Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Semin Making Most Of Second Chance

Alexander Semin of the Washington Capitals leads the NHL in goals in the month of January (with one day remaining) with a total of 12 goals. This is significant for several reasons. The first is it gives Washington a legitimate second offensive threat to take some pressure off of Alexander Ovechkin. It is also significant because this is Semin's second chance in the NHL.

In 2003/04, he played 52 games scoring 22 points. After that he was the centrepiece of the first Russia/NHL player battle since there is no NHL/Russia IIHF player transfer agreement. During the lockout, Semin decided to play in Russia since he was locked out of the NHL. Washington was able to send him to the minors, so they assigned him to the AHL and he did not report since he was in Russia. This case was fought until Alexander Semin signed with the Capitals for 2006/07. This is his second trip to the NHL. Two years passed in between them.

There are other Russians who have failed in their first trip to the NHL this season. They include Alexei Kaigorodov, Enver Lisin and Alexei Mikhnov. All are seen by most fans as Russian whiners who were not good enough for the NHL (which is exactly the way Semin was seen when he was in Russia).

Semin did get a longer audition in his first NHL tour. Though this may be a sign that he is a better player, I think it is mostly a function of the CBA. The new CBA greatly reduces how long teams hold the rights of young players. At age 27, they can be lost as unrestricted free agents. This reduces the amount of time a team has the player they developed in their system. This also limits the amount of resources (such as NHL ice time) they are willing to sink into a player to develop him. All of the three Russian "failures" have credentials in Russia that compare to Semin. They may be able to succeed and become good NHL players if given a chance. However, given the state of NHL/Russian relations, CBA restrictions and the way they were treated on their first tour of North America it is quite likely some of them will never return to North America. It would be a shame if they could have been good NHL players, but these circumstances prevented the North American fans from seeing it happen.

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