Question Of The Week: Oren Koules WTF?!?!

Oh, put a microphone in front of a man's face in a room full of bored hockey reporters and see what happens next...

With the hockey press on the prowl at the NHL's Research and Development Camp in Toronto last week,  former Lightning co-owner Oren Koules let it slip that he's been talking to Gary Bettman about becoming an NHL owner again. (Read RC's take on his announcement here).

And my jaw dropped, just a little bit. Why would he come back? He must have lost a ton of money with the Lightning. Everyone thought they were broke. And why would the the Commish listen? This guy was one half of a super-duo of stupidity that required muzzling by Bettman himself.

But hey, if Oren has more money to spend at the casino of NHL ownership, why wouldn't Gary listen?

I imagine Oren's news probably opened some newly-healing wounds in Bolts Nation. So we go straight to the source and ask the Boltosphere:

What do you make of Oren Koules' announcement that he'd like a second try at owning an NHL team? 

Answers from the Raw Charge staff and guests are only a click away.

Dani Toth - Raw Charge / Lightning Hockey Blog

As long as it isn't with any of the teams that I support was my first thought to this question.

But I guess it depends on the reason he wants to become an owner again and how much money he has to invest in his team. If he is thinking about this in terms of a buy a business because his plan is to make it profitable and he has the cash to do so, then I think the NHL needs to look into his interest. But just because you look into his interest or because he is interested doesn't mean this will ever happen.

Clark Brooks - Raw Charge / Ridiculously inconsistent trickle of consciousness 

I spewed a lot of venom about this in a comment on John's recent article, but when it comes to demonizing Koules, it's like Jello; there's always room.

Here in Tampa Bay, an area where bad sports owners breed like rabbits, Koules is quite simply the worst of the worst. Before anybody mentions Culverhouse and/or Naimoli, take into consideration that while colossal mistakes were made by both of them, they were made in the process of establishing expansion teams. Koules bought an established team that was less than five years removed from a Stanley Cup championship and turned it into the worst organization in sports. He had a championship winning general manager, coach and several players in place when he took over and he decided to blow it all up. Granted, the team hadn't been performing that well prior to him taking over and a new owner is entitled to bring in his own people, but to replace those components with an agent, a TV personality and aging offensive-minded forwards who couldn't score speaks to judgment, or lack thereof, and an out of control ego.

That's history though. Going forward, I STILL don't think he has any business owning a team. For one thing, why would anybody think he has the money to be successful? He didn't have it before and both his attempts to assemble groups were disasters. For another, he claims his efforts with the Lightning were undermined by only two things, his hand-picked partner Len Barrie and a bad economy. This, besides being insulting, indicates that his ego is still out of control and that he either didn't really learn anything from his multiple mistakes here or is just out of touch with reality. Either way, that's a dangerous combination. Good bosses, and good sports owners, hire competent people, give them the resources they need to do their jobs and then stay the hell out of their way. I've seen nothing in the way Koules operates to indicate that he's capable of doing that.

That said, I'd support him 100% if he put in a bid on the New York Yankees.

Tina Robinson - Raw Charge 

While I balk at saying it would be a good idea, or even a remotely decent idea for that matter, I'll never say "never" when it comes to the NHL. It's not that I totally blame him for the almost total collapse of the Lightning over the years that "OK Hockey" owned it and played with it like a fantasy hockey team, but he WAS the majority owner. It does fall on him to make at least something resembling a semi-intelligent decision. There were other circumstances, of course... the total ineptness of his lying snake-in-the-grass partner (who's biggest contribution, if rumors are to be believed, was the nixing of the "Vinny to Montreal" trade at the draft) the totally stupid selection of their first head coach, followed closely by the inept decision of whom to hire as GM, the revolving door for the players, the constant bickering between the "owners" to the point that the commish had to babysit them like a couple of 4 yr olds.....

Oh, wait, I guess I do totally blame him for it...

And this guy wants a second try at owning an NHL team?

My reply: No. Not just "No" but "OH HELL NO!"

If the leagues DOES grant him that second chance, they better be damned sure he has the money and the partners to back it up and put him on a very (VERY) short leash. Like a choker leash... 

