In 1939 British Prime Minister Winston Churchill described the actions of Russia as “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” If Churchill were around today he might have used a similar charicterization to describe Alexander Semin.
Riddle. Mystery. Enigma. Russian. It describes the Alexander Semin situation perfectly.
We haven’t seen this kind of discussion over a member of the Canadiens since the career of Alexei Kovalev started to unravel in 2009 at the age of 36. The difference is, Semin is just 31.
The conversation surrounding Semin is basically two-sided. One segment says Michel Therrien is not giving Semin a chance to succeed; that yanking him from the lineup after only ten games was premature and unfair. They say Semin is not getting a chance to regain the confidence he lost in his final months with Carolina during which he suffered, among other things, a serious wrist injury. Part of that same group will quote the so-called ‘advanced statistics’ which, despite poor offensive production, show corsi-plus and corsi relative numbers that are in the team’s top five (55.3% and +4.38 respectively). That group says Therrien was wrong to sit Semin down for seven games and then give him only two games before shutting him down again before Thursday night’s game against Arizona.
On the other side of the argument, there are those who say he is a hopeless case; that Semin is lazy; his play is indifferent and merely a continuation of what the Carolina Hurricanes had to deal with finally leading them to buy out the final three years of his five year contract at a cost to the team of 14-million dollars. Even at their most generous, the critical groups say Semin is slow, has lost his shot and is basically over-the-hill.
The advanced stats say he’s contributing but to me, he doesn’t pass the eyeball test. At the end of one of his games it can be said on most nights pone would be hard pressed to remember memorable hockey moments even with the benefit of playing on a line with the physically active and quicker Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller. Still, if we are to take those fancy stats seriously, for the most part he wasn’t doing any harm. Faint praise to be sure.
Marc Bergevin signed Semin with the hope that his game would at least make a partial recovery and he might contribute 15 or 20 goals while at the same time buy some development time for some of the better Canadiens prospects in the American Hockey League. Those plans aren’t working out. Sadly, Bud Holloway and Michael McCarron are two St. John’s IceCaps forwards who are more than capable of stepping in at right wing and making a greater contribution than has Semin.
I’m more on the side of those who think Semin should have been given a little more rope but that’s a view from the outside. These days we never find out the way conversations with Semin have gone behind the closed door of the coach’s office. Hockey is a cruel business. If Therrien has completely lost patience, trust and confidence in Semin, as seems to be the case, unless we want to see Therrien breaking up the other successful lines in order to shore up the hole in the Galchenyuk line, Bergevin may have no other choice but place Semin on waivers and give one of the prospects a chance.