clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Kurtis Gabriel is a problem for the Wild (but not for the reason you think)

New, comments
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Kurtis Gabriel is not a good hockey player. I'm sorry if that offends him, his friends, or his family, but he has no role to play in the NHL, or he shouldn't. What he brings to the table is an "energy" in the form, usually, of getting punched in the face while trying to do the same to the other guy.

The problem with Gabriel's presence in the lineup is the fact that it makes the rest of the Wild's job harder, and hurts the team's future.


We all have our ideas about fighting in hockey, but this isn't about that. Rather, this is about the problem that Gabriel doesn't bring anything else to the ice. In the game which the Wild won against the Jets, Gabriel played just under 3 minutes, with 5 minutes of penalty time... because he dropped the gloves. The Wild went on to win that game, however, two weeks later, Gabriel fought again, and the Wild lost, this time Gabriel had almost 5 minutes on the ice.

Gabriel's presence neither single-handedly won nor lost either game; his TOI doesn't warrant a player of that import (unless they give the puck away in front of the net like Nino against the hawks the other night #SingleTear)

Rather, the problem with Gabriel's presence in the lineup is the fact that it makes the rest of the Wild's job harder, and hurts the team's future.

In the first place, Gabriel being on the bench represents a player Yeo cannot trust to be responsible; a player Yeo must shelter to an extreme and at the expense of normal playing time. Gabriel has one shot on goal in 13:29 of ice time. That is simply unacceptable for someone who is not a penalty-killer-only player, and Gabriel isn't. If that didn't convince you, the fact that Gabriel only has 13:29 of ice time after having played in three games should; any player that a coach doesn't trust for more than an average of 4 minutes per game has no place on an NHL roster.

Because Gabriel can't be trusted, other players need to play more time. Parise is a great player, but he's had injury problems; do we need him carrying Gabriel's TOI? Or Suter, who already plays half of every game? When other guys get double-shifted, they are less effective and injuries become more likely. In this way, Gabriel actively hurts other players of his team.

At the same time, Gabriel's call-ups block a player with offensive ability and actual upside- Grayson Downing or Michael Keranen, for instance, from getting a chance at the NHL. The Wild are arguably in win-now mode, yes, but that doesn't mean they should mortgage the future by blocking the development of their young players, particularly when they are doing so by putting a pylon on their bench.

In fairness to Yeo, his hands have been a little tied; the Wild have had a number of injuries to their depth players (namely Tyler Graovac and Justin Fontaine), and Keranen was injured for at least one of the Gabriel Call-ups. Still; Nate Prosser is, to a lesser extent, the same kind of problem. He averages 8:34 per game, and isn't the worst player on the ice (even if he is the most unawares), but he is blocking the development of Mike Reilly and Christian Folin who, if not significantly better, at least can improve.

Yeo is far from the only coach to do this to his team, and Mike hasn't been a significant perpetrator. His insistence, however, on using "character" players who have peaked and are not good. Tanner Glass, of the New York Rangers, is a similar player who is so bad he is one half of the "Glass to Crosby" scale of quality at Own the Puck. If Yeo and other coaches want their teams to succeed, they need to stop dressing guys who flat-out cannot play hockey.