Last Monday, I wrote a post defending Alex Semin against the character assassination that some commentators have attempted against him. The point was not, as some thought, that Semin is really a great guy, but rather that we do not know enough of players to see whether or not they’re great guys, and given all the things that can interfere with and cloud our perceptions, it’s best not to assume we know anything about character, and better yet not to assume that we know how character influences results.

In response to that post, I was confronted with a lot of arguments that derived not from Semin’s character, as the McGuire/Crawford/Cox criticism did, but from his style of play. People told me that the problem with Semin was not his personality per se, but rather that he does not play the right way. He turns away from the net after a shot rather than crashing it. He dodges hits rather than taking them. He doesn’t battle hard enough for the puck. He doesn’t exhaust himself on his shifts. The conclusions came fast and harsh: he’s soft, he’s scared, he’s weak. The implication is that, because of those flaws, he’s not actually as good as the evidence suggests.

Canadian hockey is extremely moralistic about style. [NB: It is probable that other hockey cultures are too- based on that infamous interview it certainly seems like Semin himself might be- but I don't know enough about them to say for certain, so this article will confine itself to the Canadian example.] There is a right way to play and a wrong way to play. The right way to play involves throwing big hits, going to the dirty areas of the ice, winning battles on the boards, and dropping your gloves- that’s not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea. To be considered a ‘good’ hockey player by the Canadian standards, a man must embrace the most aggressive physical aspects of the game, and do so lustily and publicly. Even Canadian skill players pay lip service to these ideals, singing the praises of dumping and chasing and intimidating and shot-blocking, even when their entire game is based on playmaking or sniping. The difference between the way Sidney Crosby talks about how hockey should be played and how he actually plays is dramatic.

Some of the traditional values grew out of tactical evolutions- shot-blocking, for example, is both morally prized and a major component of certain strategies- but others have always been pure stylistic preferences. The mistrust of flashy play has never been anything other than cultural, the lingering influence of the dogmatic personalities who built the professional game in Canada and structured the rhetoric people eventually came to expect from the sport. If Art Ross had been the first GM of the Maple Leafs, Don Cherry might have some very different views on the subject of star egos and goal celebrations. The Canadian ethics of hockey style are a mishmash of qualities that have real strategic value, qualities that used to have strategic value but don’t anymore, and qualities that never had any strategic purpose to begin with.

There is nothing wrong with valuing a certain style aesthetically. Some people just like to watch bruising, physical play, and that’s fine. If the argument is I want this type of player on my team because that’s the type of player I enjoy watching, that is a completely legitimate position for a fan to have, but it is also a necessarily subjective position. One person’s enjoyment of a big hit is not ‘better’ than another’s enjoyment of a sick wrist shot. Your love of wide-open hockey is not ‘better’ than my love of precise defensive positioning. Aesthetic pleasure is a core part of hockey, but it makes poor ground for any kind of evaluation of players and teams.

And this is the problem: we don’t treat style as a simple aesthetic preference that colors our enjoyment of certain skills over others. We often treat it as something that makes certain skills more legitimate than others. We allow our aesthetic judgments to override our assessment of skill, to the point where we can become entirely blind to actual performance. I had people telling me that the problem with Semin is that he ‘couldn’t hack it, physically and mentally, in the NHL’. This is a man who has played 469 career games and scored 408 points- if that’s not hacking it in the NHL, nothing is.  It’s as if people look at Semin’s goal totals and then subtract his style from them- well, he scored that one from 30 feet out, so that obviously isn’t a real goal. Oh, he didn’t try hard enough on that one, so it doesn’t actually count. As a commenter on the previous post pointed out, the difference between Semin’s playoff production rates and Parise’s is negligible. Yet the way Parise plays leads people to inflate his status, while the way Semin plays leads people to diminish his. This isn’t just liking one way of playing more than another. This is allowing the ethics of style to dramatically distort the public perception of a player’s real contributions to his team’s success.

If I was to hypothesize, I would say that this desire to make play style count for more than results stems from a discomfort with meritocracy. Sports are, on the ideal level, the ultimate meritocracy, and as such reveal the point at which people go from loving meritocracy to hating it, which is generally about when they realize that sometimes achievement has more to do with genetic gifts than hard work. The usual concept of meritocracy in North America is the Horatio Alger version, where people achieve what they do by virtue of dedication and character, but in sports people achieve what they do through dedication, character, and inborn capacities that they had no control over and deserve no moral credit for- their size, their speed, their vision, their percentage of fast-twitch muscle. Hard work develops these things, but at the acme of the game, the difference between good enough and great has nothing whatsoever to do with effort. It’s all about gifts.

