Carolina was right to scratch Alex Semin

Carolina won their first two games of the season over the weekend, both with their expensive star Alex Semin looking on from the press box, healthy. Even though the move worked out fine for the Canes, it wasn’t hard to find hockey fans decrying the move, leaning on advanced stats like Corsi to explain why sitting the Russian sniper is a bad idea.

In general, I’d agree with that sentiment.

Unfortunately, coaching isn’t as simple as dressing your 12 most talented forwards every night and opening the gate. Coaching comes with far more HR work than people realize, and dealing with different personalities and general motivation has become a bigger chore than it was back in the days of Scotty Bowman and Al Arbour.

Over the long 82 game season where teams ride the success roller coaster, accountability can lead to consistency that minimizes the lows. You may not have your best every night, but that doesn’t mean you get those nights off. For a team not realistically competing for the Cup this year, it’s important that their young players are exposed to those lessons early.

Sitting Alex Semin isn’t coach Bill Peters saying he thinks the guy he’s putting in Semin’s place is better, he’s saying Alex Semin is fulfilling the smallest percentage of his personal ability. If Peters let’s him carry on like this, he’s implying that if you’re talented, you don’t have to push yourself. That’s hardly the mark of successful teams - just look at what Jonathan Toews does for the Blackhawks, or what Sidney Crosby does for the Pens.

Here’s Peters on Semin, before the first scratch:

The work ethic part of it is not negotiable. You look around the league at any team that’s any good, they’re some of the hardest working teams in the league. That’s where it starts. The guys will know what’s expected. The guys that can deliver and play on a consistent basis are going to be the guys going out over the wall and getting the opportunity.

Alex Semin has 12 shots on goal this season to go with eight misses and 14 blocked shots, which to me implies that while his raw talent is still getting him to a place where he’s getting attempts, but he’s not earning the space necessary to get clean looks.

That could be have something to do with what the Canes’ coach was talking about.

He’s not moving his feet. He’s not playing at the pace the league is at. The league is at a good pace. There are guys with track pressure, and there’s no time and space. If you’re not moving your feet, you’re going to get caught from behind, and if you’re going to make a slow-developing play, guys that were open are going to be covered eventually and everything closes off. You’ve got to play quicker.

It’s the perfect time of year be clear with your team: whether you’re talented or not, you’re expected to work hard to maximize what you bring to the table, or you simply won’t play. At the very least, when you’re on the ice for 17:30 a night with quality teammates and starting your shifts in the offensive zone over 70% of the time, a stat line of zero goals, two assists, and a minus seven isn’t good enough.

There are few things more frustrating than a gifted player who won’t put in the work. Peters obviously recognizes that the Russian sniper is a true talent who needs a kick in the pants. You don’t want to see this happening frequently throughout the year, but if you’re gonna do it, games 9 and 10 are as good a time as any.

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Carolina was right to scratch Alex Semin
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