Matt Amos - Raw Charge / Don't Trade Vinny

Hahahahahahahahahaha.

Oh, you'd really like an answer?

I would hope Gary Bettman would know better than to allow the same mistake to happen again, but let's be honest, he's not. So, Oren may get a second chance. And if he does, let's just all hope it's with the Penguins.

John Fontana - Raw Charge

It’s easy to knee-jerk with the thought of Oren Koules in charge of a NHL franchise again. A lot of people have a lot of different thoughts from the tenure of OK (Not Really) Hockey’s ownership of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Instead of focusing on what happened with the Bolts under the watch of the ownership group that Koules was founder of (and you couldn’t tell who was in charge on most given days – Oren, or Len Barrie), I’m more concerned about the company that Koules kept in his attempts to run the Lightning.

It starts in August 2007 with Koules, Jeff Sherrin and Doug MacLean and Absolute Hockey. That ownership group didn’t dissolve but had a messy divorce in November 2007 that involved litigation and payouts. We don’t know everything that led to the divorce, but it’s the first ownership-group conflict that Oren was involved in.

His second ownership group, OK Hockey, may have functioned for a time – but between Koules and Barrie (former NHLer turned developer), it was two cowboys with no adults in charge. Ownership didn’t function in the end, leading to another messy breakup that became public in June 2009 with the league having to settle things.

But let’s not forget about Koules attempt to recruit billionaire Jeff Greene to buy into the Lightning (and buy out Len Barrie). Greene, who is a failed US Senate candidate in Florida, made his fortune betting against the housing bubble. Stories of excess follow Greene and his yacht (the "Summerwind") around. While Greene had the money and Koules had the connection to get Greene’s attention, in the end would it have been a sound move for the Lightning? Or simply an enabling of Koules with more unsound ownership?

Everyone deserves second chances. Would Koules be content with sitting in the back of a larger ownership group and letting others run a franchise? I don’t know, and past evidence says no. I’m not sure I’m keen on him getting the keys to another pro sports team. His passion is there, but so is the controversy.

Alexis Boucher - Sons of Andreychuk

It's a very unique experience watching ownership nearly ruin a  team that you love. That's what happened when Oren Koules' and co. came to Tampa Bay. He treated a professional sports franchise like a team in a fantasy league and that didn't work out for anyone. He was a first time owner who might not have known exactly what he was getting involved in, but just because you have the money to buy a team does not mean that you should.

He might be more knowledgeable going into another ownership situation, but I would rather he doesn't get the chance. He should stick to crappy slasher films. My reaction to Koules wanting another shot at ownership? A million times no.

Jon JordanKukla's Korner / Beasts of the Southeast

You know what? While the OK Hockey era is what it is in Lightning history, I think it would be great to see Oren Koules get a chance to be part of an ownership group elsewhere. If nothing else, we’d finally get to see what he could do without the negative influence of a whack job partner, for starters. And surely, he’d be beyond motivated to prove his many critics wrong.

It sounds, though, like Koules would be a smaller part of any future group than he was here in Tampa (though I’m sure that could change) and, who knows? Maybe that would help his cause in the long run, actually, because I wouldn’t look past his willingness to once again employ Brian Lawton in a GM role, were that call unilaterally his to make. He’ll still maintain, to this day, that Lawton did a fine job overall in managing the Lightning, considering the circumstances. While I won’t exactly be joining him in leading that parade, I suppose there’s even somewhat of an argument for Lawton to get another GM chance without as many distractions as there were here in Tampa during his tenure. (Again, I’m not at all sold to that end...)

Koules has said repeatedly that he learned so very much in his time as Lightning owner. If so, at the very least, it would make for quite the story to watch him get a chance to put those lessons to good use.

And hell, doesn’t everybody (with, perhaps, just a few exceptions) deserve a second chance?

I wouldn’t bet against this becoming reality in the not-too-distant future.

 

JJ

Pete Choquette - boltprospects.com

Then I hope he buys the Panthers. :)

 

(Nolan Whyte blogs about the Lightning at Raw Charge and at Frozen Sheets Hockey. Follow him on twitter @nolanwhyte.)

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