Q&A with Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon, Part 1

In the first half of a conversation, the new majority owner talks about Ron Francis' departure as GM and what he's looking for in his replacement

Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon, pictured at his introductory press conference, is promising change to the organization. (Lauren Rose / North State Journal)

A week ago, new Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon reassigned general manager Ron Francis to the position of president of hockey operations and promised a “full search” for his replacement. In Part 1 of a two-part Q&A with Dundon, North State Journal asked about the current front office structure without a general manager, how the search is being conducted and what qualities the owner is looking for in a new GM, and more.

North State Journal: I think it’s pretty clear now Ron isn’t a part of the decision-making process anymore as far as hockey operations are concerned. Is that right?

Tom Dundon: No, I think he’s part of the process. I talk to him every day, so yeah, I value his opinion for sure.

NSJ: And he’s indicated he wants to stay on in that player personnel role?

TD: Yes.

NSJ: How are decisions being made right now? I know (coach) Bill (Peters) alluded to the assistant GMs and also mentioned Don Waddell.

TD: For now and probably the way I assume it is done in most companies is you discuss things and you come to a decision. There’s a lot of smart people here, a lot of experienced people, and we want to let everybody have an opinion. I don’t think that’s that much different than it was 30 days ago.

NSJ: Obviously you’re searching for a new GM, you’ve made that clear. How are you orchestrating that search? I know names have been mentioned in the media. Who is suggesting to you who should even be considered, and what kind of research are you doing to find out who is even qualified to be interviewed?

TD: We talked to a lot of people in the NHL. Lots of people reached out to us. The different people everyone in the organization knows, and people — even at the NHL there’s a lot of recommendations. And you sort of sift through who you want to talk to and you talk to them. (It’s) probably easier to get qualified candidates in this than the normal world because it’s a pretty tight circle of people, and there’s 31 teams and it’s well-known who works there and what they do.

NSJ: What are you main credentials for a candidate? What are you looking for specifically in a new GM?

TD: I think that we have to find a way to blend the hockey traditional ability to evaluate talent and construct a roster with sort of an institutionalized process that makes sure we have all the information and structure and accountability for everyone in the organization. If you can combine really talented people with great resources, accountability and an ability to have multiple opinions and also check your opinions or create new ideas based on information that’s available, and that hopefully gives you the best outcome.

NSJ: I’ve listened and read what Elliotte Friedman wrote about in his talk with you. You mentioned the Eagles and how they approached fourth downs, and how it was kind of a green light/red light situation, and there’s somebody there if there’s a yellow light to make a final decision. That’s kind of what you’re talking about? In blending these ideas, is having a cut-and-dried way we want to do things and the way we want to make decisions, and hopefully you can get out of the way of those decisions in most situations. Is that fair?

TD: Yes, 100 percent fair. In my opinion, that’s how most really good companies, organizations work. And that’s where you hopefully want to be. It’s not earth-shattering, it’s just the right way to do things. I think rational people are going to come, when presented with the same information and debate, that you’re going to come to a pretty good outcome most of the time. And then, obviously, you have a GM for a reason; you have a head coach for a reason; you have a scout for a reason. There are decisions that are made every day that you’re not going to bring to the broader group, right? So there are going to be plenty of things that people do and decide, and then on the larger decisions, hopefully the organization has the sort of depth and debate to feel comfortable that we’ve come to a conclusion that’s justifiable, supportable. And I think that’s just good for making sure your ideas work, if everybody feels a part of it and understands why they’re made.

NSJ: You’ve got two guys — three, if you could Ron — two other guys in the organization who have been GMs elsewhere with Don (Waddell) and with Joe Nieuwendyk. And then you’ve got Mike Vellucci, who’s got a lot of experience as an executive as well in the OHL and also has assistant GM duties here. Other assistant GMs on staff also — are any of those people being considered for the job?

TD: Yeah, I think right now I’m totally open-minded. Honestly, I haven’t been in the business long enough to not have fully considered all my options. I’m not at a stage where — I’m in the information-gathering point. I’ll consider you if you wanted to. You’re not going to get very far, but I’ll consider you.

The rest of the two-part interview with Dundon can be read here, and it touches on the status of Bill Peters, the reaction to Francis being out as GM, the impact that move had on the rest of the organization, and the frustration — from the owner down to the fans — of another seemingly lost season.