Canucks and Beyond

What Makes For a Successful Franchise?

03/13/2009 at 3:56pm EDT

This is a few days old, but I hadn’t taken the time to look at it till today, and it struck me as an interesting index of pro-sports, particularly of the NHL itself.

Bizjournals analyzed the performances of all 122 franchises in the NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League in the 2008 calendar year. The top scores went to those teams that were strongest at the twin missions of professional sports—winning games and making money.

These were the 10 best sports organizations of 2008:Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics

1. Boston Celtics (NBA)
2. New York Giants (NFL)
3. Los Angeles Lakers (NBA)
4. Montreal Canadiens (NHL)
5. Boston Red Sox (MLB)
6. Detroit Pistons (NBA)
7. Detroit Red Wings (NHL)
8. Chicago Cubs (MLB)
9. Philadelphia Phillies (MLB)
10. Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL)

The means of calculating the ranking, as outlined by Bizjournals:

Half of a team’s score was determined by its level of success on the field, court or ice. Bizjournals’ formula considered each franchise’s win-loss record, average margin of victory (or defeat), and playoff results.

The other half was determined by a team’s relative success in business. The formula analyzed average home attendance, the percentage of available seats sold for home games, and the increase (or decline) in a franchise’s value from 2007 to 2008. The latter was based on annual estimates published by Forbes magazine.

Here’s the rest of list. Or, for our purposes, here’s how the NHL’s teams shook out.

12. San Jose Sharks (NHL)
18. Philadelphia Flyers (NHL)
24. Chicago Blackhawks (NHL)
27. Calgary Flames (NHL)
31. New York Rangers (NHL)
33. Minnesota Wild (NHL)
41. Washington Capitals (NHL)
47. Anaheim Ducks (NHL)
48. Buffalo Sabres (NHL)
53. Vancouver Canucks (NHL)
55. Dallas Stars (NHL)
60. Boston Bruins (NHL)
61. Edmonton Oilers (NHL)
64. Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)
68. Ottawa Senators (NHL)
74. Colorado Avalanche (NHL)
79. New Jersey Devils (NHL)
89. Carolina Hurricanes (NHL)
90. Nashville Predators (NHL)
96. Los Angeles Kings (NHL)
97. Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL)
102. Florida Panthers (NHL)
107. Phoenix Coyotes (NHL)
114. Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL)
119. Atlanta Thrashers (NHL)
121. New York Islanders (NHL)

Notable from the list is to see that three NHL teams make the top-10. But more interesting is how the ranking turns our assessment of “successful” and “unsuccessful” franchises in a different light. Clearly, the more financially successful franchise doesn’t necessarily mean it produces a better product on the ice. And while this may be an obvious point even without a formal ranking, it’s an oft-overlooked one.

I wonder: are there any business lessons to be had when considering a list like this, or is it just trivia? At the very least, I think it provides an interesting window by which to speculate on the business and management acumen of each team.

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