No one is going to like this post but I think it needs stated anyway. Nutting is a vilified owner in Pittsburgh with some just cause and Lemieux is hailed as a great owner again with some just cause. However Nutting just completed his first six years as majority owner of the Pirates and I was curious how much the team improved in those six seasons compared to the previous six seasons. Just for fun I thought I’d compare that improvement or lack there of against Lemieux and the Penguins improvement or lack there of in his first six seasons as owner. Now remember this is dealing with just the 6 seasons before and after each owner respectively took over their franchise. To keep things simple I’m going to use winning percentage (wins/games played).
Six Years Before Nutting (2001-2006): 415-555 (.428 winning percentage)
Six Years With Nutting (2007-2012): 405-566 (.417 winning percentage)
Note: It seems the Pirates have essentially stayed the same. There is a slight regression which of course is now what we would like to see. One would hope that the franchise would have made more significant steps forward. That is definitely a failure on Nutting’s part. Now lets see what a “good” owner can do in six years.
Six Seasons Before Lemieux Took Over (1993/94-1998/99): 238-162-60 (.583 winning percentage)
Six Seasons After Lemeiux Took Over(1999/00-2005/06): 179-274-39 (.403 winning percentage)
* Ties are considered .5 win and .5 loss
Note: Um well it doesn’t appear a “good” owner really helped out within six years. The Penguins were vastly worse under Lemieux’s first six years as owner. Granted he had a much higher standard to live up than Nutting did with the Pirates but wow that is certainly far from acceptable as well.
Bottom Line: So can we read anything into these numbers? Not really a whole lot, no. In reality they are fairly meaningless but one thing we can take from them is that judging an owner on six seasons worth of data probably isn’t a good idea. I mean the Penguins over Lemieux’s first 6 seasons were actually a tad worse than the Pirates have been over Nutting’s first 6 seasons and Lemieux started with a playoff caliber team and Nutting started with pretty much the same talent level he continued to throw out there. There are of course other elements to consider here, Lemieux took over a team with a large amount of debt but Nutting also took on a fair amount of debt, not as much as Lemieux though. Unlike Lemieux, Nutting actually had some hand in the decision-making prior to officially taking over as owner but then again Lemieux was gifted enough to actually go out and play after acquiring the team. We could go point, counter point all day like Lemieux took over when the sport was in a financial mess can be countered with yes but Lemieux’s first 6 years include a salary capped year where the Pens could more easily compete and Nutting’s doesn’t. I’m not really interested in all that though, my only point in bringing up these numbers is that more than 6 years worth of data is needed before an owner should be applauded or vilified.