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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

One Star, One Sheet: Ron Francis

Ron Francis

 2007 HHOF
1798 Career Points
2 Stanley Cups
3 Lady Byngs

  Quick, without looking at the picture above, name the only 500 goal scorer to have never scored 40 goals or more in a single season?  Francis scored 549 career goals, but never scored 40 in a season.  Francis only broke the 30 goal mark three times in his career, setting a career high 1989-90 with 32 goals.
  Francis was drafted 4th overall by the Hartford Whalers in the 1981 Entry Draft.  Francis quickly became the team's top playmaker but the Whalers struggles continued, they finished last in the Adams division for four straight years.
  The Whalers didn't make the play-offs until the 1985-86 season.  While Francis missed 29 games that season due to a ankle injury, the team was led by Francis' cousin, recently acquired goalie, Mike Liut.  Francis would struggle in the play-offs, only getting 3 points in 10 games and the Whalers would be eliminated in the 2nd round.  The franchise would not win another play-off round for another 16 years.
  While Francis continued to put up points in the regular season, including 101 in 1989-90, he never once led the Whalers in play-off scoring.  In his 33 play-off games as a Whaler, Francis only totaled 22 points. 
  At the 1990-91 trade deadline, the Hartford Whalers made one of the worst trades in NHL history, that didn't include cash or draft picks, when they sent Francis, Ulf Samuelsson and Grant Jennings to the Pittsburgh Pengiuns for John Cullen, Jeff Parker and Zarley Zalapski.  Cullen, who was a year younger than Francis and only in his third NHL season, has scored 204 points since the start of 1989-90.  Francis, who was in his tenth season, had 177 points.  The Whalers would make the play-offs in '91 and '92, losing in the first round each time, before missing the play-offs for six straight seasons.  They wouldn't make the play-offs again until 1999, as the Carolina Hurricanes.  Cullen would be out of the NHL by 1999. 
  The trade would help the Pittsburgh Penguins win back-to-back Stanley Cups.  Francis exorcised his play-off demons by scoring 44 points during the two Stanley Cup runs.  Francis led the NHL in  regular season assists in back-to-back seasons.  His 92 assists and 119 points in 1995-96 were career highs.  During his time as a Pittsburgh Penguin, eight seasons, Francis would fill his trophy cases with two Stanley Cups, two Lady Byng and a Frank Selke.

Francis and his first Stanley Cup

  In the 1998 offseason, Francis would return to the franchise that drafted them, although it was after the Whalers moved and changed their name to the Carolina Hurricanes. Francis, now 35, continued to be a solid performer on the Hurricanes and was a vital part of their 2002 Stanley Cup finals run.  He would add two more trophies to his resume in 2002, winning the King Clancy trophy and his third career Lady Byng.
  The Hurricanes missed the play-offs the following season and were on the outside looking in 2004 when they traded Francis to the Toronto Maple Leafs.  The Leafs would lose in the second round and Francis would retire during the ensuing lock-out.
  Francis was rarely highlight reel material.  He was never a 1st or 2nd team all-star.  Only five times in a 23 year career did he make the top 10 in scoring.  It is his career numbers that are staggering.  Only Wayne Gretzky had more career assists than Francis.  Francis ranks fourth all time in career points.
   Also, what I found interesting is that Francis only once played for Team Canada and it was not at the World Juniors.  He helped Team Canada win a  Silver at the 1985 World Championships.  Francis never played in the Canada Cup, World Cup, or the Olympics.  During Francis' career the top two center spots were always reserved for Gretzky or Mario Lemieux, but it's still surprising Francis was never selected, even in a defensive role.  You would think he would have made the 1998 Olympic team over Rob Zamuner.

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