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Hurricanes owner discusses plans after moving Francis from GM

Dundon wants to 'challenge and question everything we do'

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon fielded a host of phone calls from media Thursday in the aftermath of the announcement Wednesday that the Hurricanes will begin searching for a new general manager after shifting Ron Francis from GM into a new role as president of hockey operations.

Dundon, who became Carolina's majority owner Jan. 11, was aware before those phone calls of the outside perception he wants to be hands-on in all decisions, including those involving hockey operations, and said, "I think short term, it's probably accurate."

But he said that's not his long-term plan.

"I think it's appropriate right now that I challenge and question everything we do, so we can get a process that everyone buys into and we're comfortable with," Dundon said. "Once we do, I would be less likely to be involved with things that I think are working properly."

Less than two months after taking over, Dundon is far from satisfied with how things are working.

The Hurricanes (30-27-11) are four points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference after their 3-2 victory at the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. Though Dundon hasn't given up on the Hurricanes qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2008-09, he said the decision to replace Francis as GM was not related to that.

Video: How Ron Francis will handle his new position

"This wasn't strategic that, 'Oh, we need to do something.' This was not that," Dundon said. "I really hope we start winning. I know the players care. They're trying. I'm actually happiest about that. They're frustrated. You've got to realize that they work harder than we do and they sacrifice a lot. They care. They're trying hard. I'm not upset with anybody."

But as far as the long-term structure Dundon is trying to establish, he said he didn't believe he and Francis, who was in his fourth season as GM, were on the same page.

"Over time, he and I just kind of agreed that our styles were such that [team president] would be a better role for him and the organization probably could use more throughout," Dundon said. "There's so much to do, it was just a better fit for everybody."

Francis was methodical in rebuilding the Hurricanes through the NHL Draft and smaller trades but wasn't able to get them into the playoffs. Though Dundon said he and Francis agreed on most things, they didn't agree on the approach.

"I want someone collaborative, someone aggressive, a good fit for how we're going to go about making decisions," Dundon said listing the qualities he'd like in the Hurricanes GM. "Someone comfortable with the decision-making process where we take lots of input, and, ultimately, hopefully the decisions are organizational. I think that's probably what happens in most organizations. 

"Just someone who's comfortable acquiring information, whether it's from scouts and other GMs and other people in the League and their own eye, and putting together a process that we can use to continue to improve the team."

Though Dundon has talked about expanding the Hurricanes analytics staff, he said doesn't need the GM to be an "analytics guy."

"Because I don't think that works," he said. "I think you need a hockey guy that can work with the analytics people to challenge their thoughts. 'Hey, I think this. Can you show me something that proves or disproves or makes me or less comfortable with what I've done?'"

Video: VGK@CAR: New owner Dundon cranks siren at PNC Arena

Don Waddell, president of Gale Force Sports and Entertainment and in charge of business operations for the Hurricanes and PNC Arena, will lead the GM search, Dundon said, with input from him and Francis.

"Waddell will probably do most of the day-to-day legwork, but I want to make sure that it's someone who really understands the dynamics of the organization," Dundon said. "So I'd like to think we're going to do it together."

Dundon said he values Francis' opinion and knowledge and will continue to utilize him as an asset. 

"I know I want his opinions, and this isn't about whether I think he's smart and has good judgment," he said. "It's just about the right fit on a day-to-day basis. If you think about it, you've got a guy that's been doing it a certain way and then I show up and I've got a different way. That's harder than someone new coming in knowing, 'Here's how it's going to be. Are you comfortable with that?' It's that simple."

Dundon said he doesn't have a timetable for hiring Francis' replacement, but, in general, he likes to move quickly.

"At the same time, if it turns out somebody is busy and we need to give them more time, that's something we need to talk about," he said. "I'd like to do it fast, but I'd like to make the right decision. So, if that doesn't work out fast, we'll wait."

As for coach Bill Peters, Dundon said, "I think he's doing a fine job. We're just not getting the results." But Dundon acknowledged the new GM will have a say in whether Peters returns next season.

"I'd be lying if I said the new GM wouldn't have a vote," Dundon said. "That wouldn't be fair to bring in a new GM and not give him a vote. By the way, Bill gets a vote too. Bill gets to decide if he wants to be here. But I like him."

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