Is Stan Kroenke a good owner or a bad one? Is he someone you’d want in charge of your favorite sports franchise or not? It depends on who is getting asked the question.
In Denver, where his two primary teams are currently pretty darn good, most people would be positive. In England, where they want to run him out of the country for the way he’s handled their beloved Arsenal, it definitely would not be.
Ultimately, the answer should come down to a very simple question: Does Kroenke do everything he can to help his teams win?
No owner should be expected to provide an open checkbook. It’s a business, after all. Being in the black isn’t a bad thing. But there’s a difference between being profitable and making money hand over fist.
In terms of an investment, professional sports franchises are like art; they’re big moneymakers when they’re sold. See Pat Bowlen’s $60 million purchase in 1984 about to be parlayed into $4 billion or more 37 years later.
Franchises shouldn’t be used as cash cows to line the owner’s pockets on an annual basis. That’s what happens in places like Cincinnati. There’s one of the main reasons why the Bengals never win anything.
Good owners spend money and they spend it wisely. They pay for great players, without putting the team in a bad financial situation down the road. They also invest in facilities and amenities, making their team a place people want to play and stay.
Does Kroenke do either of those things? Well, we’re about to see.
In terms of non-player expenditures, the Avalanche and Nuggets aren’t teams that spend money on the little things. The Avs practice in a public rink fit for the 1980. The Nuggets facilities pale in comparison to places like Dallas and Golden State.
Kroenke did spend millions to create a gigantic suite for himself atop Ball Arena, however. Why? So he wouldn’t have to walk among the commoners. Now, he can take an elevator straight from his palatial apartment in the building to his glamorous perch. He doesn’t want to mingle with his customers.
That’s nice for him. But it doesn’t exactly add up to championship for the team or their fans.
Maybe that’s why the last 20 years have seen the Avalanche and Nuggets win a combined zero titles. Neither team has advanced to the Stanley Cup or NBA Finals.
In 40 combined seasons, the two teams have reached their respective conference finals a grand total of two times. The Nuggets did it in 2009 and 2020.
Across the last 20 years, the Avs have made the playoffs 11 times and missed them on eight occasions. One season was cancelled due to a lockout. During that same time, the Nuggets have been in 13 times and out at the end of seven campaigns.
Those aren’t encouraging numbers.
Both franchises have mostly done a good job of keeping homegrown stars, however. That should be commended. But neither has been active in free agency recently, especially with regard to marquee players.
The easy excuse for this inaction is to blame the city. NBA players not wanting to play in Denver is the usual scapegoat. Colorado isn’t a traditional NHL power.
That’s nonsense. It’s one of the most-popular cities for relocation in America. Combine that with hefty paychecks and first-class facilities, and things would probably change.
That said, Kroenke can answer the question once and for all this summer. The biggest key is spending money on players, something he can chose to do, or not do, before his teams hit the ice or court again.
The Avalanche and Nuggets are bona fide contenders. Are they willing to go all in to win?
A year ago, Denver was coming off a trip to the Western Conference Finals. They then watched Jerami Grant (this year’s NBA Most Improved Player) and Mason Plumlee leave for Detroit, while Torrey Craig has played a key role for the Suns during their playoff run.
Now, they’ve seen Will Barton opt out. That frees up a lot of money.
So what do they do? Do they make a splash? Do they add a key piece?
They should. But they won’t. They’ll bring in this year’s version of JaMychal Green and Isaiah Hartenstein, and then try to convince everyone that they’re equitable replacements.
It’ll be explained away that the team has to save money for Michael Porter Jr. down the road. Or maybe even Aaron Gordon. It’s poppycock.
The Avs face a similar crossroads this offseason. Two key members of this year’s team, one that was favored to win the Cup, are unrestricted free agents.
If Colorado brings back Gabriel Landeskog and Philipp Grubauer, they’ll enter next season as the most-likely team to win it all in 2021-22. The same would be the case if they replaced their captain and goaltender with better, high-priced options.
That’s unlikely to happen, however. Joe Sakic already told everyone that the roster would get less expensive. There’s no reason not to believe the general manager.
The Avalanche and Nuggets are in the mix to host parades in the next couple of years. But it’s not going to fall into their lap.
Both teams need to be bold. Both need to spend money.
If they do, it’ll show what Stan Kroenke is all about. If they don’t, it’ll do the exact same thing.
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