No one really likes thinking about gifts. Nobody really likes the idea that there might be some places in life where some people are just plain better than others. So we gloss it. We try to make hockey into an effortocracy. We plead for it to be an effortocracy- and I say ‘we’ because I have been known to do this myself. Don Cherry goes on TV and begs for this or that prospect to make it, because he’s such a great kid and such a hard worker. Brian Burke holds a press conference and gets angry at the game because there’s no space for Colton Orr, who works so hard, who plays in such a good way. And people get angry at Alex Semin, because his gifts take him so much farther than other people’s hard work takes them, and although by the logic of meritocracy that’s completely fair, it nevertheless feels like a tremendous injustice.

Professional hockey isn’t fair.  The scoreboard is a impartial mistress, and that’s both a heartwarming thing and a heartbreaking one. The scoreboard doesn’t care about your language, your nationality, your race, color, or creed. It doesn’t care which god you pray to or who you fuck. It is more blind than justice and more detached than Buddha. But likewise, it doesn’t care how much you care or how hard you try. It doesn’t care if you’re sincere, if you’re strong, if you’re compassionate. In its cold, magnanimous circuits, the one and only thing that matters about you, beautiful complex rich human being that you are, is whether you can force it to change its numbers. Not how you do it, or why, or for whom, or what it feels like when you do or don’t, but the simple, bare, existentialist question: can you?

You can trick the scoreboard for short periods of time. With runs of luck and injury and teammate influences, it’s possible for bad players to put up numbers for a while and good players not to, but over the long span of seasons that make up a career, the scoreboard and its subsidiary data will eventually find the true measure of a player, and that measure will not always line up with our values.

We don’t like that, especially when it rewards the sort of personalities we don’t like to read about or the sort of style we don’t like to watch, and we’re constantly trying to convince ourselves that somehow, somewhere, in the space between shots and goals, all the other little things we love about the game really really do matter. And sometimes they do. Sometimes the details of style and character do make small differences that one way or another add up to a number on the scoreboard. But the best those things do is influence the scoreboard. They do not overrule it. They do not count more than it.

When there is a conflict between pre-existing ideas about how to play and the results a player gets, when a ‘soft, fragile, scared’ guy like Semin can kill ‘tough, strong, fearless’ fan favorites on the shot clock and the scoresheet, the productive response isn’t to try to come up with excuses for why Semin isn’t actually as good as the evidence suggests. The productive response is to try to learn from that evidence. What is he doing that’s allowing him to succeed? Why don’t the traditional theories of intimidation that should be able to stop him work? If he doesn’t have what you believe it takes to make it in the NHL, then why is he so obviously making it in the NHL? If he doesn’t do the things you believe are necessary to score, then how is he scoring so much?

Gifts are not given to all equally, neither are the same gifts given to all. To expect all players to play the same way because it’s ‘the right way to play’ will ultimately only quash creativity and freeze the evolution of the game. Does anyone really thing that Semin is suited to be a crashing-the-net, banging-on-the-boards kind of player? Does anybody think he would get more goals if he suddenly tried to be Mike Knuble? Expecting players to play against their gifts is at best destructive and at worst ridiculous. We don’t, after all, get angry at Knuble for not having the talent to be a sniper. Is it really more fair to be angry with Semin for not having the talent for battling in front of the net?

Alex Semin plays the style of game that he is physically, instinctually, and temperamentally suited to play, and has proven he can make that style of game succeed in the NHL. The question for his team should not be how can we make him to play a different kind of game that he may well be worse at but we find more ethically satisfying? It should be how can we put him in the best possible position to succeed even more? Hockey is more exciting, more interesting, and more challenging when it embraces a diversity of successful player styles- the diversity of genetic gifts- then when it tries to force the homogenous values of a rote effortocracy. It is a better game when we listen to the scoreboard rather than the ideologues.

Comments (43)

  1. if you were to substitute alex semin and hockey in the last paragraph for mexicans and illegal immigrants, you’d have a pretty solid argument against tightening border controls in the us. in my mind, anyway.

