Perusing the NHL’s news of the day would have you believe a few things. First, the labor negotiations are ‘productive’ right now. Second, nobody knows what to expect from the Minnesota Wild. Third, all of the big name free agents are off the board.
The funny thing is, the third part — and likely the first — of that isn’t true. At all.
Enter Alexander Semin.
It would be magnificent if Alex Semin had a non-offensive nickname that didn’t make teenage boys giggle, but he doesn’t. They’re all very, very rude. If we’re submitting new PG calibre nicknames, ‘The Enigma’ may be the most meaningful. The man is a riddle, and that’s where we stand going into the foreseeable future.
The incredibly frustrating part of the Krasnojarsk Riddle is his supreme talent. Alexander Semin is easily one of the top wingers in hockey on pure ability. He can score goals with the best in the league. He should be the best available UFA this year, but he’s not, because of a reputation he can’t shake.
The Semin bashing has hit the peak of its ridiculousness as Jim Rutherford spoke to the media regarding the possibility of Semin joining the Carolina Hurricanes among other possible personnel targets.
Semin, 28, has the offensive explosiveness the Canes covet, but the enigmatic Russian has been questioned about his effort, consistency and attitude. Rutherford said the Canes could consider offering Semin a one-year contract.
“We would look at Semin on a short-term basis,” he said. “We wouldn’t want to get locked in to anything, because we’ve all heard the stories about him. We do like his skill level. It could be that we could bring him in for a year, get to know him and go from there in terms of considering something longer term.”
The Carolina Hurricanes, for those keeping track at home, have missed the playoffs three years in a row. Their last elite, veteran winger (Jeff Skinner is not a veteran) was Ray Whitney who left the team after the 2009-10 season. Eric Staal has plateaued at 70 points a season, Jordan Staal has been brought in to alleviate some pressure off of his brother and Skinner when healthy — which is a big question mark with his head injuries — should provide another elite scoring option. There’s the extent of Carolina’s impact offense.
Really, is this Hurricanes team one that can actively turn down former 40 goal scorers? Has the Semin character assassination come this far?
Semin’s alleged personality problems are pronounced. His work ethic has been questioned repeatedly, he has been accused of undermining coaches, he slacks off on defense. Pierre McGuire may or may not have had time to take a breath during the public floggings he leads any time he has a microphone near his face.
Considering the immense upside Semin possesses, this player could very well be someone capable of propelling the Staals, Skinners and even Jussi Jokinens of the world beyond their current production levels. The Hurricanes finished the 2011-12 season as the sixth worst team in the NHL for goal differential at -30. If you plug Semin into that lineup the margin diminishes considerably.
Alex Semin is two years removed from a 40 goal season, and topped the 20 goal mark in the two years since then despite playing in an offensively stifling system. During the Capitals longest playoff run during his time there (2008-09), and the last in a free flowing system, he produced 14 points in 14 games. He’s not a bad player. Hell, he has two less points than Zach Parise in 31 less career games. Who should the real prize be up front among forwards?
If NHL coaches, let alone former players like Hurricanes Kirk Muller, are remotely afraid of his ‘coach killer’ reputation, maybe it’s time to wonder what makes you qualified to drive the car.
Someone please, for the love of God, sign Alex Semin. It would help us all return to sanity.