RALEIGH — Inscrutable. Enigmatic. Mysterious. The clichés attached to Alexander Semin are as much his own work as they are the medias. He carries on conversations in English with teammates and staff members, but conducted his first two and so far only interviews of training camp with his agent as interpreter. If its hard for outsiders to figure him out, thats largely his choice.
This isnt unusual among Russian players, to the point where all of them often seem to be painted with the same very broad brush of inscrutability. Even among those who speak very good English, there can be a tendency to avoid the media, although for every Semin theres a Danny Markov, who didnt care how good his English was or wasnt.
With Semin, perhaps because of the occasionally erratic nature of his performances with the Washington Capitals, his off-ice persona and on-ice play became conflated. Some teammates criticized his effort and commitment while others commended it. He became a polarizing figure among fans, with fervent detractors and strident defenders alike.
A lot of its probably due to maybe a lack of communication, said Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Joe Corvo, who played with Semin three seasons ago in Washington. Guys just dont understand him because hes not a real talkative guy, whether thats due to him not knowing English or just the type of guy he is. When called upon, especially last year when people were questioning his dedication, in the playoffs he was diving in front of shooters and blocking shots. Hes just an electric player. Hes awesome.
Here, with the Carolina Hurricanes, none of that matters now. It doesnt matter if fans understand Semin, only if his teammates do. At the team dinner to open training camp, Chad LaRose sat with Semin for three hours, had him laughing so hard there were tears in his eyes.
It doesnt matter what else he does, as long as he scores goals. Semin fills a void so empty for so long on this roster, hell be given tremendous leeway if he can be the scoring winger Eric Staal has lacked.
Theres already nascent chemistry between the two, even before Saturday nights opener at the Florida Panthers, as evidenced by Semins goal in Tuesdays scrimmage. If nothing else, if hes playing for the Hurricanes, he cant play against them: In 41 career games against the Hurricanes, Semin had 27 goals and 45 points.
His agent, Todd Diamond, translating for Semin: Obviously it would be very good if hell continue his results in this building.
Even some nights, if you dont have it, just that threat is going to back off defenses and going to give other guys opportunities, Staal said. Hes one of those guys with his release and his shot, hes going to be able to score a lot of goals in tight areas. Its fun to be out there practicing with him and see some of that on display now.
In Washington, Semin always played in the shadow of Alex Ovechkin, always the other Russian to Ovechkins star turn. That isnt an issue here. The door is open for Semin to be as big of a star as he wants to be. Hell make $4.1 million for 48 games of work, and then his contract with the Hurricanes is up. Neither side has anything to lose. If it doesnt work out, hell be gone as quickly as he arrived. If it does, both sides will profit handsomely.
He doesnt have to display the quiet dignity of Staal or the unrestrained goofiness of LaRose. He can be whoever he wants to be, as mysterious or enigmatic as he feels he needs to be.
It doesnt matter who Alexander Semin is, as long as he scores goals. Thats all that matters here, for him and for the Hurricanes.
DeCock: email@example.com, @LukeDeCock, (919) 829-8947