Another Bettman Team Crumbling?

It has taken a long time, but word out to Tampa Bay tonight is that, once again the wagging tongues have been right and those denying the stories may have been full of coyote shit. John Romano has an excellent piece on just how ugly it has become in Tampa, in direct contrast to what all the parties have said publicly of late. Here’s a sample:

“There is unrest in the ownership group. There is dissension in the ranks. And, almost one year to the day after OK Hockey took control of the franchise, the possibility of a messy divorce between bickering owners is a real possibility. Oren Koules and Len Barrie are scheduled to have a meeting today with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to determine which one of them will have the authority to make decisions for the franchise. In essence, the commissioner is determining custody of a hockey team.”

WOW- that doesn’t sound like the harmony we have been fed for months on end does it? The today, by the way is in reference to Tuesday….but wait, there is more:

“And so the humiliation of an ownership group reaches a new crescendo. If you thought it was bad when Dan Boyle called them liars, or John Tortorella described them as cowboys or Barry Melrose accused them of being meddlers, then this is worse. This makes them look like complete incompetents. Which, hopefully, is the message Bettman delivers.”

Recall, if you will, it was Bettman that allowed these two guys to buy into his league, the same league he won’t let that damn renegade Balsillie into…

“They tell stories of various indiscretions, some minor and some serious, in the offices of the St. Pete Times Forum. They hint at money woes and personality clashes. They suggest this is a franchise in disarray, and one whose brand is being devalued in the eyes of fans and sponsors.”

What, inquiring minds want to know is a serious indiscretion in this instance????

So who should get the reins of this derailed freight train?

“This should be the moment that Bettman hands control to Barrie. Please, do not misconstrue that as a vote of confidence in Barrie. This is, after all, the guy who predicted the Lightning would win the division when, in reality, Tampa Bay won fewer games than any team in the NHL. He is the guy who has had public squabbles with Tortorella and Melrose. And he has, along with Koules, fibbed every step of the way. But his shortcomings as the day-to-day boss are only suspected. Koules’ have been confirmed.”

It’s amazing that these guys actually have a team left at all…

“Too many people have said too many unkind things to not wonder about Koules’ management style. To say there is unrest in the front office is to put it mildly. Koules has made the majority of the day-to-day decisions for the past year, and it’s getting harder than ever to have any faith when he stands before you now. Admittedly, this is nasty business, trying to figure out who should be in control. Both men have heavy financial investments in the team, and both obviously want to see the Lightning succeed. But, today, the fissure seems wide. The talk is that Koules wants to keep Lawton as GM, wants to trade Lecavalier to get out from under his $85 million contract and wants to pare the payroll to the low $40 million range. Barrie is not as solidly behind Lawton, wants to build around Lecavalier and is in favor of signing some free agents to get the payroll closer to $50 million.”

And there in the middle is Bettman, like Leslie Nielsen in the Naked Guy, “Please disburse, there is nothing to see here…”

One wonders just how long it will be before some of this stuff starts to stick to the commish? I mean the days of the Stanley Cup Finals he is in bankruptcy court, then, just days before the draft he is mediating a battle between two of his most recently approved owners. I guess the good news, for now anyways is that neither of these guys has been charged with fraud or anything along those lines…. This story will be everywhere tonight and tomorrow- for one I want to hear Glen Healy talk on a subject! Can you imagine, for one second the calls Bettman has to make or take every time one of these stories breaks…the guy is out there trying to sell a few franchises and this shit keeps popping up! Talk about a bad month!

You can read the story here

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