  2. So many many great lines here. I wonder how many players’ play could withstand the scrutiny that so many European stars get. The way that replay was used against Semin, Kovalchuk and Radulov was stunning. Straight character assassination.

    • I have to agree – for example, Patrick Kane rarely goes into the tough corners (and his teammates have totally brought it up in interviews), but he doesn’t seem to get slammed for it. If he’d been born outside of North America and couldn’t speak English fluently, I think the situation might be different.

      • Phil Kessel is North American and gets an absurd amount of flak. A lot of the same criticisms that are leveled at Kessel.

        • Allow me to correct that last sentence. A lot of the criticisms leveled at Semin are the same ones thrown Kessel’s way.

      • Definite bias against Europeans especially Russians. IMO, if you don’t see that you are not paying very close attention. But, this is nothing new. When the Europeans first started coming to play in the N.H.L., they were scrutinized and harshly critisized. It has gotten somewhat better but entrenched ideas die hard.

    • Kovalchuk’s +/- numbers are not nearly as good as they should be. The scoreboard is actually less kind to Kovalchuk than are NHL observers. He is a terrible defensive player. His teams get outscored at 5v5 despite the high offensive output. Semin’s +/- numbers are excellent. I don’t equate their treatment. I don’t think this is a Russian thing. Maybe to some extent but not entirely. Semin has an undeserved bad rep. He’s a terrific 2-way player. Radulov’s +/- was good also. The media just decided they’d pick on him. No surprise that he went where he was appreciated.

    • W.R., Yes indeed. I think the answer is that N.A. players would never be subjected to that for fear of the fall out. Euro players are easy targets for the idiotic media who crave to slam someone, but how many times have you heard the N.H.L. say that their concern is to preserve the so called integrity of the game thereby presenting it in a favorable light to the public? The average fan is biased against Euro players already so they don’t really matter. Unless they are real bone heads like Sean Avery N.A. players are safe. And, even Avery doesn’t get the constant scrutiny until he pulls a stunt. Then it’s Avery does some dumb things but is a good player. Semin. He is a good player but does dumb things. There is a difference there.

  3. I think the perception is more along the lines of hard work more than a style of play and the perception of hard work, and its hard to quantify hard work on something. A player might not be the fastest skater but he might be going all out and working hard, I’d prefer a guy like that on my beer league team than a guy who is a little more talented but just coasts around. To the fan, working hard is doing all the dirty things, going into the corners, crashing the net, throwing a hit or two etc. If a player like Semin is scoring goals and racking up points, no one will mention his style of play, just like Gretzky or Lemieux who didn’t necessarily muck it up in the corners all the time. Parise does the dirty work and so when he goes into a slump, he still is perceived as working hard and therefore, must have a better style of play in the eyes of the fans.

    • I’d take Parise over Semin every time (and I do think Semin is unfairly viewed with negatives). Both are talented and Semin probably has even more raw talent…that said, if Semin isn’t scoring, you’re not getting much out of him that game. If Parise isn’t scoring, he’s doing lots of little things that help you win games. Fact is that Parise is more consistent than Semin, which means you know what to expect. Most coaches prefer that.

      • Yep…you just bought into what all of the critics are saying, just like she was saying you shouldn’t.

        Semin does do a lot of little things to help win games when he isn’t scoring….all you have to do is watch a game to see that.

        • To me, it seems like most people are not only, but for the most part, judging Alex Semin’s production on the last couple of years when all the Caps numbers fell due to their style of play. Semin more so because of many factors and how he was used etc.. Semin is who he is and Parise is who he is. I like them both and to me I would take either one if I could, not either or.

      • See, what interests me about this is that Parise and Semin’s advanced stats are very, very close coming out of last season. Parise faced harder competition, but Semin had harder zonestarts, so as far as ‘difficulty of minutes’ it’s hard to see a clear advantage. If Parise is doing all these little things that make an important difference and Semin isn’t, it should show up SOMEWHERE in the data. For example, Parise’s team should give up fewer goals against/ 60 when he’s on the ice than Semin (they didn’t). Or the Capitals, playing with Semin, should give up way more shot attempts against than the Devils when playing with Parise (but they didn’t).

