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Alexander Semin's future with the Canadiens depends on his priorities

Has Alex Semin played his last game with the Montreal Canadiens? There are a few things that the coaching staff can do to ensure that Semin gets back on track for a good showing this season.

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

News broke on Wednesday morning that Alexander Semin would once again be benched for Thursday's game versus the Arizona Coyotes.

Semin was a healthy scratch from October 27 to November 14 and missed a total of seven games. In light of recent news, many are asking what the Canadiens' organization's plans are for Semin and whether or not he has already played his last game for the Habs.

What I found quite interesting was that Michel Therrien stated that Semin needed to, "adjust to the team's system."

Semin was a bit of a wildcard pick-up and fans were concerned over the right-winger's lack of production during the 2014-2015 season. In addition, this talented athlete has often faced criticism, highlighting his sometimes sub-par effort levels and even going so far as to state that he has 'coach-killing' tendencies. So are these tendencies rearing their ugly heads once again? If so, what does this mean for Semin's future in Montreal?

When considering line mates, coaches will find the team benefits most when athletes of similar skill level are paired together. This should not come as a surprise - David Desharnais has had a much better season after having been separated from the top line. Desharnais is paired with athletes of similar skill level and often receives assignments against players of similar or lesser skill.

Lars Eller is another great example of an athlete who has benefited from being given a linemate of exceptional skill and creativity in Alex Galchenyuk. In reality, Semin does fit into this line nicely, when we look strictly at skill level. However, in the case of Semin, something else may be triggering a less-than-stellar performance this season.

When an athlete tends to focus more on his own ability rather than working towards being a productive member of a team, issues can arise. Hockey is a sport that requires athletes to work cohesively in order to be successful - just consider the skill, patience, and concentration required from each member on the ice at any given time.

In these types of sports, the importance of a single player's ability decreases while the importance of the team's process increases. In essence, the quality of the team's cohesion and the players' desires to adapt to that team process can make or break a team's success. How should coaches work with athletes who struggle to adopt a team mentality?

  • Stress the importance of not only the team concept, but also what each athlete brings to the ice - this can help athletes understand their role and encourage athletes take responsibility for their efforts.
  • Speak with athletes individually and explain what is expected. I have absolutely no doubt that this is something that Therrien does with his athletes - in fact, as we see above, Therrien mentioned how he explained to Semin what is required in order to be reinstated in the line-up. That being said, how Therrien addresses the issue is also of great importance as not all athletes respond to decreased ice time or other threats.
In just a short amount of time, we have come a long way from Therrien being excited to coach Semin and GM Marc Bergevin hoping Semin would be around past this season. While I still feel that Semin fits a hole in the Habs' current line-up, how he is utilized and whether or not he can learn to play the team's 'system' remains to be seen.

1. Gretz, A. (2015). Examining Alexander Semin, the NHL's most polarizing player. Retrieved from: http://www.cbssports.com/nhl/eye-on-hockey/25250199/examining-alexander-semin-the-nhls-most-polarizing-player.

2. Weinberg, R.S., & Gould, D. (2011). Foundations for Sport and Exercise Psychology. (5th). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.