Long-awaited news today broke that Alex Semin will draw back into the lineup against the Avalanche tonight after sitting out seven games as a healthy scratch. His diminished production, along with a couple of gaffes against the Maple Leafs, had knocked him out of the lineup, and the fact that the team had success without him kept him out.
I'm really encouraged with the statements made by Alex today. He carries a reputation of being moody and diffident, but he outwardly here at least seems to be saying all the right things, to be in the right frame of mind. This is certainly preferable to the reports we got a week ago from TSN 690's Chris Nilan and The Gazette's Pat Hickey about him being uninvolved and unenergetic at practice.
When we were giving the porcine a makeover this summer, we batted around the concept that being in a demanding hockey market, with strong team leadership, and especially with a support network of fellow Russians, that he might respond well, might have more success than he did in Carolina near the end.
We may be sensing this effect if we judge purely on his answers to reporters. Instead of being insulted and disruptive, he’s being accountable and optimistic. He’s showing resolve, saying he’s working hard and improving. He’s apparently taking this healthy-scratch period as a challenge and an opportunity, rather than a deal-breaker.
Alex brings something to our team that we need, which is puck skill and vision and talent. He may not always play with the same outward determination of a Brendan Gallagher, but you build a team with various parts, not identical ones. His ability to extend the play, to do the unexpected, is valuable.
We’ll take his defensive lapses in stride, as long as he contributes strongly on the offensive side of the ledger, and that he is ‘responsible’ defensively. He doesn’t need to be Bob Gainey, just to be in the right place at the right time, give basic effort in his zone. And make good decisions, not take needless chances as he did against the Leafs, when two of his outright giveaways led to two goals against.
Michel Therrien often says that “it’s a process”, in reference to a lot of things. Let’s see how this is proceeding, how Alex responds now and as the season unfolds.