Sports Illustrated today released its best and worst owners in sports rankings, basing its decisions on the following criteria:
The method was not scientific but based on numerous factors, some of which are indisputable and some of which are intangible. Among the criteria used to evaluate owners was the willingness to spend money to improve the team; the stability and capabilities of the front office and management; the amenities at the team's venue; and the club's culture and interactivity with fans. Of course, weighing heavily in the decision was the team's success or failure on the field.
To the surprise of exactly no one, Mike Ilitch of the Detroit Red Wings took the top spot for the NHL's best owners. Even if Papa John's tastes better than Little Caesar's.
The rest of the top five: Jeffrey Vanderbeek of the New Jersey Devils, cited for getting an arena built and maintaining the franchise's stellar level of
regular season success; Mario Lemieux/Ron Burkle of the Pittsburgh Penguins, for a new arena and a great draft record when given a top-two pick; San Jose Sports and Entertainment of the San Jose Sharks, for "franchise cornerstones such as Jonathan Cheechoo(notes) and Patrick Marleau(notes)" but apparently not Evgeni Nabokov(notes) or Joe Thornton(notes); and Peter Karmanos for the Carolina Hurricanes, for firing Peter Laviolette.
But you don't care about the top five; you care about the bottom five. And the good news for the Tampa Bay Lightning is that they aren't, inexplicably, in it.
And here it is:
The top sports headlines of the day
5. Predator Holdings LLC, Nashville Predators
4. Atlanta Spirit, Atlanta Thrashers
3. Charles Wang, New York Islanders
2. Alan Cohen, Florida Panthers
1. MLSE, Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs getting the top spot is both an attention grabber and, let's face it, pretty understandable. Wang and Atlanta Spirit belong on there as well.
But Alan Cohen at No. 2? With the Panthers coming off an outstanding regular season (by their standards), with a bright young coach and an arena that beguiles even if it isn't always filled to the gills?
The Predators at No. 5, with total stability and competence in team management and in a state of constant playoff contention? The first line in the recap was rather cheap: "No offense to the Music City -- it's just not a hockey town."
A reference to Hamilton at the end of the Preds entry is an indication that this ranking was done well before the Phoenix Coyotes hit the fan. Which is fine; deadlines are what they are.
But there's simply no way the Tampa Bay Lightning's Oren Koules and Len Barrie aren't on this list based on the last season. Not after Barry Melrose. Not after the Dan Boyle(notes) fiasco or the Radim Vrbata(notes) fiasco or the Ryan Malone(notes) contract or the 89 defensemen shipped in and out of the lineup or the alienation of one of the best fan bases in the Eastern Conference. And that's without even bringing up their financial straights or anything involving Vincent Lecavalier(notes).
Look, we don't want to say this omission invalidates the list, even if it does. But honestly: Has there been another ownership group that negatively affected a franchise as quickly as these guys have in the span of a year?
(We hold out hope, by the way, that they've figured out a thing or two about a thing or two after Year 1 and turn this thing around next season. We genuinely like Koules.)