Habs GM hopes Semin will ‘bring his skill and his compete level’

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To hear Marc Bergevin explain it, it’s simple — to be successful in Montreal, Alex Semin needs to work hard, and do it consistently.

“We hope he’ll bring his skill and his compete level to Montreal,” the Habs GM said on Wednesday, per the Gazette. “If you don’t score — (and) it’s hard to score in today’s game — you have to bring something else to the table.

“So it’s either backchecking or stripping pucks or playing solid hockey. That’s what I expect from you if you don’t score.”

Expectations and Semin haven’t always meshed well.

After scoring a monster five-year, $35 million deal from Carolina in 2013, his game fell of a cliff; there were whispers the 31-year-old Russian became complacent (at, at times, lethargic) after getting paid. The fact he was in the elite $7-million-per-year club only added to the scrutiny.

So this summer, just two years after signing him, Carolina bought Semin out of the remainder of his contract.

As such, expectations are now significantly lower. Semin’s on an inexpensive contract in Montreal — one year, $1.1 million — and, given he scored just six goals in 57 games last year, any uptick in production will be seen as a positive.

As others have mentioned, there is hope Semin can rediscover his game with the Canadiens like Alexei Kovalev did a few years ago. The similarities between the two are obvious — Russian, mercurial, immensely skilled — and it is worth noting that, during the 2007-08 campaign, the 34-year-old Kovalev had a renaissance season in which he scored 84 points in 82 games, was named to his first (and only) NHL All-2nd Team and actually served as team captain twice that year, when Saku Koivu was out with injury.

Bergevin is hopeful Semin can have the same sort of revival.

“Obviously, things didn’t go his way in Carolina,” he said. “He’s going to have a chance to prove that he is a player that he once was and he’s still young at 31 years of age.”