RALEIGH, N.C. – Carolina Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters indicated after practice on Friday that forward Alexander Semin would likely be a healthy scratch for the team’s upcoming game against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.
“Right now, he’s not in the lineup,” Peters said.
“He’s not in our top four lines. We’ve got two guys back from injury and now we’ve got the ability to take some guys out.”
As the team’s second highest-paid player at $7 million per season, next to captain Eric Staal’s $8.25 million contract, Semin apparently wasn’t meeting the expectations that Peters set for him.
With only two assists and a minus-7 rating to his credit through the team’s first eight games, a winless stretch that is the longest in franchise history to start a season, the coach was clear on what one of his expected goal producers was not doing.
As many will quickly scramble to watch video of errors and misplays on Semin’s part to deduce the full reasoning for Peters to take such step, it can be simply traced back to when the coach was hired.
He indicated back then how he would handle a situation like the one that has arisen, and particularly as it relates to a marquee player on the team’s roster.
Following his introductory press conference on June 20, Peters was asked in a one-on-one interview if he’d be afraid to make such a move if he had to.
“You can’t be,” he said.
“You know what it is? They have to know what you want from them. So, if you haven’t laid it out, what’s expected of them, then they’re unsure. You take away all that uncertainty and explain how we’re gonna’ play as a team, how their skill set fits into what we’re gonna’ try and do, and then away you go. Then you monitor their play.”
“There’s gonna’ be nights when your best players aren’t your best players,” Peters continued on the point.
“That’s when you need other guys to step up in secondary scoring and what not to win you a game. Some nights your power play has to win you a game and sometimes your goalie’s gonna’ steal one. So, it all comes together. In essence you have to sacrifice individual rights for team rights. That’s what you have to be willing to do. For a team to be successful, you’ve gotta’ sacrifice individual rights for team rights and you gotta’ care about your teammates in order to do that. That’s the culture that we want.”
The culture that Peters envisioned back then has slowly taken form, but with missing elements.
The team’s top players such as Semin, Staal, and Jeff Skinner haven’t all fired on all cylinders – not enough to help Carolina win a game.
While Semin is still without a goal in eight games, Staal and Skinner each have a goal apiece in three and four games respectively, after recently coming off injured reserve.
Jiri Tlusty has done his part in leading the team with five goals in his eight games played, so the significant improvement needed from the top is for Semin to contribute by putting pucks in the net.
Chris Terry and Riley Nash have scored a combined five goals and the secondary scoring that Peters talked about back in June.
In actuality, their production has been part of the team’s primary source of scoring – not the ideal scenario the coach expected, but one he’s had to accept.
In addition to Skinner and Staal returning, the team’s injury situation is sorting itself out further with forwards Nathan Gerbe and Patrick Dwyer expected to return to play against Arizona.
Their presence should hopefully bolster the team’s defensive and offensive play, particularly on special teams and help to reduce goals against and bolster goals for.
“It would have been nice to have a little more options, but finally now with 14 healthy forwards we have some options,” Peters said.
“Now you finally get an opportunity to play your lines the way you envisioned them right? You have a few options that make sense, instead of shufflin’ the deck and makin’ changes for the sake of makin’ changes…I expect Patty Dwyer and Nathan Gerbe to have an impact similar to what Eric Staal did in Vancouver.”
When asked if he needed higher authority and approval from management to make a decision like sitting Semin, Peters unequivocally owned it.
“I made the decision,” Peters said.
“It’s a decision that I think is best for the individual and for the team. We want Sems to be a part of it – we want Sems to be a big part of it. We want him to play the game hard, play the game properly and with pace and live up to his ability and his potential. So in order to do that, you’ve gotta’ put the work in and be mentally and physically engaged in what you’re doing.”
Tough circumstances call for tough decisions.
Carolina’s winless situation affords Peters the opportunity to take bold steps that he hasn’t been able to up to this point, and to reinforce what he said he would do since the day he was hired.
“I don’t know it there’s ever a good time to struggle to be honest with you,” Peters concluded.
“Reality is, we struggled right out of the gate and now we’re startin’ to get healthy, so we should be better. We’ve made some roster moves to get down to a number that’s pretty obvious that the guys that are playin’, the next man up, they know who they are in the lineup at 13 (forwards), seven (defenseman), and two (goalies). They’re one decision away from bein’ back in the lineup, so I think it’s a good situation for us and the situation that we’re in.”