How Long is Alexander Semin’s Leash in Montreal?

How does Semin fit into the equation in Montreal?

Signed onto a one-year contract, 31-year old Alexander Semin knows that he needs to perform if he wants to stay in the NHL for years to come. Only seven games into the season, a miniscule sample size is provided for analysis. Heading into the season, a major Habs headline was how the personalities of head coach Michel Therrien and forward Alexander Semin would coincide with one another. Therrien has developed a bit of a reputation for his my way or the high way coaching strategy in the NHL. Semin has developed a reputation of being tremendously skilled with a lack of effort at times. Fresh off a huge buyout that probably still has Carolina Hurricanes ownership cringing, he has come under fire for his attitude numerous times over the course of his NHL career. Many have been wondering if these two conflicting personalities would collide, or rather, when they would collide. It has been perceived that it would only be a matter of time before Michel Therrien had Semin watching the Canadiens’ games from the press box. The Canadiens and Semin have not reached this boiling point, yet.

Evaluating his performance through 7 games

Seven games into the season, he has held onto his position on Montreal’s second line combination with Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk. The hot topic going into Tuesday night’s game against St. Louis was whether or not he has been shooting the puck enough. The former 40-goal scorer had just eight shots on goal in his first six games with the Canadiens. In comparison, David Desharnais had 10 SOG in the first six games. Yes, David Desharnais has been outshooting Alexander Semin six games into the season. In his first six games, Semin has held an even-strength 5v5 CF% of 57.9%, suggesting that he, or rather his line as a whole, are not spending ample time hemmed in their own end but instead are typically driving the play and applying pressure on other teams. In those six games, his 5v5 HSC (on-ice High-danger Scoring Chances) of 16 is one higher than his 5v5 HSCA (on-ice High-danger Scoring Chances Against) of 15. The fact of the matter is, Alexander Semin has been playing okay. But, just okay.

On Tuesday night, Semin released three shots on goal towards Jake Allen, scoring on one of them. Noticeably, the Russian flash put on display his quick release against the Blues that was reminiscent of his former days as an elite scorer in the National Hockey League. Simply put, Semin’s once-excellent shot does not seem to be a thing of the past. Perhaps he was lacking the confidence to use his excellent shooting abilities in his first six games with Montreal. Perhaps Therrien and the coaching staff sat him down and gave him the green light to start shooting more. Regardless, scoring his first goal with the Canadiens on Tuesday night is sure to provide a boost of confidence for the former 40-goal scorer. Semin played just over 12 minutes on Tuesday, but played a good game overall.

The verdict

You had to figure coming into this season that Alex Semin would be on a short leash with head coach Michel Therrien. But if he plays out the rest of this season in Montreal with the shoot-first mentality that he carried along with him throughout his most successful years in the NHL, he could potentially force Michel Therrien’s hand in sending him out there every night, shift after shift. Semin’s goal on Tuesday night against the St. Louis Blues was not a highlight reel finish, and no, it will not be the kick-starter to another 40-goal campaign. What it could potentially do is provide not only himself with confidence in his own abilities, but also equip Michel Therrien with confidence in his second line winger as a scoring threat on the ice. Regardless of how things play out with Alexander Semin in Montreal this season, it will be interesting to see how the relationship between Therrien and Semin develops over time. He is on a short leash with the Canadiens. With three shots on goal including his first goal of the season on Tuesday night, the grip on that leash may have just loosened up a tad bit.

Here’s a quick look at Alexander Semin’s first goal as a member of the Montreal Canadiens: