Carolina Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said from the start that one way to hold a player accountable was to control his ice time in games.
Unhappy with Alexander Semin on Tuesday during a 4-1 road loss to the Vancouver Canucks, Peters benched the winger. On Saturday, against the Arizona Coyotes, Peters could make Semin a healthy scratch.
The firm move by the first-year head coach isn't that surprising. Semin has underperformed, producing just two assists and no goals in the Canes' 0-6-2 start.
Against the Canucks, Semin took a seat after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the third period that Peters called undisciplined. After Thursday's practice, Peters mentioned Semin's problems offensively and noted he was not playing at the pace needed in the NHL.
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With injured forwards Nathan Gerbe and Patrick Dwyer able to return against Arizona, Peters now has a surplus of forwards. For now, it appears, Semin will sit.
"Right now he's not in the lineup and he's not in our top four lines," Peters said. "We've got two guys back from injury and now we have the ability to take some guys out.
"I made the decision that I think is best for the individual and for the team. We want (Semin) to be a part of it and we want 'Sems' to be a big part of it. We want him to play the game hard, and play the game properly, and play the game with pace and live up to his ability and his potential. In order to do that, you've got to put the work in and you've got to be mentally and physically engaged in what you're doing."
During part of Friday's practice at PNC Arena, Semin stood aside from the rest, missing line rushes and power-play work. Watching from above was Ron Francis, whose first year as general manager has proved to be rocky in the early going.
Francis supported Peters' handling of Semin, saying, "We haven't been happy with the effort. This is the first time we've had extra forwards in our lineup where we're able to have somebody else."
At the same time, Francis is mindful the Canes are taking a proven goal-scorer out of the lineup at a time when they're scoring 1.88 goals a game, 28th in the NHL.
"No question," Francis said. "We're a better team with him in the lineup if he's playing the way he can play. But we talked about accountability. We talked about having guys compete and work. We feel like he's not moving his legs at this point and we need to stress that message."
Semin, 30, spent seven seasons with the Washington Capitals, scoring a career-high 40 goals in 2009-10, before becoming a free agent after the 2011-12 season. He initially signed a one-year, $7 million contract with the Canes, then was given a five-year, $35 million extension in March 2013.
Semin had 13 goals and 44 points in 44 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, teaming with Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty to form one of the NHL's most productive lines. But Staal sustained a serious knee injury in May 2013 at the World Championships, and Tlusty suffered a concussion in preseason training camp before the 2013-14 season.
Semin also was hindered by a wrist injury that required surgery after the season. He played 65 games, finishing with 22 goals and 20 assists, and a plus-one rating.
Semin is minus-7 in eight games this season and has just 12 shots on goal. He did not have a shot in the loss to the Canucks.
Former Canes coach Kirk Muller at times expressed some frustration about Semin's play. Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau, who coached Semin in Washington, once made him a healthy scratch for a November 2011 game against the Coyotes.
Asked about Semin last season, Boudreau said, "There's a saying about Alex - he's an enigma wrapped in something, wrapped in something else. He can show flashes of absolute brilliance one minute. Then you're going, 'What are you doing?' the next."
Peters said a final decision on Semin would wait until Saturday's morning skate, but indicated Semin would not play against the Coyotes.
The Canes face the Los Angeles Kings, the defending Stanley Cup champions, Sunday at PNC Arena. Maybe then.