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10-23-2010, 09:09 AM
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London selects Emile Francis, coach, who resurrected a terrible Rangers team in the 1970s, saved the St. Louis Blues and built the Hartford Whalers into a contender (the last one as purely GM, though).

Emile "The Cat" Francis

Originally Posted by Inside Hockey
Emile Francis is the winningest coach in New York Rangers history. Scrappy, cerebral, inventive, innovative, insightful, and determined: Francis brought life and light back to the eyes to Rangers fans from 1965-75 and helped keep NHL hockey in St. Louis during an extremely difficult period in Blues franchise history.
Originally Posted by legendsofhockey
And amidst an NHL career, re-building three troubled franchises – the New York Rangers, the St. Louis Blues and the Hartford Whalers – it should come as no surprise to those who know Emile Francis that the pinnacle of his hockey career was helping youngsters develop a passion for hockey while building the game in his community.

-Inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame as Builder in 1982
-Regular season record: 388-273-117
-Playoff record: 39-50

-The NY Rangers made the playoffs every season he was coach
-4 straight trips to the Conference finals from 71-74, including a loss to the Orr/Esposito Bruins in the Cup finals in 72 and a 4-3 loss to the Broad Street Bullies in the Conference finals in 74
-Before he coached the Rangers, they only made the playoffs in 4 of the previous 16 seasons and never past the first round.
-The Rangers missed the playoffs the two seasons after he left

-Innovation as a player: Francis invented the catcher's glove that all goalies use today:

Emile Francis played goalie for the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers during the 1940s and 1950s. It was Francis, who played multiple sports in his youth, who got the idea of combining a baseball first-baseman’s glove with a hockey glove. The end result is the catcher’s glove that goalies all over the world use today to catch pucks (Francis never thought to patent his invention).
-Rebuilding a the moribund Rangers:

When his playing career ended Francis worked for the Rangers in their front office developing their farm system. Many of the prospects he signed would later play key roles when he coached the Rangers. He became the Rangers GM in 1964 but by 1965 he was doubling as their head coach too.

The Rangers had been in the doldrums since the end of World War Two, making only six playoff appearances since 1942. Their last Stanley Cup final had been in 1950 when Francis was still a reserve goalie for Chuck Rayner.

The Cat told me in an interview that he made comprehensive changes in the Rangers organization; not just with personnel but also with the team’s facilities.

Instead of using the inadequate practice rink at the old Madison Square Garden, Francis had a brand new practice facility built in Long Island. Vic Hadfield writes in his diary of the 1972-73 Season that Francis made sure that the traveling and hotel conditions were “first class”.
-Coaching philosophy:

Francis told me that he expanded the team’s scouting corps and he wanted to beef up the offense, saying, “I believed in speed; people who could skate, win 60% of face-offs. I kept track of everything: giveaways, takeaways…using films as a coaching tool.”

It wasn’t just speed Francis emphasized. It was physicality too.

Francis told me his philosophy was “play the man”.

“The more hits you had the more shots on goal you could get,” he said. “I wanted my teams to have a minimum forty hits per game.”

To encourage contact Francis had a bounty system of $5 per hit (back then with low salaries $5 was a lot of money) and the Cat told me with a chuckle that there were considerable arguments among the Rangers players about who got the most hits after each game.
-Effect on the Rangers:

His changes paid off when the Rangers made it to the 1967 Stanley Cup playoffs. Although they were swept in four by Montreal (“we didn’t have the depth!” Francis laments) all four games were hotly contested affairs.

“Year by year, we kept getting better,” Francis said.

Indeed, offensively, from 1970-74 the Rangers were always among the top four teams in goals scored, power play goals and power-play percentage. Defensively from 1969-74 the Rangers were always among the top five in defense and penalty-killing.

Francis coached and/or developed many of the greatest players in New York Rangers history: Rod Gilbert, Jean Ratelle, Brad Park, Eddie Giacomin and Harry Howell all earned Hall-of-Fame honors after playing for Emile Francis. Gilbert remains the all-time Rangers goal-scorer and was a two-time NHL All-Star. Ratelle was a two-time Lady Byng Trophy winner.
Sadly, despite his efforts, Francis never won the Stanley Cup. The Rangers did make four consecutive Stanley Cup final four appearances from 1971-74 (no other Rangers coach has done this since that time); and in 1972 they made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals only to be beaten in six games by the Boston Bruins. In 1974 they came within an ace of making it to the finals again but were edged out by the Philadelphia Flyers.
-Ahead of his time:

In many ways Francis was ahead of the curve among his fellow hockey coaches and GMs.

When the present NHL Players Association began in 1967, Francis (unlike Punch Imlach of Toronto) saw the writing on the wall and dealt honestly and fairly with the new union, maintaining peace and harmony with his players. When the World Hockey Association in 1972 made inroads on the NHL, luring away top players with huge salary offers, Francis (unlike Harry Sinden of Boston) promptly renegotiated his contracts with his prime players and thus prevented any major defections to the new league.

When new ownership took over the Rangers in 1974 and began interfering with the Cat’s leadership, Francis endured it for one season, was fired and moved on to the St. Louis Blues.
The Cat left the frying pan and landed into the fire. Francis as GM, coach and part-owner of the Blues waged a desperate eight year struggle to keep the Blues franchise operating. The reason why the Blues remain in St. Louis today is because of Emile Francis’ unstinting efforts.

After 1983 Francis left the Blues and became GM of the Hartford Whalers (now the Carolina Hurricanes) until 1989.

Last edited by TheDevilMadeMe; 10-23-2010 at 09:21 AM..
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