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2009-10 Canes Country Exit Analysis: Sergei Samsonov

The Hurricanes' only Russian-born player during the 2009-10 season, 31-year-old Sergei Samsonov, has been getting some press this week. Here, Paul Branecky lays the groundwork for Samsonov's potential early departure with a post at the Tracking the Storm blog on Tuesday. Which led to a lively discussion here at Canes Country: Sergei Samsonov On The Way Out?

Carolina picked up Samsonov on re-entry waivers from the Chicago Blackhawks in January 2008. He was re-signed by Jim Rutherford that April to a three-year deal, which runs through next season. The world of Carolina Hockey has rotated a bit since then; in the spring of 2008 Peter Laviolette (who was coaching the Bruins' AHL affiliate in Providence when Samsonov was drafted 8th overall and then awarded the Calder Trophy as a rookie in 1998) was running the bench with his style of high-speed wide-open hockey. Eight months later, Laviolette was gone and Paul Maurice took over as Head Coach.

As Bob shared (in the CC link above) his conversation with the Russian hockey journalist who has followed him, the small and talented Samsonov will never be at his best as long as he is relegated to the defense-first system of Maurice. If we're describing the player as an asset, this season was hardly "the highest and best use" of Samsonov's particular set of skills. To make matters worse, "you can't teach size".

After the jump, let's look at his stats and other contributions to the team as we evaluate Samsonov's performance as a Hurricane this past season.

Sergei Samsonov

#14 / Left Wing / Carolina Hurricanes



Oct 27, 1978

2009 - 10 Sergei Samsonov 72 14 15 29 -15 32 2 0 2 0 104 13.5

Here's a highlight of Samsonov's goal in the first Hurricanes' game after the Olympic break in Toronto, March 2, 2010.

I reviewed video of all of Samsonov's 14 goals this season. This one above and the one captioned in the lead photo are the only two that show him doing his thing. The rest were okay scores, cleaning up rebounds, maybe a tic-tac-toe and a wrap-around, but this one best showcases the panache demonstrated by his skating, deking and precision on the shot that most of us associate with this talented Moscovite, who now lives with his family year-round in the US.

Here are Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford's comments in the Branecky article, Canes Considering Samsonov's Future, from Tuesday:

"We have to make a decision on whether he [Samsonov] fits our team," said Rutherford. "For a lot of last year he ended up being a fourth-line player, and based on where he fits into our pay scale it doesn’t make sense for him to play there. He’s a very good player and a skilled guy, but he may or may not fit into the direction we’re going."

The Good: Samsonov's 29 points (14-15-29) on the season were good for 7th on the team, ahead of Chad LaRose (who played only 56 games) and Tom Kostopoulos, but his worst point/game production in his career. His skating and puck possession skills were a delight to watch on occasion, but oftentimes equally frustrating in their futility.

The Bad: Simply put, no production, and a huge drop in minutes, which brings us to a chicken-or-egg discussion of which begets which. His first few months of 2008, Laviolette had him playing over 18 minutes/game, typically as a top-6 forward. This season, that number was 13:22, a drop of over 25%. And on the rough-around-the-edges fourth line for much of that. Talk about a "fish out of water" - and, from there you need to ask: "Is this his fault?"

He also battled injuries and missed 10 games during the year. He was a healthy scratch once.

The Money: In these budget-conscious times, here's the part that makes Samsonov jump off the page like bright red ink. For this past season, the Hurricanes paid him $2.5mil, more than LaRose and Kostopoulos combined. That is scheduled to go up to $2.8million for 2010-11.

What say you?