Of Semin, Gabby says Greatness Is Already Here, and More Is on the Way

SovetskySport’s Dmitry Chesnokov passed along an audio file of an interview he conducted this week with Capitals’ Head Coach Bruce Boudreau. It was an illuminating exchange, with much of it focused on Alexander Semin’s development as an NHLer. Chesnokov asked the coach to assign a numerical rating, 1 to 10, for Semin on an array of evaluative categories such as “tactical ability,” “skating,” and “work ethic.” Highlights:

The coach characterized Semin’s work ethic as “much improved.” “When I first saw him, if there was a battle, he probably wouldn’t compete as hard as other guys for the puck. But now, he works really hard at it, and he wants it. I really like his ‘compete level’ and his work ethic.” Grade: 7.

Gabby.JPGThe coach described Semin’s skating as “unparalleled” — “north, south, east west, with the puck [he] skates as well as anybody.” The coach called Semin’s skill level “off the charts.” He did note that language has been an issue, because, he noted, Semin “can see [the play] better than 95 percent of the players in the world,” but he hasn’t always been able to communicate this with his teammates.

On the defensive side of things, the coach said that Semin is definitely improving: “He’s not on the ice for too many goals against.”

“All great offensive players focus on offense,” Boudreau noted, but adding that Semin knows what to do defensively.    

“I couldn’t say this last year, but in the last 5 minutes of a game and [when] we’re ahead by one goal he plays all the time. I have complete faith in him defensively. He’s not a physical player — he’s not Alex [Ovechkin] where he’s going to get 14 hits. He’s got such great stick skills he’s going to get the puck. He competes hard when the game’s on the line.”

On the power play, Semin, the coach said, is “a 10.”

“When he has the puck, he makes the right play.” The coach pointed out that since November the Caps have had the no. 1 power play in the league, and he credits Semin for a lot of that success.

Semin’s mental game has its shortcomings, the coach conceded. “He’s got the ability to take a stupid penalty,” he said with a slight chuckle. Still, the coach awarded Semin an “8” on the mental aspect of the game.

Overall, Semin is “as good as any player in the league,” the coach concluded. He suggested that Semin was “a lock” to make the Russian Olympic team for the Vancouver Games next February (along with Ovechkin, obviously).

As to what aspect he’d most like to see Semin improve, the coach said, “Nobody’s a perfect hockey player. I wish he would shoot lower. It’s either going in or over the net.”   

There was a real poignant moment between Chesnokov and the coach when the blogger noted that the Caps had become “Russia’s team” and went on to ask the coach to reflect on his storybook rise to the NHL. Isn’t it still like a dream, Chesnokov wondered?

“When you’re by yourself going for a long walk or on the treadmill, and there’s nothing around, these are the dreams you have, but you never think the dreams are going to come true. I gave myself I thought [age] 55 to be able to think I could coach in the NHL, so the window kept getting closer, shorter. So when it happened at 53 — and I knew I didn’t have much longer — I kept dreaming about it.

“I didn’t know if it was going to happen. I didn’t know if my ideas could translate to the NHL, but evidently they’re doing ok.”

You could say.

“I’m still living my dream every day,” the coach said.    

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