The enigmatic Alexander Semin has been a model citizen in Carolina so far this season. (Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon SMI)
By Allan Muir
I can't figure out why.
It's not the timing that's surprising. Semin is making his first visit to Washington tonight with his new team, the Carolina Hurricanes. Naturally, the return of a player who scored 408 points in 469 games over seven seasons as a Capital will be a talking point.
And it certainly wasn't what Brouwer said. Because really, he didn't put anything out there that varied from the widely held opinion that Semin has a somewhat "irregular" competitive drive.
Was it a problem with giving Semin and the 'Canes some bulletin board material? As if Semin wasn't already pumped to prove the Caps wrong for letting him skate as a free agent last summer?
No. It's just like Colonel Jessup said: People can't handle the truth.
Brouwer is well regarded by the media as someone willing to go beyond the cliche and tell you exactly what he thinks. And that's exactly what he did today:
"Some nights you didn't know if he was going to come to the rink," he told Chuck Gormley of CSN Washington. "It's tough to play alongside guys like those, because you don't know what you’re going to get out of them.
"It can be frustrating. I know there’s a lot of guys that work really, really hard to get where they are and some guys it’s a little easier because of their skill set."
Again, what's the hubbub? This just confirms what has long been said about Semin: world-class talent but a little short on personal motivation.
Maybe the comment in question was reflective of a culture in Washington's room that Brouwer described as "lacking accountability" under former coach Bruce Boudreau. Maybe Semin just took full advantage of the leeway given to him. But that approach didn't go unnoticed. And it clearly didn't win Semin a lot of respect from certain teammates who fairly wonder what the Caps could have accomplished had he been fully engaged.
Of course, that was then. Word out of Carolina today suggests that Semin has become exactly what Brouwer says he wasn't in Washington. He's become a more disciplined player since joining the Hurricanes, and his effort is more consistent. He leads the team in shots at five-on-five, he's been brilliant in transition, and his defensive work ethic has been solid.
Chastised by being cast off? Required to do more by coach Kirk Muller? Making the most of a new opportunity? Inspired by a one-year contract? Whatever the reason, the buzz around Semin is as positive in Raleigh as it remains negative in Washington.