – editor@trianglesportsnet.com

RALEIGH, N.C. – Carolina Hurricanes president Jim Rutherford had been thinking of moving on from handling the general manager duties for the past few years, and began to talk more seriously and regularly about it with team majority owner Peter Karmanos during the past season.

On Monday, the talks culminated in Karmanos announcing that the team had promoted Ron Francis to executive vice president and general manager while Rutherford would continue to assume the role of President in an advisory role and with no one reporting to him.

The keys to the office and rink were passed on to Francis as far as hockey was concerned.

“It was going to happen, regardless of the results of this year,” Rutherford said of the change.

“I had mentioned it to Pete a couple of times, more on a casual way, but I think more in a serious way probably in February – January, February. Then once each month, and once the season was over we talked a lot more seriously about it.”

In addition to moving Francis up, long-time Hurricanes employee Brian Tatum was promoted to serve as assistant general manager while Mike Vellucci, former Plymouth Whalers coach and general manager, assumed the role of assistant general manager and director of hockey operations.

“Based on Jim’s decision to step down as GM, now is a good time to go in a new direction,” Karmanos said.

“Ron has dedicated himself to learning all aspects of running a hockey team in the past eight years, working in player development, on the coaching staff and in hockey operations. He has proven that he has the work ethic and passion to get the Hurricanes back into the Stanley Cup playoffs. I am happy that Jim will retain a role with our team, and I thank him for his 20 years as our general manager. He leaves quite a legacy with our organization, bringing the team three divisional championships, two conference titles and the Stanley Cup.”

As the eighth general manager in franchise history, Francis, 51, will be responsible for all hockey decisions for the Hurricanes.

The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, native is entering his ninth season in management with Carolina, the last two of which were as vice president of hockey operations.

After the conclusion of his playing career, Francis rejoined the team in November 2006 as director of player development.

He was promoted to assistant general manager on Oct. 4, 2007, but returned to the team’s locker room on Dec. 3, 2008, when he went behind the bench as associate head coach.

He subsequently returned to the front office full-time in June 2011, accepting the role of director of hockey operations.

A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Francis scored 549 goals and earned 1,249 assists (1,798 points) as a player, ranking fourth all-time on the league’s scoring list behind Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Gordie Howe.

His 1,249 assists rank second only to Gretzky (1,963), and he ranks third on the games-played list behind Howe (1,767) and Messier (1,756).

“I’m really pleased with the direction we’re going,” Rutherford said.

“Ronnie’s paid his dues and he’s a good person, a good friend, he’s a Hall of Fame player and he’ll be a good general manager. And also his assistants Mike and Brian have paid their dues and are ready to do this.”

Vellucci, 47, joins the Hurricanes after 14 seasons with the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Plymouth Whalers.

As assistant general manager and director of hockey operations, Vellucci will oversee scouting and player development for the Hurricanes.

The Farmington, Mich., native led Plymouth to a 468-322-36 record during his time in the OHL, and he was the first American to win the Matt Leyden Trophy as OHL coach of the year after the Whalers captured the OHL championship in 2006-07.

He was also named the OHL’s Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year in 2012-13.

Prior to joining the Whalers, Vellucci was with Detroit Compuware of the North American Hockey League (NAHL), where his teams went 241-82-27 in the regular season from 1994-99, and captured U.S. national championships in 1994 and 1999.

The Ambassadors also captured two NAHL regular-season titles and four Robertson Cups.

Vellucci played professionally in the IHL, AHL, ECHL and BHL from 1986-89.

Selected by the Hartford Whalers in the seventh round of the 1987 NHL Entry Draft, Vellucci played briefly for Hartford during the 1987-88 season and was a teammate of Francis’.

Tatum, 40, is entering his 17th season with the Hurricanes.

As assistant general manager, the Raleigh, N.C. native’s responsibilities will include staff contract negotiations, scheduling, serving as the club’s liason to the NHL regarding matters related to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and all day-to-day hockey operations administrative duties.

Tatum has served as vice president of team operations since 2012, after working as director of team operations for the previous five seasons.

Before that time, he served as the Hurricanes’ team services manager from 2000-2006 after working in ticket sales for the club.

With his new staff in place, Francis will begin to get the team’s hockey operations in order to prepare for the upcoming season following a fifth straight season, and seventh of the last eight, of not making the playoffs.

“At the end of the day, this is a fresh start for everybody, myself, including the players,” Francis said.

“We’ll analyze everything. If we have to make changes, we’ll make changes. As I said earlier, we want guys that wanna’ be here, wanna’ win, wanna’ be successful, and are willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish that.”