        My point is that if the things Parise is doing and Semin isn’t aren’t creating a difference in goals for/against or shot attempts for/against, then that should raise a question mark in one’s head. Are these little things not actually as important as we think they are? Or is Semin doing other, different little things that we’re not noticing? Both possibilities need to be investigated.

      • The point of the article was that those little things show up in a players +/- if they are helping win games. If they in any way help prevent goals against and help to cause goals for then they show up in +/-. If they don’t do either of those things (prevent goals against, cause goals for) how the heck do they help winning? Semin’s +/- numbers are just as good or better than Parise’s. +/- is fraught with confouning factors like linemates, goaltending etc. I know all this but the point is – if its not leading to your own team scoring or preventing the other team from scoring what good is it?

  4. Your last paragraph sums up exactly the problem for Semin and the Caps last season. For some inexplicable reason (though I have a theory) the Caps purposely put Semin in a situation where he could not succeed to the level they expected of him. There were a lot of factors and moving parts to what went wrong — some on him and some on the Caps’ management and coaching decisions. The bottom line is it was destroying his career if it had continued another season. As much as I hate to lose him, it’s certainly better for him to leave if things were not going to be different. A player of his talent and ability should be playing in all situations as he did in 2009-10, and successfully, too. His style is what caught my attention and is what I like to watch most, but I don’t devalue or criticize other players who bring different qualities to the game.

    • Hale, Well said. I agree with you 100%. There is no doubt in my mind that Semin was used as a scape goat and an easy target he was. I am not a fan of any particular team tho I do like some more than others. I am a fan of the game of hockey, a game that to me has deteriorated to the point that it has become difficult to watch sometimes. The talent and skill that makes this game potentially awesome has become less important. There are many examples of this, far too many to list, but those of you that are kind of getting what I’m saying know what I mean. One example would be that I see the majority of fans leap to their feet when a bone crushing hit or fight takes place, while a beautiful play, goal, or save is secondary to their entertainment. IMO sadly, I predict that within a relatively short period of time some player will be severely injured and/or killed. The deterioration of skill in the N.H.L. can only be allowed to continue if the fans condone it. Sorry to say, but in my opinion they do. They buy the tickets, the paraphenalia, etc.. And, you know what? These are the fans that are being given the kind of entertainment they want and the management and the N.H.L. know this well.

  5. That was truly a wonderful read. What do you think about how player contracts seem to reflect the opposite value? Flashy players get bigger contracts then grinders do.

    • Goals are still the hottest commodity in the NHL and regardless of play style, if you score, you will get money.

    • It says GMs don’t really believe all the BS they spout about ‘the little things’ and ‘toughness’ and ‘character’. If they valued those things as highly as they claimed too they would pay the players accordingly. But those things don’t further the cause of winning hockey games nearly as much as extreme skill and athleticism do.

      • TMS71, I have been reading your posts and it’s unfortunate that the game of hockey doesn’t have alot more fans like you. We are vastly out numbered and I do not see that changing any time soon. In fact, I don’t know about you but I believe it is yet to get worse before it ever gets better.

    • I’m not so sure that is always the case Dave. It seems to me that to alot of fans the grinders are the so called more rounded players able to contribute more to the team that say JUST a sniper like Alex Semin. IMO, Doan could be considered a grinder and so could Parise. Although they both add different dimensions to the game, I wouldn’t class them as snipers. Alex Semin adds different dimensions to the game and is a sniper. To each their own of course but for me, I like to watch nice plays and goals rather than watching grinders. What is the justification for Parise’s contract? If one was to remove the totally unwarranted B.S. character assassination crap from A.S. he is the flashier player and therefore his contract should reflect that.

  6. The pundits hatred of players ducking checks is ridiculous. Anyone else remember Malkin ducking Lecavalier and the response by Milbury and Jones?

    http://www.thepensblog.com/tpb/jan2012/video-keith-jones-and-mike-milbury-accuse-malkin-of-being-dirty.html

    Herpa Derp, Russians should just stand still while Good Canadian Boys try and hit them.

