This probably is just the echo of the Child of the '60s conspiracy-theorist rattling inside my brain, but is it wrong to wonder whether Gary Bettman's campaign on behalf of Sidney Crosby amplified by a tribute to his "greatness" on Monday is part of an effort to co-opt No. 87 when the collective bargaining talks commence in earnest following the playoffs?

Understand: Crosby is a great player who competes every second of every shift and whose conduct off the ice is an enduring advertisement for the NHL and endorsement of the way he was raised by his family.

But the Favored Son status granted to Crosby by Sixth Avenue does the star no favors among the larger constituency.

When has any commissioner ever before leaped to an unsolicited defense of a player by defining implied criticism of a specific athlete from an opposing coach to be, "gamesmanship," "noise" and "a potshot" the way Bettman did at the beginning of the week regarding Rangers coach John Tortorella's April 15 postgame rant in Pittsburgh?