He has been called a "coach killer", a "complete loser", and an "enigma". At times, his work ethic and character have been called out and questioned. But so far into this young abbreviated season, the Carolina Hurricanes don't have any issues with Alexander Semin, and he seems fine with them as well.
In a recent article posted by the Sporting News, the club's general manager, Jim Rutherford had nothing but good to say about the Russian sniper. And why should he complain? Semin leads all forwards with ice time and is near the top of the team's stat chart regarding shots on goal, assists, and plus/minus.
"Sasha" has one goal and five assists so far but has hit the post on several shots, leaving one to think that with a slight change of luck, the goals will soon come. He has also made several brilliant passes that have just missed, as the recipient was not ready or expecting them.
But not only has the skilled forward made his presence known on offense, he has played at both ends of the rink and made several key stops on defense as well.
Many Carolina fans are already hoping that his one year contract will turn into something more.
There are some who have long wondered what it would be like for team captain Eric Staal to have an elite winger alongside him on a consistent basis. They are finding out now. Staal, a perennial slow starter has responded and has 10 points, (7G 3A), in eight games.
The irony behind this is that some of Semin's fans have wondered what it would be like if the star winger could regularly play alongside an elite centerman.
Over the past couple of years, Semin was playing less and less in Washington and playing with lesser skilled players when he was on the ice. Is there any surprise his offensive numbers dropped?
Jeff Angus wrote a great article in July about the the 10% theory in relation to Semin, and how easy it is to focus on the negative part of a player's game versus the positive. The following is from that story:
Even Semin’s detractors can’t argue with the fact that Washington has never paired him with a suitable center on the second line. From over-the-hill veterans like Sergei Fedorov, Brendan Morrison, and Jason Arnott, to borderline top six forwards like Mathieu Perreault and Eric Belanger, Semin was never given a center to flourish alongside.
Perhaps as the chemistry builds between Staal and Semin, we will see a coming of age for the Russian as his overall game blossoms.
Alex allows few interviews and has used a translator for the couple he has done in Carolina so far. This annoys some more than others, especially those in the media and that could be one reason for so much negative press.
In this very interesting article by Igor Kleyner, perhaps we see some reasons why he seems quiet.
Semin is from a small town in Russia and does not seem to be the attention seeking person, a player of his status might be. He could also be categorized as being "shy", if a superstar hockey player could be labeled as that.
When the lockout first started, Alex chose to play for a local minor league team, at minimal pay, so that his 90 year old grandmother could watch him. This does not sound like something a "complete loser" would do, does it?
Even Mark Gandler, Semin's agent calls his client shy.
In this article by Brian McNally of the Washington Examiner, in which the author looks for the reasons why the superstar left Washington, Gandler says that the reason Alex chose Raleigh was to better his career, not to avoid interviews.
"That was not a consideration," Gandler said. "That was not part of what we were doing – thinking about Alex’s interviews. This is about playing hockey. It’s about your professional career. It’s not about public relations."
Added Gandler: "[Semin] never felt misunderstood in Washington. It was just that he’s a little bit shy and that was a problem. I always tried to correct that and with time it will get there."
So far there have not been major complaints in Raleigh about the lack of interviews, but perhaps that will change.
Speaking of interviews, according to the writers at The Russian Machine Never Breaks, Semin's first interview in Raleigh was translated "loosely" by his agent. They also had a some fun translating Tripp Tracy's attempt at Russian after Semin's first goal as a Hurricane.
After Sasha scored, Carolina Hurricanes color announcer Tripp Tracy attempted to salute Semin with John Forslund’s classic goal call of "Hey hey whaddya say!" in Russian. Unfortunately for Tracy, he failed… badly. In awful Russian, the Canes announcer struggles through "Nu, nu, chto vy govoritsya." In Russian, that means, "Well, Well. What you is spelled?" RMNB’s Fedor Fedin tells us he should’ve exclaimed, "Kak naschet etogo?" which is Russian for, "What about this?!" Oh, well. Next time, Tripp.
Hopefully for Caniacs, Tripp will have many, many more attempts at saying that.
Marc Crawford and Pierre McGuire had some brutal quotes regarding Semin over the summer. These, repeated in the Washington Post:
"This is not a great teammate, I’m telling you right now. Not a good guy to have around your group unless you have unbelievably strong leadership," McGuire said. "He’s the ultimate coach killer, that’s what he is."
The good news is, the Canes have some pretty strong leadership.
"He’ll be banished to a place like Columbus or something like that, and that’s what those guys do," Crawford said. "They head to the island of misfit toys."
Misfits or not, Caniacs are enjoying watching these guys play. If the Canes make the playoffs and Semin plays a major role, it will be interesting to see if Crawford and McGuire retract their statements.