    • ducking hits IS chickenshit. While I have no sympathy for goony headhunters that crash head first in to the boards when a Malkin/Marchand ducks the hit, it is chickenshit to do so. There are other ways to avoid getting clobbered (it’s called an elbow).
      As for why the “canadian” style of play is favoured by the “old boys club”, it’s because it wins when it counts.
      Desire and sacrifice wins championships.Get used to ducking and not going into the hard areas of the ice and you might as well start cleaning off the golf clubs because your season is more than likely coming to an end. Practice makes perfect.
      Comparing Parise to Semin is ludicrous (for the record, I like Semin). Parise is a total hockey player, great checker, passer, leader. Semin, thus far; has only shown himself to be a scorer…kind of reminds me of Danny Heatley in terms of style and suffers the same criticisms that the good old Canadian boy went through.

      • Post is full of false data and assumption (Semin has only shown himself as being a scorer – patently false) but even worse, you contradict yourself. Malkin ducking a hit is chickenshit and contra to the Canadian way, which itself is what wins. Except Malkin won the Conn Smythe as the playoff’s best player. So which one is it?
        By your rationale, a guy playing a chickenshit game, like Malkin, can’t possibly be the playoffs MVP, the absolute apogee of ‘winning when it counts’!

      • “Desire and Championship wins championships.”

        So Detroit beat Pittsburgh because Detroit wanted it more, but then Pittsburgh beat Detroit the next year because now THEY wanted it more?

        I would rant further, or I could just let Mark Cuban do it for me,

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hv2jqFd2-qI&noredirect=1

      • noskill, For the record, I like Parise as well. Your post as usual continues to let your biases shine through or at least I guess I should say the brand of hockey you like and prefer to watch which is cool. If you can identify with that so be it. IMO, Alex Semin is a great checker if one is to consider removing the puck from the opposing player rather than merely smashing him into the boards. He is a great passer if one is to consider play making. A leader? Can be through example if you don’t buy into the B.S.. And then you say he has shown to be ONLY a goal scorer. Yes, he does score nice goals doesn’t he?

  7. If this was just an argument against the idiot brigade, and I had to choose sides, I’d choose this one – because it’s stronger.

    But it’s pushed into a bit of an extreme form, and becomes counter-productive. Because somewhere between ethics/character and all that internal stuff we apparently can’t see or measure Versus the outcome on your Great Scoreboard in the Sky, in the grand territory in-between lies… the game itself. As played. And the game itself has dozens and dozens of actions, skills and behaviours that we can – and do – analyze and evaluate every second.

    It’s the reason we know Semin is a stylish, skilled player – we can see certain things, and compare them to others. It’s not from knowing his character directly, but NOR is it from watching the Scoreboard directly. So there’s more to be learned here – including ways to discuss what the Cherry/character types want to discuss – than a pure stats/Scoreboard model allows. For instance, when the post says:

    “.. that he does not play the right way. He turns away from the net after a shot rather than crashing it. He dodges hits rather than taking them. He doesn’t battle hard enough for the puck. He doesn’t exhaust himself on his shifts. The conclusions came fast and harsh: he’s soft, he’s scared, he’s weak. The implication is that, because of those flaws, he’s not actually as good as the evidence suggests.”

    Now, the thing is, those are a very diverse set of actions listed. Some watchers want him to do all of them, because they possess a certain aesthetic. For instance, he should “take the hit.” That, for me, is an action which has very little obvious connection to scoring goals. (Which is – ultimately – our desired outcome.) And again, exhausting himself on all shifts – that strikes me as a stupid and counterproductive action as well.

    But other actions listed aren’t stupid or irrelevant, even though they may be on a Cherry’esque list of character actions – they’re just smart hockey. For instance, most coaches actually try to teach their layers to “crash the net” (or at least “follow up the puck”) on a rebound after they or a teammate has taken a shot. This isn’t JUST an aesthetic thing, it’s a thing that allows you to score more goals. Goals that count on the Scoreboard. Whereas turning away, towards the corner, tends to result in fewer goals.

    And again, exhausting oneself. Most of the time during a game, it’s a bad idea. But. If you’re in a close game, late in the 3rd, and it’s a 3 on 2, and you’re chasing, it’s really a very very good hockey idea – objectively – to chase the play, even if it means exhausting yourself.

    I’ve said it repeatedly, I DO NOT KNOW if and how often Semin does these things. But to think that they are pure aesthetics is to get them wrong. They aren’t. Even if they’re in Don Cherry’s personal code book, it doesn’t matter – they’re smart hockey things to do. And if a player does not do them – and in particular, if he doesn’t do them in the crunch – then he will be a lesser player than he could be, and the team will win fewer games.

