Thursday, 19 November 2015

Alex Semin, in one game, works himself out of the lineup.

The coach is the boss, he's the one who pays with his job when he loses too many games, so I understand that he'll put the best team he can on the ice in order to do that, win the next game, rather than look at the long-term view, or even the medium term.  But I'm surprised that Alex Semin wasn't given a longer trial period, after sitting out seven games.

From the get-go, I expected Alex to be a somewhat oblong peg that we'd have to hammer into a round hole, it wouldn't be an easy fit, probably.  He's being brought in precisely because he has a different skill set, he brings something to the team that it doesn't have.  Kind of like when George Parros and Douglas Murray were brought in, you know what you're getting, you'll live with the shortcomings to benefit from their contribution in other areas.

Sure, he's not a forechecking menace or a burner like Pavel Bure, but his creativity, his ability to hold on to the puck and be unpredictable, to go through C to get to B, was a wildcard on our roster, a changeup in a fastball pitcher's arsenal.  We lacked a certain amount of finish, of skill in the Top 6 when looking at our lineup on June 30.  He was brought in to try to address that, a 'beau risque'.

I don't think that a one-game trial after sitting out seven games was a fair chance for him to continue his adaptation to his new team, the new system, his linemates.  He can be forgiven for being antsy, nervous in his return to the ice.  He didn't really have a a chance to get into a groove.

He certainly didn't help his case with a bad penalty in the third period against the Canucks.  That doesn't inspire confidence in his decision-making.  The RDS staff raised an eyebrow when they reported that he had skipped the optional morning skate on Monday.  You'd think he would have tried to put his best foot forward, got some advice from Andrei about this and realized that he should make an appearance.

The thing about social media is you read something over and over again, and it starts to sound true, it's certainly truthy.  I don't know if he is indeed so slow because he's 'finished', because he doesn't have the leg strength anymore, but based on some of the lowlights Monday, you can see how that might be what we're driven to conclude.

But again, as a fan, I was advocating a ten to twenty game trial, to allow him to get or remain in game shape, to get in rhythm, to figure things out.

Yet the coaches are the ones who know the player best, are closest to this.  They get a feel for whether he's pointed in the right direction.  They can tell if he can work out of this funk, whether he's starting to 'get it'.  They're the ones who talk to the players, and can feel if allowing him to run a long leash might alienate the others, who are doing everything that's asked and working hard and making good decisions and being defensively responsible and attending all the optional skates.

So it's easy for me to advocate that he be given good linemates and powerplay time to get in gear.  It's harder for the coach to tell that to Dale Weise and Thomas Fleischmann.

If the coaches decide they have seen enough, that the lottery ticket isn't a winner, I expect the brain trust will be decisive.  I don't think we'll see Alex going to St. John's, it'll be a clean break, they'll eat the contract, glad that it's a shorty.  They won't prolong the headache by dumping him on Sylvain Lefebvre, by stealing icetime away from the kids who do have a chance to help this team down the line.

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