Want to Win a Stanley Cup? Get a GM or Coach with a J.D.
If I had money to bet on who the 2015 Stanley Cup Champions will be, I would most definitely put it on the Tampa Bay Lighting because (a) I am a Detroit Red Wings fan and thoroughly enjoy tossing jabs at the Chicago Blackhawks all in good fun, and (b) Jon Cooper, the head coach for the Lightning, has a Juris Doctor. The Chicago Blackhawks have neither a head coach nor a general manager with a legal education. Admittedly, they are the thorn in my case. Other factors such as a storied history probably draw in on- and off-ice talent that attribute to its success. With respect to teams who may not have a comparable strength, though, this could be a great solution.
Obviously there are teams who win the Stanley Cup Finals or who merely qualify for the postseason without this factor. I am no scientist (and anyone who went to high school with me could attest to that), but there is a pretty marvelous correlation between a professional hockey team's likelihood of winning Lord Stanley's Cup and having someone who has legal training playing an integral role in running the team. For example, the ability to work with contracts, salary caps, labor issues, liabilities, and to identify issues and strengths and, furthermore, analyze the situation to arrive at a conclusion in the best interests of the franchise (and, of course, executing it) are critical. Capitalizing from these skills can result in overall growth and consistency reaching postseason, which then creates the opportunity to win a cup. I swear this is not purely self-promotion, though the "thinking like a lawyer" advantage in the sports industry is what led me to law school to be an effective participant in the industry. To illustrate, we can look at some of the champions in recent years.
Exhibit A: Dean Lombardi
Dean Lombardi brought the Los Angeles Kings the only two Stanley Cups (so far) in the franchise's history in 2012 and 2014. Lombardi, the General Manager of the Los Angeles Kings since 2006, graduated with honors from Tulane University Law School. Before holding his current position, he was the General Manager for the San Jose Sharks from 1996-2003. Lombardi also played hockey through college and advocated as a player agent before rising through NHL front offices.
Los Angeles Kings Record History under Dean Lombardi's Management
- GP: 82, W: 27, L: 41, OTL: 14, Playoffs: Did not qualify.
- GP: 82, W: 32, L: 43, OTL: 7, Playoffs: Did not qualify.
- GP: 82, W: 34, L: 37, OTL: 11, Playoffs: Did not qualify.
- GP: 82, W: 46, L: 27, OTL: 9, Playoffs: Lost in Conference Quarterfinals 2-4 (v. Canucks).
- GP: 82, W: 46, L: 30, OTL: 6, Playoffs: Lost in Conference Quarterfinals 2-4 (v. Sharks).
- GP: 82, W: 40, L: 27, OTL: 15, Stanley Cup Champions (v. Rangers).
- GP: 48, W: 27, L: 16, OTL: 5, Playoffs: Lost in Conference Finals 1-4 (v. Blackhawks).
- GP: 82, W: 46, L: 28, OTL: 8, Stanley Cup Champions (v. Devils).
- GP: 82, W: 40, L: 27, OTL: 15, Playoffs: Did not qualify.
Exhibit B: Peter Chiarelli
Similar to Lombardi, Peter Chiarelli won a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins in 2011 as General Manager. Chiarelli graduated from the University of Ottawa's law school and used the skill sets he acquired there as a player agent and private practitioner before becoming the Ottawa Senators' Assistant General Manager. He then held the position with the Bruins from 2006 until April 15, 2015, and nine days later, the Edmonton Oilers announced Chiarelli as the franchise's new General Manager.
Boston Bruins Record History Under Peter Chiarelli's Management
- GP: 82, W: 35, L: 41, OTL: 6, Playoffs: Did not qualify.
- GP: 82, W: 41, L: 29, OTL: 12, Playoffs: Lost Conference Quarterfinal 3-4 (v. Canadians).
- GP: 82, W: 53, L: 19, OTL: 10, Playoffs: Lost Conference Semifinal 3-4 (v. Hurricanes).
- GP: 82, W: 39, L: 30, OTL: 13, Playoffs: Lost Conference Semifinal 3-4 (v. Flyers).
- GP: 82, W: 46, L: 25, OTL: 11, Playoffs: Stanley Cup Champions (v. Canucks).
- GP: 82, W: 49, L: 29, OTL: 4, Playoffs: Lost Conference Quarterfinal 3-4 (v. Capitals).
- GP: 48, W: 28, L: 14, OTL: 6, Playoffs: Lost Stanley Cup Final 2-4 (v. Blackhawks).
- GP: 82, W: 54, L: 19, OTL: 9, Playoffs: Lost Conference Semifinal 3-4 (v. Canadians).
- GP: 82, W: 41, L: 27, OTL: 14, Playoffs: Did not qualify.
Exhibit C: Brian Burke
Brian Burke, a Harvard Law School graduate, served as the Anaheim Ducks General Manager for only three seasons (2005-2008), but in his second season, the franchise won its only Stanley Cup under his management. Burke played hockey through college and had a brief run in the American Hockey League (AHL) before attending law school. He appropriated those skills to advance his career starting as Director of Hockey Operations for the Vancouver Canucks, moving forward as the Hartford Whalers General Manager, and leaving that position so he could work for Gary Bettman as NHL Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations. After all that experience where he presumably made decisions like a Harvard law graduate would, Burke was the general manager for the Canucks, the Ducks, and the Toronto Maple Leafs. He is presently General Manager for the Calgary Flames.
Anaheim Ducks Record History Under Brian Burke's Management
- Note: The 2004-2005 season was cancelled due to the NHL lockout. In the 2003-2004 season, the Ducks had 29 wins, 35 losses, 10 ties, 8 overtime losses, and failed to qualify for the playoffs after losing in the Stanley Cup Finals the previous season.
- GP: 82, W: 43, L: 27, OTL: 12, Playoffs: Lost Conference Final 1-4 (v. Oilers).
- GP: 82, W: 48, L: 20, OTL: 14, Playoffs: Stanley Cup Champions (v. Senators).
- GP: 82, W: 47, L: 27, OTL: 8, Playoffs: Lost Conference Quarterfinal 2-4 (v. Stars).
back to jon cooper...
So far, Jon Cooper has managed to get the Lightning to compete at its highest level in franchise history. As the team's eighth head coach ever, he has led the team to the Stanley Cup Finals in progress despite the fact that this is only his second full season coaching in the NHL.
Cooper graduated from law school and worked as a public defender in Michigan before coaching in the North American Hockey League (NAHL), the United States Hockey League, and the AHL. He won four cups total in those leagues across six seasons, and, even more impressively, he was a Jack Adams Award finalist last year - his NHL debut - alongside the Detroit Red Wings' Mike Babcock and the Colorado Avalanche's Patrick Roy. The award is presented to the coach who has "contributed the most to his team's success." He has the hockey background with his high school playing experience, the statistical coaching success from rising through the juniors and minors, and the legal background that allows him to effectively turn around a program and make it a feared contender. The Blackhawks have been a dominant force these recent years and have the Original Six history to back it when its down, but if Tampa Bay is given the opportunity, don't be surprised if they take full advantage of it.
Tampa Bay Lightning Record History Under Jon Cooper's Management
- Games Coached at end of season: 16, W: 5, L: 8, OTL: 3, Playoffs: Did not qualify. (Total Season Statistics = GP: 48, W: 18, L: 26, OTL: 4.)
- GP: 82, W: 46, L: 27, OTL: 9, Playoffs: Lost Conference Quarterfinal 0-4 (v. Canadians).
- GP: 82, W: 50, L: 24, OTL: 8, Playoffs: Currently in the Stanley Cup Final tied 1-1 (v. Blackhawks).