    The concluding paragraph could thus have had more strength, I think. Because absolutely, a team should try and maximize the benefits of a player’s skills and attitudes. Agreed.

    But. A player can also – and should also – learn. He should learn and add things and change and make adjustments. And a very long list of NHL players of the highest skill levels have documented precisely what they learned and how they changed and what they worked on to change their games as their career progressed.

    And so….. how to mix and match those two things with Semin becomes the question – how much should the team change how it uses him, and how much should he change. Isn’t that a useful answer? Not just “Semin must change” or “The team must change?” But both/and?

    And ok, it’s genes, sure. Genes are huge. My life has been largely determined by my gene-set, and the gifts they carried. But. At the absolute dead-centre of the human genome are the genes that lead to us having a large, flexible, and learning-hungry brain. THAT’S the grand human gift. And it also turns out to be of critical importance in our sporting lives. Athletes need to be able to learn too.

    I don’t know, maybe Semin needs to learn something too. Maybe.

    Finally, Canadian hockey culture. There are always major and minor voices, major and minor tendencies, regional variations, all kinds of ways the game varies and shifts. We don’t like flashy hockey? Well, maybe not. Except… Bobby Orr is the god of gods in this game, and nobody played with more pizzazz and style, grace and speed. And then there are the Montreal boys – like Guy Lafleur, Jean Beliveau, Rocket Richard, Howie Morenz. Edmonton had Paul Coffey and Gretzky. Plus many of us loved Bobby Hull, Mario, Bossy, Perrault, etc. And as someone who well remembers 1972, the changes that took place in the game after that series were enormous – with cultural and educational weight shifting over toward skating, passing, stickhandling. Sure there are always voices like Cherry. The thing is, today, it feels like we’re lacking a sane voice from the other side, other than (the dreadfully boring) Ken Dryden perhaps – but there it is.

    Maybe you could take on that job?

    • I just don’t take the fact that coaches think some things are good hockey and others aren’t to prove anything. There’s coaches that think staged goon fights are good hockey, so we know it’s perfectly possible for ideas about ‘the right way to play’ to persist without evidence that they make a substantial difference. My point is that if a player like Parise, who does all these things, and a player like Semin, who doesn’t, get virtually identical numbers across all the microstats, then shouldn’t we question whether we’re attaching importance to the right things?

      The other thing is that a player doesn’t always need to be compared to the guy you imagine he could be if he had a different style. Yes, people can learn, but I think hockey fans tend to overestimate how much established NHLers can/will change- think of the big guy who doesn’t play especially physically who everyone still hopes to turn into a power forward. Semin doesn’t crash the net, and maybe if he did he’d get a few more goals, but so what? Just don’t pay him for the goals he doesn’t get and focus on the value of the ones he does.

      As to Canadian hockey ethics, you’re right- there was a diversity in the past that seems to be atrophied today. Canadian hockey nationalists and self-proclaimed guardians of tradition are pretty quick to claim toughness as their thing and cede elegance to the Europeans, which isn’t quite right nor representative of the full heritage.

  8. “Professional hockey isn’t fair. The scoreboard is a impartial mistress, and that’s both a heartwarming thing and a heartbreaking one. [...] In its cold, magnanimous circuits, the one and only thing that matters about you, beautiful complex rich human being that you are, is whether you can force it to change its numbers. Not how you do it, or why, or for whom, or what it feels like when you do or don’t, but the simple, bare, existentialist question: can you?”

    *slowclap*

    This entire paragraph made me want to fistpump. Ellen for President of Hockey.

  9. Think back to the Kopitar goal in game 3 of the Finals. Parise, chasing him across the red line, slows up at the bench and is then pushed away as Kopitar fights his way in to bury the puck. It got slight mention at the time and was largely forgotten afterwards…if it had been Semin, Radulov, etc. we’d never have heard the end of it.

    • JZarris, Yes. No doubt about it.

