Detroit Red Wings: Mike Ilitch and the 4 Best NHL Owners

Isaac SmithAnalyst IMarch 14, 2012

Detroit Red Wings: Mike Ilitch and the 4 Best NHL Owners

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    Mike Ilitch has done it all for Detroit.

    Since buying the "Dead Wings" (as they were called) in 1982 for $8 million dollars, Ilitch has seen the Red Wings win four Stanley Cups since 1997 and has helped bring hockey back to "Hockey Town".

    Ilitch isn't just interested in the Red Wings either, as he owns the Detroit Tigers and also owns the Michigan-based Little Caesar's franchise.

    The Red Wings have made the playoffs for 20 straight seasons, and Ilitch's ability and willingness let his GM (currently Ken Holland) spend the money necessary to sign free agents and re-sign current players has given his team a distinctive advantage over other teams.

    Ilitch also values veteran players in a way that no other NHL owner seems to do.

    Additionally, Ilitch is very involved with his team and often plays a big part in keeping a player in Detroit for the duration of their career if they have spent the bulk of it in Detroit already.

    Ilitch's recent success (last 15 years) with winning the Stanley Cup, and last 20 seasons making the playoffs gives him the number one spot on my greatest GM list.

    Thoughts and comments are welcome, I will take up any disputes and discussions regarding this list.

5. Rocky Wirtz, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Rocky Wirtz took over the Chicago Blackhawks in late 2007, and since then, the difference in the Windy City has been essentially day and night.

    Chicago had not qualified for the playoffs in six seasons before Wirtz took over, and they hadn't put up 100 points in a season since the early 1990s when Ed Belfour was their goalie.

    Wirtz apparently "is not going to be an owner who speaks often to the media."

    But the Chicago Blackhawks have spoken for him, qualifying for the playoffs in Wirtz's first season as owner, making it all the way to the Western Conference Finals.

    The next season, 2009-10, the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup for the first time in almost 50 years.

    Wirtz has a philosophy: "spend money to make money."

    This is very contrary to the philosophy of his father—the previous owner of the Blackhawks—but so far it has worked.

    That philosophy came to the front when Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon signed Marian Hossa from the Detroit Red Wings.

    Hossa had been to the Stanley Cup Finals two straight years with two different teams, coming out on the losing side of either time before he won in Chicago.

    Wirtz's dedication to spend money and bring in top names has brought the Blackhawks back to relevance in the hockey world and makes them a perennial Stanley Cup contender every season.

    Wirtz's short-term success lands him a spot on the top owners list, but he isn't higher on the list because of his lack of a long-term track record.

4. Predators Holdings LLC, Nashville Predators

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    I couldn't find a picture of anyone in "Predators Holdings LLC" so Nashville Predators' GM David Poile will have to suffice.

    Nashville's expansion into the NHL in 1998 ended just like the first year of any other expansion franchise: disappointment.

    In fact, the Predators didn't make the playoffs until the 2003-04 season.

    After rumored movement to Hamilton, Ontario, the Predators franchise has stepped up to the plate the past few seasons.

    Nashville won their first playoff series last year, defeating the Anaheim Ducks in six games.

    This season, Nashville GM David Poile made a serious set a of moves leading up to and at the trade deadline, picking up Hal Gill and Andrei Kostitsyn from the Montreal Canadiens and Paul Gaustad from the Buffalo Sabres.

    Nashville has always been a remarkably low spending team, but their seven-year, $49 million extension they gave to goaltender Pekka Rinne this season has turned heads in that regard.

    Since Poile has received consent from Predators Holdings LLC to spend more money, the team has gotten more talent (obviously) and this season with the pending return of Alexander Radulov, the team could be very competitive come playoff time.

    Although the Predators have yet to win a Stanley Cup, the objective of an owner is to win the most games by spending the least amount of money (unless you're in baseball that is).

    Predators Holdings LLC ranks ahead of Rocky Wirtz because of their shrewd financial outlook and how much they have been able to win as a team without breaking the bank.

3. True North Sports and Entertainment, Winnipeg Jets

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    I have to give props to the True North Sports and Entertainment corporation for bringing the Winnipeg Jets back to Winnipeg.

    Hockey left Winnipeg for Phoenix of all places in the mid-1990s, and the town had not been the same since it returned this season.

    The hoops that have to be jumped through in order to obtain an NHL franchise today are unbelievable and True North Sports and Entertainment believed that the city of Winnipeg, (despite the small size of the MTS Centre at just over 15 thousand seats) and purchased the Atlanta Thrashers, bringing them to Winnipeg.

    The Jets have a shot at making the playoffs this season—the team has lead the Southeast Division at multiple times this season—but find themselves currently six points out of eighth place Washington with a game in hand.

    True North Sports and Entertainment has benefited from the support of their fans, which sold out their season ticket sales effort (an attempt to sell 13,000 tickets) in an eye-popping 17 minutes.

    Nevertheless, if the Jets don't make the playoffs this season, they will have their eyes on a playoff appearance and a couple of big free agent signings in the offseason to help their squad that's surprisingly devoid of superstar talent.

2. Mario Lemeiux (& Ron Burkle), Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Mario Lemieux has restored the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise to the greatness days of the early 1990s.

    With the Penguins in bankruptcy court in 1999, Lemieux bought the team and continued playing with "player-owner" status.

    Lemieux's desire to keep the team in Pittsburgh was second to none.

    He was owed money from the bankrupt Penguins in the late 1990s, took up his claim in bankruptcy court and was made the owner.

    Lemieux's dedication to his team has brought his team back to greatness with the Penguins' 2008 Stanley Cup appearance and 2009 Stanley Cup championship.

    Lemieux also assisted in bringing around the Consol Energy Center, the current arena of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    His dedication to his team is second to only.... (see next slide)

1. Mike Ilitch, Detroit Red Wings

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    Mike Ilitch has done it all for Detroit.

    Since buying the "Dead Wings" (as they were called) in 1982 for $8 million dollars, Ilitch has seen the Red Wings win four Stanley Cups since 1997 and has helped bring hockey back to "Hockey Town".

    Ilitch isn't just interested in the Red Wings either, as he owns the Detroit Tigers and also owns the Michigan-based Little Caesar's franchise.

    The Red Wings have made the playoffs for 20 straight seasons, and Ilitch's ability and willingness let his GM (currently Ken Holland) spend the money necessary to sign free agents and re-sign current players has given his team a distinctive advantage over other teams.

    Ilitch also values veteran players in a way that no other NHL owner seems to do.

    Additionally, Ilitch is very involved with his team and often plays a big part in keeping a player in Detroit for the duration of their career if they have spent the bulk of it in Detroit already.

    Ilitch's recent success (last 15 years) with winning the Stanley Cup, and last 20 seasons making the playoffs gives him the number one spot on my greatest GM list.

    Thoughts and comments are welcome, I will take up any disputes and discussions regarding this list.

     

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