Enigmatic forward Alex Semin has been benched by the Canadiens for Thursday night's game in Edmonton, a move that he may not have deserved.
But to learn that he’ll be scratched by the Montreal Canadiens for Thursday night’s contest in Edmonton is a bit perplexing.
Yes, Semin has just one goal and two assists through the season's first 10 games, hardly banner production for a top-six forward. Yes, he was a –2 in Montreal’s 5–1 loss to Vancouver on Tuesday night. And yes, his game still has some frustrating elements that might lower his grade on the eye test.
But singling him out after the Habs dropped their first decision in 10 games is tough to comprehend. Because Semin, by almost every measure, is performing as expected.
The stats don't lie. Semin ranks fourth among the team’s forwards in even-strength shots per 60 minutes, fourth in Corsi-for events and fifth in shot attempt differential (stats per War On Ice and NHL.com).
Pretty much what you’d expect from a top-six forward, right?
Sure, it would be nice if his point totals were higher, but that’s not entirely on him.
Look back to Saturday’s game against the Maple Leafs. Twice in that contest Semin put the puck on linemate Alex Galchenyuk’s stick in scoring position. The young center rang one off the post and was robbed by Jonathan Bernier on the other. If he finishes those chances, the conversation focuses on their budding chemistry and Semin’s playmaking ability. Instead, he’s “struggling” and headed to the press box.
Maybe close isn’t good enough in Michel Therrien’s book. The Canadiens coach suggested before Tuesday’s loss that he didn’t want players “hiding behind the success of this hockey team.” Although he didn’t name names at the time, we now know who he was talking about.
We’ll see tonight whether or not he was right.