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Kurtis Gabriel's insertion into the Game 3 line-up sends the wrong message

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Per Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, it is likely Kurtis Gabriel will make his playoff debut tonight. Gabriel has played just a grand total of three games this season at the NHL level, and is known for one thing - fighting.

This seems like an over-reaction to Stars antagonist Antoine Roussel. Roussel has clearly been a thorn in the side of the Wild all series long. That's what he thrives on. But Roussel is also a decent depth player on the ice. Scoring 13 goals in the regular season, and the most famously flukey goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Roussel does two things quite well for his team. He is a tenacious forechecker, a total pain in the ass for teams to deal with, and a guy that can be on the ice without being a liability like a goon-it-up enforcer.

Kurtis Gabriel is only valuable as an enforcer as he provides little-to-skill above that, especially in an NHL game. He's been a black hole on the ice in terms of possession and in his three games with the Wild averaged only 4:29 time on ice. Add in his 10 penalty minutes (two fighting majors) with no shots, no goals, no assists, and a 31.6 CF percentage with a relative of -12.7 percent, he just isn't a knid of player that a team struggling to score should be placing into the line-up.

But...but he can keep Roussel from taking cheap shots by fighting him!

Roussel, for all his antics, has fought only eight times this season, according to In an era where fighting is way down, that seems like a lot, but those eight fights have been spread across 3,717 minutes this season. In comparison, Gabriel has 2 fights in 13 minutes of ice time. And Roussel isn;t going to fight a guy like Gabriel. He fights guys like Jarome Iginla, Tommy Wingels, Adam McQuaid, and Ryan Callahan. None of those guys would be considered an enforcer type. However, actually reserving a roster spot for someone just to deal with him just feeds into his game more. With John Torchetti inserting Gabriel into the line-up, it only reinforces Roussel's game. He knows that he's being effective and the Stars know they have one less player to worry about on the ice. They know Roussel is in the Wild's collective heads, even up to the head coach.

We surely know that Gabriel isn't going to see a ton of ice time as he's never crossed the six-minute threshold with the Minnesota Wild. So who gets the extra minutes? Everyone else does. So now the Wild is plugging in a player that doesn't bring anything to the table, and will make everyone else take on a bigger workload.

Even Russo was perplexed by the move:

Also, very surprising decision if Gabriel plays and seems like an overreaction to a small problem (Antoine Roussel) if Gabriel's not going to play a regular shift against a fast, skills Stars team and Carter would.

It's just insanely baffling that a team trying to win a playoff game that has struggled to score would insert a player that doesn't score and overall makes the roster worse.

But should he fight, and even win a fight, I can almost guarantee it's not going to be Roussel he fights. And if the Wild win tonight, there will be fans all over the place acting like Gabriel's 5 minutes meant so much to this team.