Alex Semin. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Sell Crazy Somewhere Else. We're Full Here.

A fictitious exchange, one we’ve probably either heard of, or have been a part of.

“I don’t like (player X)”.

“Why not?  (Player X) has thirty-six points, and he’s good on the penalty kill.  What’s not to like about (Player X)?”

“He’s got a bad attitude.  He’s lazy, his play shows that he thinks he’s entitled, he doesn’t do what he’s asked.  He’s last on the ice in the morning, and he’s first off. His teammates don’t even like him.  He’s bad in the room”

As Oilers fans, we’ve heard this story countless times.  There are a few problems with these sorts of stories, let’s see if I can hit them all.

  • “bad in the room” style stories reek of high school lunch periods.  (OMG DID YOU HEAR WHAT PLAYER X SAID TODAY?)
  • rarely, if ever, are these stories proven to be true
  • Not all of these stories are created by members of media – some are created by fans who have hate for a certain player.   This isn’t to say that media is exempt, because they certainly aren’t.
  • a “bad in the room” charge leads to other non-quantifiable jingoistic terms like “no heart”, “isn’t clutch”, “no jam/crust”, and so on.  None of it makes any good sense, and rarely does anyone seem to be particularly bothered by that fact.

Perhaps because I’m an Oilers fan, I’m somewhat immune when I see a “bad in the room” charge among the fan base.  When I see it among other teams, it looks ridiculous.

Let’s take the curious case of Alex Semin.

Alex Semin is a pretty good hockey player.  How good is he?  He’s a .87 point per game player.  Before all of you jump through your monitors with your pointy cocktail swords, I know that he spent a significant part of his Capitals career playing alongside Alex Ovechkin (another guy who is supposedly “bad in the room”, but we’ll save that for later).

The fact is, the guy scored a lot of points.  There’s no argument there.  Eventually, Semin’s character came into question, and the reasoning is unclear at best.

CRAWFORD:  THE DIFFERENCE IS ONE GUY HAS A TON OF CHARACTER AND ONE GUY HAS NO CHARACTER

Wow.  Alright.  This guy must be the plague.  I’ll give Crawford credit in the fact that Semin didn’t end up in a hockey hotbed when he signed for Carolina.

But other than that, this is nothing more than acerbic filler.  “Coach killer” is a bit over the top, eh McGuire?  Alex Semin has got to be the proximate cause why Bruce Boudreau is in Anaheim.  C’mon.

Carolina took the plunge and signed Alex Semin to a 1 year, $7M deal.  And he’s been so bad, that Canes GM Jim Rutherford heaped praise all over him.

What am I getting at?  Narratives like this are goofy and tabloid-y, and offer nothing to a legitimate discussion.  Don’t want to sign Semin because you might think he’s a flight risk?  That’s a legitimate (although somewhat flimsy) concern.  Don’t want to sign him because he’s Russian?  Just.  Say.  It.  Xenophobia isn’t on a list of chic things to have attributed to you, but I’d rather you shoot straight than make up some goofy sub-story to go along with whatever else you’re peddling. If Alex Semin was such a shifty character (or flight risk), he could’ve just taken that three year 30 million dollar deal that was supposedly offered to him in the KHL and gotten the Hell out of North America.  He didn’t, and this narrative that he’s a bad guy and coach killer is unfounded and stupid.

A handful of similar story lines somewhat similar to Alex Semin’s are created every year.  Just this past weekend, Hockey Night in Canada panelist PJ Stock painted a rather unflattering picture of defenceman PK Subban.  It rubbed Montreal Gazette journo Dave Stubbs so harshly that Stubbs penned an article about how misinformed Stock’s representation of Subban was.

I’m well aware that there are players that other players don’t like.  Hey, I’ve worked with plenty of folks who I thought were either idiots or morons or otherwise possessed some personality trait that made them unable to be worked with.

I’m so used to hearing it about Ales Hemsky, I’m almost accustomed to hearing it by now.  Ales Hemsky just scored a power play goal the other night, so he’s off the hook for a week or so.  But you’ve all heard it before, whether you like the guy or not.   First off the ice, bad influence, etc.  It’s an irresponsible narrative and it’s got no evidence.  Without proof,  you’re dumb for suggesting it.  Save your breath.

The point is?  I’m sure there are some guys that are jerks in the dressing room.  It would be ridiculous to assume that there are no unliked players in the NHL.  But until I can see some hard evidence, there’s no way it’s nearly as many as we’re led to believe.

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