Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Semin: The Capitals Need You. Boudreau: You Need Semin.

 In my opinion, the Washington Capitals will need a "good" Alexander Semin during the NHL playoffs if they truly intend to challenge for the Stanley Cup this season. Last season, the "bad" Semin did a disappearing act against Montreal - tallying no goals and just 2 assists in the series - not what you'd expect from a $6.5 million-dollar-man.

For Semin, he has been allowed to float along like a ship without a rudder for too long. The excuses for his yo-yo play are lengthy. These include being a too selfish - non connected with on-ice team chemistry of fellow teammates, ADD (attention defecit disorder), serious problems with his confidence, anger-management issues (takes penalties due to frustration, exhaustion and/or revenge), lack of desire to be "THE STAR," and his possible unhappiness to live outside of his homeland - Russia (perhaps a reason why he's only signing 1-year contract extensions at a time).

Let's face it, owner Ted Leonsis says the pressure is not on the organization to win the Stanley Cup this year. However, an early exit from the playoffs will be unacceptable.

Who would be held most accountable?

By all accounts, General Manager George McPhee had an outstanding season - orchestrating several key moves to shore up depth (though his pre-season performance seemed questionable). His job appears to be safe. Most of the players are under contract, so they probably won't be moved. It's head coach Bruce Boudreau who seems to have the most to lose, and therefore has the most pressure on his shoulders.

Whether justified or not, internet forums & discussion boards have been curiously abuzz all season accusing head coach Bruce Boudreau of chronic on and off-ice mismanagement. Accusations include orchestrating soft practices (and practice schedule), inability to motivate his players into being in 'top condition,' his apparent un-willingness to control the off-ice commitment and habits of his players (rumored to drink and party excessively), and the perceived avoidance of one-on-one confrontations and/or intervention with his players - especially his veteran, star players. This includes Alexander Semin.

However ... something peculiar happened ...

After the Carolina loss at home recently, Boudreau was asked about forward Alexander Semin's play that night (jncluding an ill-advised late penalty) and he had this to say: "He was our best offensive player but at the same time he did the same thing he's been doing for five years. Taking a dumb, you know, penalty with four minutes to go in the game... the ref didn't want to call any penalties but you have to call that. It's a bad hook in the neutral zone."

Is this the new Boudreau going into the playoffs - the one that needs to light a fire under Semin's butt? With the playoffs one day away, it may be the right time and place for NOT ONLY Semin to step up to the plate, but Boudreau as well. This of course translates into conducting more frequent, lengthy and vigorous mandatory practices. Instituting a player curfew policy wouldn't be a bad idea as well.

On-ice, everyone knows and expects Semin to be Semin - inconsistent within shifts, within periods, within games, within weeks, months and the season. He has, however, been known to go in 10 to 30 game stretches where his offensive play is as good as any forward in the league. To win a Cup, a team will play a maximum of 28 games in the playoffs - just long-enough for such a "good" Semin to be a difference-maker.

Semin, this is your time. The Capitals need you!

Boudreau, this is your career. You need Semin.

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