Journalists have a bit of a love/hate relationship with narratives.
It's in our nature to look for the story in just about anything. Sometimes it's blindingly obvious, other times less so. We want to have the scoop, and sometimes it's a bit disappointing to us when the easy answer is also the correct one.
Case in point: for three weeks Kirk Muller told us that his team was doing everything they were being asked to do, even as they lost 14 out of 15 games and careened out of a playoff spot. Which sounds like a lazy narrative, but for anyone who was paying attention, was actually pretty close to the truth.
Narratives give us a chance to do easy work, at least in terms of just falling back on the conventional wisdom and not having to do the deep digging to reach the truth. Which, I guess, makes journalists no different than any other human being who, when presented with the possibility to do what needs to be done with a minimal amount of effort, will almost always jump at it.
Just ask yours truly, who got so fed up with expending energy to mow his lawn that he recruited a neighbor with a riding mower to do it. (Best money I've ever spent, by the way.)
Narratives can be fine, when they're on target. But when they're not on target, it makes you look awfully dumb.
Which brings us to the case of Alexander Semin.
#28 / Right Wing / Carolina Hurricanes
Mar 03, 1984
|2012 - Alexander Semin||39||10||28||38||9||40||4||0||1||137|
When he signed his one-year deal with the Hurricanes before the lockout, the talking heads predictably went ballistic. "How can you sign a floater like Semin and expect anything more than utter disappointment?" they asked. And then Semin went out and helped Eric Staal to his best start in five years.
On March 25, Semin signed a five-year extension. Immediately, the narrative machine started cranking up again. "He's just going to coast now! He's got his money; there's no way he keeps up this level of performance!"
And, as predictably as the sun rising in the east, when the Canes' tailspin continued, the narratives got even louder. "See! Bad idea to sign him! He only has 2 goals and is a -9 since the Canes extended him!"
Now, I don't watch other teams as closely as I do the Hurricanes. I'm aware of the narratives surrounding those teams, but by and large I hold off on subscribing to them because I don't know the details that surround those narratives. This is precisely why, to me, the continued dumping on Semin is head-scratching at best and lazy, vendetta-filled journalism at worst.
Actually, vendetta probably isn't the right word. Most of these folks have never met Alexander Semin. Hell, I've never met him, and I cover the damn team. Unless we're talking about some sort of Emmanuel Goldstein two-minutes-hate thing, there's presumably no personal ill will against Semin the person.
So, we're left with the narrative: Semin is lazy, Semin's a floater, Semin's extension is the reason the Canes have crashed out of the playoffs.
As anyone who follows the team regularly will tell you, Alexander Semin is far from the problem. A contributor? Sure; I'm sure he'd love to have more than two goals in the last three weeks. But the sole cause? On a team that's been racked by injuries, and have much deeper problems than a forward posting a -9? C'mon, man.
That doesn't even take into account Semin's own injury, as we pointed out here in the game analysis of the loss to the Penguins last week. It doesn't matter if you're Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe or anyone else: if your arm won't cooperate, you won't get much on your shots or passes. Semin's arm isn't cooperating right now, and as a result he's having trouble with his accuracy and shot velocity.
It's not an excuse. It's not a narrative. It's simply the honest truth.
Two unfortunate aspects of human nature are combining here: laziness and scapegoating. Both are understandable, but both are markers of someone who either doesn't know or doesn't care to know the actual story. And the actual story, when the book is written on the 2013 Carolina Hurricanes, won't be "what could have been if they hadn't spent $7 million on Alexander Semin."
But journalists will keep running with the narratives, and sometimes they'll look smart. But sometimes, they'll look really, really lazy and uninformed.
You can judge for yourself which is true.