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06-11-2013, 06:09 PM
Brooklyn Ranger
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Originally Posted by alkurtz View Post
Whoa....hatred towards Emile Francis! Totally uncalled for.

I was a big Giacomin fan. I was there when he made his NHL debut at the old MSG and was present, cheering along with everyone else when he returned to the Garden two days after he was sold to the Wings. One of the most moving nights I have ever experienced. I was upset by the deal and remember exactly where I was when I heard about it. Eddie was the heart and soul of the Francis era teams, as popular with the fans as Lundqvist is today. I hated to see him go and felt betrayed by the move. But in hindsight, Eddie's best years were behind him, the Francis era team was on the decline, and the Rangers had a young John Davidson ready to play regularly. All they could have gotten for him was a marginal player or prospect. It was one of the deals that made you see hockey as a business.

There are few people of greater importance in Ranger history than Francis. When he took over in the mid 60s the Rangers were a moribund disaster. He took many of the pieces left to him, added to it, and built a powerhouse team that for about five years was one of the elite teams in the NHL. The roughly ten years he was in charge remains, to this day, the longest, sustained stretch of success this franchise has experienced since roughly 1960. During his tenure, the present MSG was opened, youth leagues took off in the NYC area, the Rangers returned to radio and television, the Garden was an exciting place to be, and the Rangers became relevant and were just as popular as the Willis Reed era Knicks. The only blemish, and its a big one, was that we were never able to bring home the Cup. Our peak coincided with the peak of the Orr era Bruins. When we began to slide but were still good, our finesse teams (Francis always modeled his teams after the great Montreal teams of the era) could not compete with the emerging Broad Street Bully Flyers.

The Francis era followed the classic curve: taking over when they were terrible, rebuilding, emerging, peaking, and declining. The 75 team was in decline and aging. The trade with the Bruins was a classic trade trying to drastically shake a team up. I have, to this day, mixed feelings about the trade. I was a big Espo fan and had been since his amazing performance in the Summit Series of 72 against the Soviet Union. Paul Henderson gets the credit for the goals, but it was Espo's inspired leadership and refuse-to-lose mentality that really pushed Team Canada to victory. I was thrilled to have him on the Rangers. Carol Vadnais was a pretty darn good defensemen. Not in the class of Park but darn good. And, as great as Park was, many Ranger fans, including me, always felt a bit disappointed in him and considered him a bit of an underachiever. In retrospect, the trade did not work out. The Rangers continued to slide and eventually Francis was fired and replaced by John Ferguson. Ratelle and Park led the Bruins to two Cup finals against the Canadians. But Espo and Vadnais were key players when we lost to the Canadians in the finals in 79. In many ways the trade was a wash but that became clear only in retrospect. It wasn't Francis (I could be wrong, but I believe it was John Ferguson) who traded Rick Middleton for Ken Hodge. The trade had unintended consequences but that's life.

Emile Francis never had to prove he was in charge: he was, in fact, always in charge. Three times he replaced himself as coach to concentrate on his job as GM, three times he had to take over when the changes did not work. The first time, with Boom Boom Geoffrion, was popular with the fans but Boomer was not cut out for coaching and had health issues. The second, with Larry Popein, was not a good move, akin to Sather hiring Trottier. The third, a the end of the era with Ron Stewart, was when he were in decline and nothing would have worked.

Yes, we didn't win the Cup during his time, the Giacomin deal hurt and the trade with the Bruins earth-shattering, but Francis built perhaps the best Rangers teams (aside from 94) that I have ever seen. He made some great deals also. He returned the Rangers to relevance and laid the foundation for the franchise that exists to this day. Hatred for him is totally uncalled for.
Great post--Emile saved hockey in New York City. Only one thing you didn't mention: the day Emile Francis looked out of his window and saw two kids from Hell's Kitchen playing roller hockey.

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