Alexander Semin Rightfully Deserving of Ticket to 2014 Olympics on Team Russia

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Alexander Semin Rightfully Deserving of Ticket to 2014 Olympics on Team Russia
Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

Millions of followers of both the Carolina Hurricanes and Team Russia cheered Tuesday as Alexander Semin received a last-second ticket to the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Semin, reserved as always, probably did not cheer.

But he surely sighed with relief.

Per NHL.com's Road to Sochi blog:

Carolina Hurricanes forward Alexander Semin was added to Russia's team for the 2014 Sochi Olympics on Tuesday.

According to Russian sports website Rsport.ru, Semin will replace forward Sergei Soin, who plays for Dynamo Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League but sustained a knee injury last week.

January has been quite a roller-coaster month for the 29-year-old 'Canes winger.

The original Russian Olympic roster was announced on Jan. 7. Semin's snub immediately sent the hockey universe into uproar.

Wrote Yahoo!'s Dmitry Chesnokov at the time:

The biggest surprise is the exclusion of Alexander Semin. It is quite difficult to understand exactly what led to him not making the team. He is picking up his game lately, but, quite interestingly, [Russian head coach Zinetula] Bilyaletdinov didn’t even speak with Semin when visiting one of the recent Hurricanes’ games.

Is there something personal there?

Semin had tallied two assists in four appearances with Team Russia as part of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. However, the criticism-maligned Krasnoyarsk native figured to be watching his country compete in February from his television.

Pittsburgh Penguins and Team Russia star Evgeni Malkin shared Semin's anger in an interview with R-Sport last Friday. Translated, Malkin said, "Everyone was surprised by Semin's absence... Believe me, every player left off the roster—[including] both Semin and (Sergei) Goncharwas really upset."

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Yet Semin's January was only going to get worse. After tallying points in six of seven games leading up to Jan. 7, No. 28 was held off the box score for three consecutive NHL contests following his Olympic exclusion.

Then his career arguably hit its lowest point in a decade after a scathing review from Carolina GM Jim Rutherford on Saturday. Said Rutherford to WTVD (ABC) reporter Mark Armstrong:

Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

He came off a great year, and we are all very disappointed with his production at this time.

He's a guy who is paid to score goals and put up points, and he hasn't done that. He's trying to play an east-west game when the rest of the team is playing a north-south game, and he needs to get his act going pretty soon.

The very general manager who had signed Semin to a five-year, $35 million extension less than a calendar year before was now lambasting him quite the same as his former employers and teammates in Washington had.

A simple glance at the stat sheet seemed to back up Rutherford's claims, as Semin had tallied just six goals, 12 assists and a minus-one rating in 34 games to date.

Yet advanced numbers told a far different tale.

The 29-year-old led the Hurricanes by an incredibly wide margin with a 15.94 shot attempt differential (aka Corsi). He had suffered through a remarkably unlucky 7.6 shooting percentage since joining the 'Canes—a vast difference from his 14.1 shooting percentage with the Capitals—but his chance-creating productivity was going underappreciated.

Karl B DeBlaker/Associated Press

Then, suddenly, Semin's month turned around.

No. 28 proved impossible to contain during Carolina's weekend back-to-back, registering 13 shots and three goals in a 25-hour span. Rutherford's words seemed to echo in his mind as he rifled shot after shot at opposing goaltenders Tim Thomas and Ben Bishop.

Meanwhile, a top-of-the-standings KHL game quickly became relevant for Semin as well. SKA St. Petersburg defeated Dynamo Moscow 6-3 last Wednesday, Jan. 15, with Dynamo forward Sergei Soin going down with an injury.

It was announced Monday that Soin's knee concern would hold him out of the Olympics next month, opening up a new roster spot on Team Russia.

As the sun rose in Raleigh on Tuesday, Semin was announced as Soin's replacement.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

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Said a suddenly hospitable Bilyaletdinov to Russian media:

With...Semin, we had a preliminary agreement that he could be called into the team. We’ve already been in contact with him, negotiated, and Alexander will represent the Russian national team at the Olympic Games.

Semin spoke to Fox Sports Carolinas commentator Tripp Tracy in a rare English interview Tuesday; the Hurricanes' official team Twitter account passed along quotes:

Alexander Semin would not be Alexander Semin without drama, and his first three weeks of 2014 have certainly not fallen short in that regard.

The fate of the Hurricanes' Semin-led 2013-14 campaign, moreover, remains wholly up in the air.

Yet there can be no doubt that, in the end, Semin appears headed where he deserved all along—to his home country for the greatest hockey competition in the world.

 

Mark Jones has been a Carolina Hurricanes featured columnist for Bleacher Report since 2009. Visit his profile to read more, or follow him on Twitter.

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