Commenting on Sports Illustrated's "Worst Owners" list

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 In case you hadn't seen it, SI has compiled a list - based on a number of relevant and perhaps not-so-relevant datum - profiling the best and worst owners in the National Hockey League.

Being a "Non-traditional" market, it's not shocking that Florida's Alan Cohen was named the second-worst owner in big-league hockey. Don't mean to imply the "non-traditional" moniker automatically places said franchise in the sports toilet, only that as Panthers fans we have become - hopefully - immune to such criticisms over time. Given the laundry list of "move 'em to Southern Ontario" outcries from, well, Southern Ontario, it's refreshing the article had not yet placed the team in that area already for the good of humanity, Amen.

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If there's one thing that can be said about Cats fans - or Thrashers, Predators, Coyotes fans etc. -  it's that we have been, and are, extraordinarily resilient. Collectively, the fanbase has been through and continues plotting a rocky course along the mainstream media multi-teethed ringer, as well as standing up to a stereotype which at times has been - on the surface - justified, but ultimately finding itself with no fair landing spot within reality. Win games and the over-reported ills fall to the wayside.

However, we can't all be blessed with the barrier-breaking talents of owners such as Oren Koules, Atlanta "Spirit" (which is the embodiment of dysfunction), or Jerry Moyes (of whom NHL commish Gary Bettman is a big cheerleader. No, not really).

In their stead, South Florida hockey fans have horse-breeding afficionado Alan Cohen (along with former footballer Bernie Kosar, among others) ruling the local roost. Purchased in 2001, the Cats have, um, done nothing playoff-wise, and continue to battle not only a struggle for relevancy in a crowded market, but exorcising their own demons, many of which were of Cohen's own making.

There has been a bit of confusion as to which season SI was rating the team on...was it the end of 2007-08 or 2008-09? The website states '09, while the press release I received reads '08. The style other teams on the list were written with suggests the summary takes into account all events up to the end of regular season 2009, but the Panthers are not given such luxuries:

 

Thirteen years after their surprise run to the Stanley Cup finals as a third-year franchise, the Panthers' early success seems as much a fluke as hockey in South Florida. Pharmaceutical tycoon Cohen has been unable to find a way to connect with the fans. He made the wrong hire of Jacques Martin as head coach in 2004, then allowed him to be the team's GM as well after Mike Keenan left two years later. Then last April, as the Panthers were slumping to another lame finish in the Southeast, Cohen relieved Martin of his coaching duties but let him stay on as GM.

- Sports Illustrated

 

Not a single mention of anything which transpired following early June of 2008. No DeBoer, Booth, rising attendance, playoff race, etc. All of which reflects upon Cohen's retaining JM as GM. Keeping the time period in mind, contrast this with their take on Carolina owner Peter Karmanos (a man quite close to my heart):

 

To be fair, it was rough going for the software entrepreneur at the beginning of his tenure: He couldn't get his new arena in Raleigh built in time, forcing the 'Canes to play 90 minutes away to a half-empty hall in Greensboro. But things began to turn around for Karmanos in 2002, as Carolina made a surprise run to the Stanley Cup finals and then won it in '06. Since then, it has been a bit of a Cup hangover, but the fact that Paul Maurice wanted to return to the organization as coach says a lot about the environment. This year, the 'Canes were one of the hottest teams heading into the playoffs. And with a nucleus of Erik Cole, Eric Staal, Cam Ward and ageless captain Rod Brind'Amour, Karmanos has an enviably stable, competitive franchise.

 

 

Oh, couldn't get his arena built in time. Must have had labor troubles at the drapery plant. Paul Maurice "wanted" to return? It was that gig or doing voice-overs on EA Sports' NHL '10. C'mon. Granted, it's worked out so far this year - and Jim Rutherford is the Hartford heart and soul of the organization - but if the Panthers' most recent season is to be omitted from consideration, why would Carolina's first years in the area be included as a measure of success?

How about the word on Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment?

 

How can the $1.75 billion owners of the most valuable franchise in hockey continue to so mismanage one of the NHL's most storied teams? The Leafs still haven't won a Stanley Cup in 42 years, and the deep pockets of its parent organization have done little to reverse that trend. But it's not some fat-cat collective running the team from its penthouse suite -- since 1994, MLSE's primary investor has been the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan. Unfortunately, the dysfunctional relationship between the two principals -- Richard Peddie and Larry Tannenbaum -- continues to trickle down to the on-ice product, as MLSE is too busy running too many sports properties and breaking ground on too many real estate projects to pay enough attention to the Leafs.

 

Hey...how about that awesome Brian Burke endorsement? Didn't see it? Oh yeah...neither did I. Piling on for fun and profit. Does anyone who follows the sport truly believe Burke can't get the job done? At least as far as bringing a conference winner in a few years to TO? Yes, the ownership has been and is a meddling mess, but they did agree on the addition of Burke, which in my mind makes them a winner. They will learn soon to tread lightly or it's back to the GM carousel, and finding another hard-liner such as Burkie will be fruitless.

What say Panther fans? Has Alan Cohen doomed this franchise to the dustbin of failed market experiments? Or will his promotion of Jacques Martin prove a bit of outside-the-box thinking yielding unexpected results?

Consider all that has taken place in the past year. Were you cursing Cohen when the Cats began to tear up in January/February? Or when JM signed Keith Ballrd long-term? Or hell...Martin's hiring of Pete DeBoer? That had to be a helluva head-scratcher for ownership.

Given the choice, whom would you choose as the primo owner? Does Cohen deserve some defense in light of the past season?

 

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