Like Messier, Francis' place in the all-time scoring list is a reflection of his longevity. But like Messier, stats never told the whole story with Francis. He was a model of consistency year after year, a player who put up points, while providing consistent excellence in the defensive zone and the locker room. He's one of the best ever at faceoffs, and also one of the best forwards ever at quarterbacking the point on the power-play. He was fantastic with Pittsburgh in their Cup runs in 1991 and 1992, and carried Carolina on his back for portions of their Cup run in 2002. While people talk about him putting up points in the run-and-gun 80s, let's not forget that he scored at nearly a point-per-game clip in 2000 and 2002, despite being over 35, playing in a defensive system, and playing with mostly mediocre players.
Francis excelled for years in obscurity in Hartford. He played second banana to Lemieux in Pittsburgh, but when called to get the job done as a first liner, he did it. (Watch his performance in the 1992 playoffs). Was fantastic for Pittsburgh in 1995 (a crime that he didn't get an all-star selection that year, winning the best defensive and most sportsmanlike awards in the same year while scoring at a 100-point clip is truly impressive) and 1997-98 in the top centre role.
2008 HHOF class: Francis, Messier, Stevens and MacInnis.
Easily one of my all-time favorites. The guy just oozed class, talent and character. It was a privilege having him in Pittsburgh, especially for the Cup years (which, without him, would likely not have even been Cup years).
Congratulations on a long and illustrious career Ronnie.