New York Islanders (10-18-3) at Minnesota WILD (15-13-2)
8 p.m. EST | [utility of some sort] Center | MSG+2 (twice the plus!)
Minnesota Wild blog, preview and links: Hockey Wilderness
If the world were righteous and just, we'd be playing in royal blue unis against a one-Stanley Cup team called the Minnesota North Stars with Mike Modano winding down his career, while some healthy expansion team would be doing just fine in a shiny Dallas arena as the NHL's best Sun Belt story.
But since it's not, we're playing a team that's a pretty fine model on how to start a team from scratch. (Alas, we can never get the last five years of the 20th century back.) Expansion prize Marian Gaborik's groin is feeling a wee bit wonky after his first game back. He must've bought that groin at the same shop where Mike Bossy bought his back -- although their hearts are of completely different makes [Sorry, gratuitous cheap shot. Please don't hurt us, Marian].
If you're a non-Islanders fan just visiting, I kind of buried the lead in the game preview: The big news is stalwart Brendan Witt shared honest thoughts on Scott Gordon's system, and it's drawn a mob of angry Newsday-like commenters on Chris Botta's blog into messy separate camps. Not pretty over there, and pretty hard to wade through. But Witt and Gordon are fine, having a philosophical debate among adults. [Second-thought edit: Okay, maybe "fine" isn't the word. There's a decent chance Witt opened the gate for some serious room tension/coach undermining here, or maybe began his path out of town. But my sense from the outside is that both men can talk intelligently about this issue ... and if there's a departure, it will serve both better.]
The debate -- for sober thinkers, anyway -- is whether Gordon should stick to the long-term plan and find out who doesn't fit his system, or if he should adjust his philosophy to try to make what he can out of players he has right now. I think fans on both sides love Witt, but some on the "win now" side are taking it as a chance to bash Gordon or Snow or The Plan or, bizarrely, Charles Wang.
Witt, for his part, is a respected defensive leader wearing an "A" who wants to win at all costs, so he says adjust your approach to fit the (underskilled) team you have. Gordon says try it for a full 60 minutes first, then we'll see. Both sides have merit. The elephant in the room here is that it doesn't hurt the Isles -- in fact it probably helps -- if they finish in last this year and get the top pick. The other elephant is that the vets at the end of their careers didn't sign up for that -- even though, realistically speaking, they very much did.
Yours truly is on the long-view, system side: Islanders teams have simply tried to "make do" for too long. This time, the revolution must carry on without interruption.