Mobilizing Alex Semin

Photo: Minas Panagiotakis / Getty Images
Photo: Minas Panagiotakis / Getty Images


Today we learned that Alexander Semin won’t play in the Friday night tilt against the Calgary Flames, and will sit in the press box as a healthy scratch for the second straight game. Absolutely no one is surprised. It was a matter of time before Semin found his way to Michel Therrien’s doghouse.

So why are we irritated? If we knew it would happen, why does it grind our gears so much?


The Surprise That Wasn’t

 When the Montreal Canadiens signed Alex Semin this past summer, they knew exactly what they were getting. While there may be things about Semin that are not understood, there is a lot that was known.

  • The Habs knew Semin’s NHL résumé included one 40-goal season, two seasons where he topped 30, and four additional seasons of being a 20-goal guy. They also knew Semin had scored just 6 goals and 13 assists in 57 games for the Carolina Hurricanes last year.
  • The Habs knew that as skilled as Semin is, speed is not really his friend. They knew he was 31 years old and his best years were likely past.
  • The Habs knew that while he is in a contract year, he is still receiving a healthy salary from the Carolina Hurricanes for the next 6 years. He can spend the rest of his career doing exactly nothing and still be wealthier than the vast majority of the planet’s population for the rest of his life.
  • The Habs knew Semin’s previous coach had utilized the highly original tactic of the healthy scratch a time or two last year, and it was so successful they were willing to buy out that hefty contract.

So while pundits like to speak of the enigma that is Alex Semin, the truth is that he is about as mysterious as a bucket.

Highly skilled but slowing down. Underachieving, but not really hurting the team. Capable of brilliance, and equally capable of mediocrity. Probably lacking confidence. Not terribly sympathetic.


Is This the Best You’ve Got? Seriously?

I don’t propose to speak for the entire fan base, but my irritation is with the idiocy of the healthy scratch in this situation. We know it won’t really work. Sure, Semin might shoot more next game. Or back check more. Or perhaps he’ll want to impress Therrien so badly he’ll dump and chase, or something equally innovative.

If healthy scratching him was truly effective, Alex Semin would still be a Carolina Hurricane.

And if this is the best strategy Michel Therrien could come up with to mobilize Alex Semin, why bother signing him?


Collateral Damage

I’m not upset about Semin. It would have been more surprising if it did work. But I am upset about the collateral damage. Consider some things.

If Semin is not going to be in your top 6, is Brian Flynn really who you want there? Or is there a young guy who can be developing? Perhaps Andrighetto or even Thomas would be a better placeholder until they find the top six guy they crave.

Does this young team that seems to like each other a lot need the distraction?

What message does it send Galchenyuk and Eller? Playing in new positions, looking good overall, but getting their line juggled after the first loss? Why? Because Alex Semin played EXACTLY like we all knew he would… which actually wasn’t that bad.


Marc Bergevin has been here before. It won’t be long before he has to move a guy Therrien won’t play. And it will be back to the drawing board for the top six.

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