      • JZ, I want to add that there is absolutely no doubt IMO that there is a great bias toward Russian players. It’s deep and firmly rooted. I don’t think that those people dislike Russians but they dislike their style of play. It doesn’t fit the mold of what hockey is supposed to be for them. Some will but most won’t admit it. How on Earth can you explain the amazing amount of bad press and that unbelievable out of nowhere rant that spewed from the frothing mouths of Crawford and McGuire reminding me of Zombies that my son is so into right now? Every time you read something on A.S. it is always lead by something like THAT ENIGMATIC, MERCURIAL, or whatever etc. RUSSIAN! Imagine if you will if the headline read something like SO and SO THE NEGRO, OR INDIAN OR CHINAMAN? You get my point. Can you imagine the up roar? Of course! Now, are these anti-Russians doing it on purpose? I doubt it. It is that long persisting entrenched way of thinking these people have. Some will say B.S. it’s the way he plays. Fine. I would like to think of myself as an open minded free thinker. If someone was to write an article of intelligence and coherency arguing with proof that Semin was truly the evil lazy no good bastard he has been labeled perhaps I could be convinced to alter my ways of seeing him as a person and as a player. I would honestly try to look beyond what I do see and think. Yes, sure if he was all that then I don’t think that first of all, there would be so very much interest, talk and differing opinions about the guy. But on the other hand, if he wasn’t so good and just a nobody player in the league noone would be talking about him either. At least for now to me, Alex Semin is an elite, skillful and talented N.H.L. hockey player, one of the best in the league. Playing for the Canes will give him the fresh start he desperately needs. I predict that he is going to have a great year and he is going to awe the fans and provide them with terrific entertainment. If he doesn’t and noone writes that article I will then be convinced that I was wrong all along.

  10. You are a great and convincing writer.

    I think some players make their team better. Crosby does got to the net and seems to like playing near the opponents net. He will go to the corners and take the puck away and to the net with it, as at the Olympics. I don’t watch Semin that much but I don’t see his previous team and he achieving their potential. Very talented, very skilled, but when the chips were down their games were not elevated to a championship level.

    I think that is what hockey fans love. They watch as a team of 20 diverse players take it that one extra step and refuse to be beaten. And if that team is to lose they want to see dejected players who gave it every ounce of effort but came up just short, beaten by a more highly skilled and harder working team.

    What they don’t want to see is a team come close only to have key players disappear. They become disappointed because they hoped for so much more. The record books are full of the names of great players who scored at will but never won anything.

    All to say that when the game is close and it’s down to the final seconds if Semin is on the ice you have to believe his team and coaches know he will get the job done. Is Semin usually in that position when it counts?

  11. The thing that no one has been mentioning, and bothered me as a Caps fan particularly, is the penchant for heinous ill-timed penalties. (Slashing in game one against the Rangers that negated a power play). That is what made me feel like Semin “doesn’t care”. He seemingly cared more about getting his retaliation in than giving up a huge advantage for the team. And it happened over and over again. You can say we as fans can’t judge whether someone cares, and that may be true, but that’s certainly how it felt to us. Check with the Canes fans in a year.

    • I actually think this is a totally legit criticism of Semin- you can back it up with both case studies (as you do) and the data (check out his penalties taken/60 on BTN- it’s not good).

      Although I would point out that when Canadian guys lose their shit and go for retaliation in key games, like Crosby in the first round this season, it’s often interpreted as ‘caring too much’ rather than ‘not caring’.

      • Fair enough, but the Canadian guys I like (Alzner or Laich) generally don’t do much losing their shit, haha.

        In all seriousness, nothing aggravates me more than bad penalties, no matter the player.

      • Crosby actually gets a ton of criticism — e.g., “suck”, “whiner” tags — for losing his shit. Now you seem to be making a point that Canadians love Canadians over Russians no matter what they do… but many Canadians love the Russian Ovechkin and hate the Canadian Crosby.

  12. Unfortunetly, it is the game of hockey that is the enigma not Semin. I can’t think of another major pro sport where the fans are so divided on how the game should be played. It leads one to think that the game is in it’s infancy.

  13. .. and Canadians appreciate a much wider range of player types than you paint…. I can think of many Russians and other Europeans you could include on the list of archetypes… I’m not sure who those few who confronted you were but they were not the majority of Canadians. You are taking the unfortunate Cherry sterotype and extending it to all perhaps? We know hockey, we are not buffoons.

  14. Anyone who understood the circumstances in Washington and appreciates Semin’s skill, realizes that this change for him is what he needs. He will shine in a Canes jersey. Alex Semin is NOT lazy PERIOD. He just makes it look so easy.

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