It appears Bill Peters’ patience is being tested by Alexander Semin.
Peters, the Carolina Hurricanes’ first-year coach, on Tuesday made some pointed remarks about Semin, the $7-million-a-year winger who was a healthy scratch when the Canes hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Semin, who has sat out 10 of the past 14 games, has one goal and seven assists in 26 games this season. Peters has said a number of times that Semin needed to be in better physical condition and able to play at an NHL pace, and Semin has gotten in extra skating sessions after practices and morning skates.
He played four straight games earlier this month. But he was scratched against Ottawa and Toronto in the two road games before the All-Star break – both Canes wins.
Asked Tuesday how frustrating it has been to get so little out of Semin this season, Peters said, “Well, it’s not frustrating for me. We just play the guys who dig in and work and play with speed in both directions and play hard. It’s not hard.”
Peters said he has had several discussions with Semin but said, “Obviously something’s not right. Talk is cheap, though, right? We left the lineup the same way we had it in Toronto and Ottawa, for a reason. Back-to-back wins on the road. The goaltender (Anton Khudobin) who was in against Toronto and Ottawa is in again tonight.
“I talk about competitive people being in a competitive environment and we want to win. We are playing our best 20 players in order to win hockey (games). That’s the lineup. It’s not hard.”
Semin is a former 40-goal scorer for the Washington Capitals and a Russian Olympian who was signed as a free agent by the Canes – and former general manager Jim Rutherford – in July 2012. It was a one-year, $7 million contract and Semin responded with 13 goals and 31 assists in 44 games during the NHL’s lockout-shortened season.
Rutherford and Semin then agreed on a five-year, $35 million contract, believing Semin could continue to join center Eric Staal and winger Jiri Tlusty in forming one of the NHL’s more productive lines. Injuries to all three players quickly derailed that plan. Semin suffered a wrist injury early in the 2013-14 season that hindered his play – although it did not keep him from playing in the Sochi Olympics.
Semin. who finished with 22 goals and 20 assists in 65 games last season, had offseason surgery and new general manager Ron Francis said he expected Semin to be fully healed when the season began. But Semin has missed seven games with injuries and had 14 in which he was listed as “DNP” – did not play.
“Guys want to play. Most competitive guys want to play,” Peters said. “And when they get in they do a great job.”
Peters noted fourth-line winger Brad Malone, who was a healthy scratch Jan. 16 against Vancouver. After returning to the lineup, Malone had goals against both the Sens and Maple Leafs and was involved in a first-period fight against Toronto.
“That’s better than talking to the coach. That’s showing the coach,” Peters said. “That’s showing your teammates, that’s showing your organization you want to play. Show me. It’s simple.”
Semin, 30, rarely speaks to the media and did not address Peters’ comments Tuesday.
Francis said Peters’ decision to scratch Semin was more about sticking with the winning lineup. He supported Peters’ lineup decisions and how Semin has been handled
“Bill’s been consistent,” Francis said. “He expects his guys to work hard every night. If he asks you to do certain things on the ice – a route off a faceoff, on the power play, whatever – he expects it to be done as he wants it done or there will be repercussions.”
The Canes’ options with Semin include placing him on waivers, sending him to the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League or buying him out after the season. Francis indicated the Canes would not do the latter.
“Alex is a part of the Hurricanes and we’ll continue to work with him and try to help him be the player we think he can be,” Francis said. “Things are different now in the way we are running things and what we expect. Our job is to continue to work with him and get the message through.
“We think we can do it. We’re not giving up on him at all.”
Francis said when when interviewing for a new coach, one question he asked was how the coach would handle a particularly difficult situation.
“What I didn’t want to hear was someone say it’s just not working,” he said. “A part of their job is to make it work.”