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Did Bettman have a hand in the Yzerman hire?

Jim Kelley at makes a very interesting -- and possible baseless -- assumption over the hiring of Steve Yzerman as the new GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning. In a fairly long article praising the hire as a great, inspired move by the Lightning, he proposes that Gary Bettman might have had a hand in steering owner Jeff Vinik to Yzerman.

It’s fair to assume (because these things always go unspoken) that Bettman steered Vinik to Steve Yzerman as Tampa Bay’s new general manager. That’s because Vinik, who knows next to nothing regarding the inner workings of a sports franchise, had intended to hire a CEO to run his newly acquired business and then let the CEO hire a GM. Well, he still hasn’t found that CEO, but someone advised him to go out and get the best new face on the GM want-to-be scene.

So, Kelley acknowledges it’s just an assumption but it’s still one heck of an assumption to make, especially coming from Sports Illustrated.

For one thing, Jeff Vinik is not a clueless man. Even though he’s unfamiliar with the hockey side of things, it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out that if a team is looking for a “fresh” start then perhaps picking one of the up-and-coming names on the GM circuit.

Is it possible that Bettman had a hand in the hiring, possibly steering Vinik in that direction? It’s certainly possible, although you wonder about the ethics of such a thing happening. The Red Wings couldn’t have been too happy with losing their golden boy executive, although Ken Holland made it clear he wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon just to make room for Yzerman.

I can understand where the thought comes from, although I’d rather just assume that a man smart enough to be a self-made millionaire and then able to win over the good graces of the NHL (who are now much more picky about who they approve sales to) is also capable of deciding that hiring Steve Yzerman as his general manager is a dang good investment.