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How Much Power Does The Commissioner Really Have?

In the wake of the Wetzel article lambasting Gary Bettman, I was curious if anyone could give me a satisfying answer to a simple enough question - "How much power does the Commissioner really have?"

As Chris DeGroat points out, it's the Board of Governors - not Bettman - who approve everything from rule changes to expansion plans. Sure, Bettman serves as the owners' mouthpiece, but at the end of the day if, for example, the owners favored something that was in their best interest but not in the best interest of the game (in Bettman's eyes), could he stop the change from being made? Some people hint that Bettman very much wanted realignment, but was shot down by enough owners that the proposal died.

In short (pun intended), is Gary Bettman just a high-salaried whipping boy or a legitimate steward of the game?