Coach K’s WHAT IF: Life After Bettman?

So the NHL has proposed a deal which, in principle, is more along the lines of what the NHLPA was looking for. Sure there will be a counter-proposal as well, but why now Gary?

The NHL Commissioner’s office has been clamoring for weeks now that they expected the Players’ Association to come up with the next CBA proposal.  And couldn’t this deal have been done in the summer, and avoided all these delays in the season, not to mention fan frustration?

Given the circumstances of the proposal, and it’s appearance out of left field, I may be inclined to think my piece fromtwo weeks ago (Coach K’s What If: Bettman/Owners Rift?) may be closer to being the truth than a mere hypothesis. And if so that begs the question…

WHAT IF there are some of the “Big 10″ NHL owners who are fed up of Gary Bettman’s bull-headed negotiating philosophies?

Is it possible that some of the bigger fish in the NHL ownership hierarchy are no longer as sold as they were when Gary Bettman was initially hired by former Habs’ President Ronald Corey (yes, HIM!!!), disgraced former L.A. Kings owners Bruce McNall, Philadelphia Flyers’ owner Ed Snyder and Bill Wirtz, the deceased former owner of the Chicago Blackhawks?

Mr. Snyder has been identified in multiple instances as not being overly enthusiastic with Bettman’s stubborn persona.

It’s well known that Bettman is a lawyer, but he majored at Cornell University in International Labour Relations. What if the lessons taught to Mr. Bettman do not apply to labour negotiations as it pertains to North American business? When you deal on an international level, you need to have a certain amount of resolve to make sure that your particular country benefits as well as it can from labour contracts, but how can you do that in this case?

WHAT IF the “Big 10″ amongst the NHL owners no longer have the power they once yielded?

Needless to say that Jeremy Jacobs, Dan Snyder and the other owners that make up the “Big 10″ have controlled the league, through Gary Bettman, for the better part of the last 20 years, but  has this latest labour dispute weakened their stranglehold on the remaining smaller market owners in the NHL? While some think it’s unlikely, I’m of the opinion that these owners have not only dictated their operational terms to the players, but to the smaller market owners in the league as well. And the other 2/3 of the league’s owners won’t stand for it.

While we are on that subject, some of the small market owners in the NHL are fed up of the lack of communications between them and Gary Bettman, in regards to the CBA negotiations. This continued power struggle between the two NHL ownership factions continues may beg the question…

WHAT IF Gary Bettman were on his way out in order to maintain ownership peace in the NHL?

Again, his recent contract extension would suggest a fair bit of satisfaction from his employers, the NHL Board of Governors, but the shear fact that this type of proposal, and its timing, are so far out of left field from Bettman’s normal behaviour, I can’t help but wonder if his “Napoleon Complex” has been shattered? Just look at his body language and his tone of voice during his press conference announcing the proposal.

Does he really look like a man in control, or has he indeed been broken?

Small market owners can ill afford to lose major chunks of their revenues from ticket sales and sponsorship. Relieving Mr. Bettman of his duties as NHL commissioner may go a long way to restoring the relationship among all 30 NHL owners.

But if he is “leaving” once the CBA is resolved, who could be the most likely candidate to replace him?

The majority of the hockey world think that an individual like Wayne Gretzky, who has been the face of the NHL for the better part of three decades, would be the best candidate. Simply put, while The Great One’s grace and personality would certainly be a refreshing change, his rift with the league over outstanding payment from Phoenix, as well as his lack of administrative experience, would be a detriment to the Commissioner’s Office.

Could Bill Daly fill the position? Well, as far as mental toughness is concerned, he could certainly fit the “bill”, but I think the NHL needs a clean break from anything “Bettman-esque”, so Daly wouldn’t be a wise choice.

All things considered, I could rattle off a list until the cows come home (I live in the city, that could be a while). But I wonder,…

WHAT IF the NHL hired someone like Bill Clinton to be its next commissioner?

No, I’m not saying the league should hire the former president of the United States, but instead someone with his public popularity and experience building different international relationships. For all intensive purposes, only someone who worked at a very high political scale can really understand the complexities of different labour situations. Lawyers tend to always look at things from their client’s perspective only, and never on the grand scheme of things.

Then again, with any luck, we’ll probably end up with Commissioner Schwarzenegger.

But really, WHAT IF?

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About CoachK

Kosta Papoulias has written 515 post in this blog.

Coach K is the producer of the Montreal Hockey Talk pre and post game shows, to which he is a regular contributor. His 15 years of coaching experience, along with his passion for the game, give him a unique perspective. You can follow Coach on Twitter @HabsCoachK

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