The Curious Case of Alexander Semin seems to have the hockey world scratching its collective head these days. We all know the hard facts by now – here’s a 28 year old dude with a big body who’s never scored less than 20 goals in any of his six NHL seasons (hitting 34, 38 and 40 in three of them) who is remarkably unsigned nine days after free agency opened. This leads to the fun question: WTF is going on here?
That question has caused us bloggers to go a-million-monkey-on-a-million-typewriters (not much else going on these days, in our defense), and use pounds of digital ink to make some iteration of the point that, guys, this player is really, really good. Some GM should really give this guy some money and instantly upgrade his roster. (I’ve yet to see the contrary written, so we’re all basically just yelling at NHL GMs, not each other.)
And I agree with that point, but the more I thought about it, the more I got to wondering if they do know something about Semin that we’re missing behind the scenes. Is he truly a locker room “cancer?” Is he the type of guy who makes his teammates hate going to the rink? Is he the world’s worst stallmate?
As we learned today, it’s likely just a money issue – Semin apparently got offered a monster contract in Russia (rumored to be three years, 30 million), and him and his agent are probably just waiting for some NHL GM to get desperate enough to up their offer, which is likely half of that.
But if its not, we see the same old theories getting floated - he’s just too Russian-y for NHL GMs, too “enigmatic,” as the euphemism goes. “He’s not good in the room,” and other vagaries are tossed about.
I can’t help but think some desperate team would’ve thrown themselves at him by now, and that it’s not impossible that some of those things are playing into how this is unfolding. There are 20+ teams who could use him, and plenty with the cap space to do it – maybe they do know something. When you’re becoming a question mark on the ice (his numbers have been declining), maybe teams don’t want to roll the dice if they know for sure he’s bad in the room.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer on Semin (so we’ll all just have to stay tuned together), but I can help in one regard: let’s take a look at things that make guys “good in the dressing room,” and a misconception fans have about life behind the closed doors.
These things make you “good in the room”
* No pouting. A hockey season is a roller coaster ride – you’re on the first line, then the third line, then the second. You like your lineys one day, hate them the next. You’re on the power play, you’re off it. Your play, combined with injuries and other factors, dictates your role on any given day. If you’re the type of dick who slumps in his stall and won’t talk to anyone after a demotion, you can go stuff it. It’s insight into your priorities.
* Pick your spots. Being good in the room is almost like the concept of beerability – you can’t force it. If you’re standing up and giving Lombardi-esque speeches at every intermission, guys will grow to resent you, and tune you out. Incidentally, this is why a lot of teams grow to loathe their captain – some guys feel obligated to play the role of coach too often, when they should be worrying about their own play.
* It’s okay to want good personal stats, but hide it. The guy who’s checking his numbers in the media book before every game, chirping guys he’s doing better than, and making claims to the ref right after a goal that he tipped it probably sits alone at pre-game meal.
* Clique-surfing is important. Anytime you get 20+ people together for a year, cliques inevitably form. The best guys are the ones who can get along with everyone, and make an effort to do so. Occasionally you see a group of guys segregate themselves from the team, and you start to get the sense that not everyone is pulling in the same direction.
* And most importantly, don’t be selfish. That goes for so many things. If your team is playing dump and chase to run out the clock, don’t try to beat the d-man because their goalie is struggling. You need to share things kindergarten-style. Get off the training table if you’re reading the paper and someone wants to stretch. Don’t use any equipment for too long. Honestly, it’s not that hard to just…not be a prick.
The list of things that make you bad in the dressing room is just the opposite of what’s written above, combined with personality. Much like at your work, certain personality types just make things more difficult. Still, it’s important to note that there’s a difference between “I don’t like that guy” and “that guy’s attitude is pulling this team apart.”
You can tack on goofy stuff to the list of negatives like “far prefers to be nude than dressed” and “smells terrible,” and “leaves spitters everywhere,” but not too many teams have missed playoffs because of dudes acting like pigs.
A misconception about room etiquette…
* Nationality rarely has a damn thing to do with it. This idea that Russians may be looked at one way or another is crap (it’s the media who does that). If you’re outgoing, engaging, or at the very least nice, there’s not going to be any issues. You almost have to go out of your way to be a “bad teammate,” and people from all nationalities find a way to acquire the label.
Bringing it back around to Alexander Semin, a team would’ve taken a chance on him regardless of his dressing room behavior by now if the money were right.
One thing we do know, is this will all unfold sooner or later, and nobody will ever come out and mention the dressing room either way. Those are internal issues, and as fun as they’d be to really know, it’s just an aspect of the game that belongs to a team, and not the public.