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Firing Gary Bettman or Donald Fehr won’t solve a thing (Trending Topics)

Ryan Lambert
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Trending Topics is a column that looks at the week in hockey, occasionally according to Twitter. If you're only going to comment to say how stupid Twitter is, why not just go have a good cry for the slow, sad death of your dear internet instead?

It's a common refrain these days that because the two sides at war in this labor dispute seem to have come to a bit of an understanding, even as both move farther away from détente that something radical must happen.

[The Vent: Lockout fallout leads to 'casual fan' status downgrade]

Gary Bettman, for example, is digging in his heels about the necessity for the players' association to come over to the NHL's way of thinking, with apparent take-it-or-pretty-much-leave-it offers having been made and rejected. Some wiggle room on the "make-whole" provisions for current contracts is all he's willing to grant the NHLPA, and people think that — combined with those other two lockouts over which he's presided, and the smug pain in the ass he's regularly characterized as being — is enough for him to get the door.

Don Fehr has likewise been intractable, but for different reasons. He's far less inflexible when it comes to negotiating points, but at the same time, his heels are just as dug-in as Bettman's when it comes to resolve to get the very best deal for the side they represent.

But all this desire from both to be simultaneous irresistible forces and immovable objects obviously results in the NHL's deadline for actually-canceling actual games, and not just dates, having come and gone. Fehr called it artificial because he and the players' union are of the belief that you can squeeze 82 games into a neater, littler package than what the NHL is putting out.

I'm not sure that's true, logistically, but he's sticking by it.

All this waiting for someone to do something has understandably made hockey fans a little anxious, and while "Fire Bettman," has been a common cry around literally every hockey publication's website on Earth since The Internet became A Thing, we're starting to see more people lash out at Fehr as well.

[Also: Why did KHL pull out of Brooklyn games?]

I said back when he was first hired that I imagined his appointment to the top of the NHLPA would result in a work stoppage, and indeed that has come to pass, but probably few would have predicted he'd wind up being the slightly more reasonable one.

Nonetheless, there have been more than a few "Fire Fehr" calls in the last few days as well, and they're getting louder.

What people seem to forget in all this is that they're not really the bad guys. (The confusion is somewhat understandable, given that the media seems to have little interest in actually calling either guy on the lies he's telling, but no problem disseminating them to their Twitter followers to fan the flames of outrage.)

Regardless of which side you want to blame for this, and while both Bettman and Fehr hold decent amounts of sway, they're not the people with whom true power actually lies.

The reason Fehr still has a job, despite the fact that he's close to leading players past the point of no return (at which point they'd lose more money in forfeited salary than they could make up over the life of a CBA of any reasonable period), is that the players are in lockstep with him.

[More: Ice, Ice Babies: NHL's tiniest fans cry real lockout tears]

He isn't just saying, "No" to NHL proposals, he's talking to players and asking, "Do you want to accept this?" They're saying, "No," as well they should.

If the next proposal the NHL extended them was to their liking, Fehr would sign it. One suspects that if the offer the league "pulled off the table" yesterday was any good at all, they would have signed it and we'd be in training camp right now.

Simply put, the players haven't fired Fehr because he's doing what's been asked: To save the PA from looking like a bunch of punks again. Plus there's that whole thing where they've gone through NHLPA directors like the Coyotes have gone through potential owners, and that's no good for anyone either.

Bettman, meanwhile, has a little more autonomy. But if you happen to think the league is at fault, the cabal of owners hellbent on breaking the union once again are the real enemies here.

Bettman might be the one rejecting three different proposals in 10 minutes each, but he's doing so with very clear marching orders. It's hard to approve of the way in which he's carried himself these last few weeks, but damned if he isn't doing exactly what he's supposed to.

[Related: Barack Obama tells NHL, NHLPA to 'get this done']

So let's say it happens today. Right now. As you're reading this. Bettman: Fired. Fehr: Fired.

Then what?

Does the NHLPA just go out and get a guy who won't carry the water in a way they see fit, and instead bows to whatever terrible offer Bettman shoves across the table of some highrise boardroom? Do the owners go out and get a guy who's going to listen more carefully to NHLPA offers and consider them with all due weight and respect, and prosecute this war on players' rights with more leniency? If you think the answer to either question is, "Yes," then please contact your local law enforcement agency, as you are probably a danger to yourself and others.

The tough-guy posturing would continue regardless. Whoever replaced Bettman or Fehr would have the same bosses — whether there are 29 or 700-something of them — and would probably not be allowed to drastically alter their courses of action. Again, unless one side gets desperate (that would be the players, and them only) neither one seems likely to blink any time soon, and even if they did, they'd dance with who brought them.

Firing anyone at this point won't get things moved along any more quickly than they're going now, and would frankly be a waste of everyone's time. The side firing their guy would in essence be running up the white flag, so why wouldn't they just tell him to accept whatever deal is out there anyway?

It's all well and good to fantasize about the day either one gets the boot, but fantasy is all it would ever be.

Pearls of Biz-dom

We all know that there isn't a better Twitter account out there than that of Paul Bissonnette. So why not find his best bit of advice on love, life and lappers from the last week?

BizNasty on coping: "FYI. Telling me I'm a piece of [expletive] and I suck at hockey won't bring back NHL hockey any faster. But it may make you feel better about it."

If you've got something for Trending Topics, holla at Lambert on Twitter or via e-mail. He'll even credit you so you get a thousand followers in one day and you'll become the most popular person on the Internet! You can also visit his blog if you're so inclined.

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