There are a lot of players in the NHL who become lightning rods of criticism, whether it’s fair or not. Washington Capitals sniper Alexander Semin might just be the poster child for the “enigmatic, super-talented Russian winger” now that Alexei Kovalev is sequestered in the KHL.
There aren’t many people in the hockey world who hold Semin’s attitude in high regard, even if almost everyone makes sure to throw in the caveat that he possesses world-class skills. (It’s the hockey equivalent to “having said that …” in “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”)
The latest person to throw Semin under the bus is Matt Bradley, a particularly relevant commenter since the two forwards were in the same Capitals locker room for six seasons. Lindsay Applebaum of Capitals insider transcribed a startlingly honest interview Bradley (now a member of the Florida Panthers) conducted with Ottawa radio station Team 1200. The 33-year-old forward spoke his mind regarding his former team in a way that his flat-out unusual for NHL players who usually seem like graduates from the University of Cliches.
First, let’s get to the juiciest bits in which he singles out Semin.
Asked to describe the discipline problems without naming names:
“I don’t mind saying Alexander Semin’s name, because he’s one guy who has so much talent, he could easily be the best player in the league, and just for whatever reason, just doesn’t care.
“When you’ve got a guy like that, you need him to be your best player, or one of your best players, and when he doesn’t show up, you almost get the sense that he wants to be back in Russia. That’s tough to win when you’ve got a guy like that who’s supposed to be your best player not being your best player, or one of your best players.”
Ouch. It’s one thing to hear an armchair NHL head coach say those types of things about Semin at a bar, but it’s stunning to realize that such a sentiment is shared by a teammate (especially a long-time one such as Bradley). It’s not as if Bradley was ripping apart all of his former colleagues, either; he was mostly positive about Alex Ovechkin.
“I never worry about Ovi. He’s an all-in guy. He’s young, he makes his mistakes, the same as anyone would. I often try to put myself in his position. And you’ve got to remember, he’s 25 years old, he’s got a guaranteed $120 million, he’s on top of the world, and he still for the most part makes the right decisions. I don’t worry about him, I don’t worry about most of the guys on that team. That’s why I think in the end they’ll do well.
“Ovi has some growing up to do as far as taking care of himself and things like that, but as far as his want to win, he really does just want to win the games, and he doesn’t care if he scores or not. That isn’t an act. He’s a great guy, great player. I’d never say anything bad about him.”
Bradley was outspoken on a range of subjects. He shared his big picture praise of Bruce Boudreau, but also stated that the personable coach relied on his big money players even when they weren’t producing (another dig at Semin, maybe?). That was also the common theme of his discussion of the Capitals’ second round sweep to the Tampa Bay Lightning, saying “our locker room was maybe a little bit too nonchalant, and guys weren’t disciplined the way they should have been.” (One interesting note is that I didn’t come across any direct criticisms of Mike Green, which seems like an uncommon occurrence.)
As fun as it is to linger on the Semin comments, it’s important to note that Bradley also voiced the sort of critiques that have been levied at the franchise before. Are the Capitals really nonchalant during the playoffs? Does Boudreau lean too heavily on star players, even if they might be underachieving? In the grand scheme of things, those are more important questions to answer than the idea that a millionaire doesn’t care about the sport that allows him to make millions.
Much like Japers’ Rink, I agree with some of the criticisms regarding Semin’s game but think that some of the character issues are a bit overblown. Do you think that Bradley’s criticisms of Semin – and the Capitals in general – are fair? Let us know in the comments.