Updated at 2:30 pm at bottom with (hardly any) news from the morning skate
10:30 am – “I don’t want to be traded,” Brendan Witt told Point Blank just 15 minutes ago in an interview in which he never backed down from his comments in today’s Newsday. “I want to fix the problem.”
In Newsday, the veteran defenseman criticizes coach Scott Gordon’s defensive structure: “Personally, I think it’s more of a risky type of game,” Witt tells Greg Logan. “There’s a lot of odd-man rushes. But that’s the way he wants us to play, and until he decides he wants to change that, we’re going to play that way.”
As you’d expect from the hard-charging Witt, he did not back down when I spoke with him this morning.
“I’ve talked to Scott about it a lot. I’ve kept it internal for a long time,” Witt said from his Minnesota hotel room. “I was just answering Greg’s questions honestly.”
Witt continued: “My opinions I’ve shared with Scott is that there’s times in the game when we shouldn’t play the system. You don’t see any other teams in the NHL playing this way for a straight 60 minutes. It’s a very hard system. It’s like telling a sprinter to keep running at that pace for 60 minutes.”
When I told Witt that his comments will give the perception that he wants off the Island, he was demonstrative in saying he wants to stay and “fix the problem.”
“If I didn’t want to stay with the Islanders, I wouldn’t have signed the contract extension this summer (through 2010-11). I love it here. I just want to win. I don’t want to win just 20 games and be happy about it.”
Later on, he pounded home his message.
“When I talk to Scott about changing it up, his feeling is the system will work but that we haven’t executed it,” said Witt. “But my feeling is, if you want to win, you install a system that works best for the players you currently have.”
Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first full-blown controversy of the season. Newsday even traced its story on the back cover over a beautiful blue sky in their photo of C.C. and A.J. at the new Yankee Stadium. It says, “ISLES CONTROVERSY: Witt blames Gordon for defensive woes.”
The justification for the hoopla is that it’s Brendan Witt talking. Witt signed a two-year contract extension with the Islanders when he knew Ted Nolan was going to be gone (the dman was not a fan of the ex-coach), but before Gordon was even interviewed. Witt happily signed up for the Islanders and Long Island, but obviously not for fire wagon hockey.
His comments to Greg Logan came on the heels of a minus-5 outing against Washington on Tuesday. To us this morning Witt said, “I had a bad night and was minus-5, but I look at those goals and there isn’t anything I would have done differently.”
Whenever you install a new system, there are casualties from the group of holdover players. (A scout at the Coliseum told me two weeks ago, “Mark Streit is the only dman suited to playing Gordon’s system. Maybe Campoli, too.”) The question now is whether the Islanders move Witt to another NHL team for fair value, and whether they can.
If Witt had not signed the extension through 2010-11 – even at a reasonable $3 mill a year – he would be much easier to trade. Compound the remaining two years on his deal with the perception of his unhappiness, and Garth Snow may no longer be in position to demand a good price.
If Logan’s blog entry from today’s 12:30 pm EST skate in Minnesota isn’t about Witt and Gordon hugging it out – and the coach saying all the right things about his respected defenseman – the hole only gets deeper.
2:30 pm: Hiding behind the excuse that he hadn’t communicated with the scratched players yet, Scott Gordon did not provide lineup details to Greg Logan and the Islanders broadcasters after the morning skate in Minnesota.
What we know for sure is Comrie and Okposo are in. No word on their linemates, or who is out.
Three players were excused from the skate: Doug Weight, Joey MacDonald and, wait for it…Brendan Witt.
Rick DiPietro was on the ice for 40 minutes.
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