Sunday, September 27, 2009

Buh Bye Kid

Sergei, Sergei, Sergei. What are we gonna do with you, boy? There you are, faster than that Mercedes you picked up as soon as you cashed your first NHL cheque. You've got better creative vision than da Vinci and softer hands than the Queen. So, why do you tick off your coaches and require periodic exile to Hamilton to remind you to be grateful for the privileged life you've been granted?

I mean, you were drafted 200th overall. Two-hundredth. You have no business being an NHL player, really. How many guys drafted in the first round never make it? About twenty percent of them, if you want to know. And the numbers don't improve as you go down the list of draftees. By the time you get to the seventh round, 200th overall, your chances of making the big time (if your name's not Zetterberg) should be about the same as skydiving with a busted 'chute and landing safely on your feet. Or finding a magic lamp with a genie inside. Or the leafs winning a Cup this year. You get what I'm saying?

But you made it. You got an incredible chance to play a game for big money, in the best hockey city in the world, with your brother on the same team. At first you cared, too. You had that excited puppy enthusiasm and you played with speed and grit. You looked like a guy who'd been coached hard by Dale Hunter. So, what happened? Is it the nice upper-middle class life you had in Belarus? Did you not have to learn the value of hard work or determination as a kid? Because if you learned it, you haven't been showing it in Montreal.

You got away with it with Carbo. He liked you, and he gave you every chance to succeed. You only had to go to Steeltown last year after you embarrassed the team with your and your brother's shady associate. So I guess it must have been a bit of a shock when Jacques the Knife rolled into town. He called you out because he didn't like your lazy play and your disinclination to follow the game plan he wants. Maybe you thought your talent would let you slide through as it always has. It's not fun to be wrong, is it? Now the coach has you sucking diesel in Hamilton instead of playing bonding games at Teen Ranch, and I don't blame him. You don't have to be right on the ice all the time, but you do have to try hard and pretend you care. You do have to be on the bus on time and listen when the coach tells you about his new system.

Listen up, though, Sergei. Jacques means business. He won't have you on the team if you don't smarten up, and the team needs your skills when you're playing like you can. There's a spot for you on the second line if you're working hard. But the Knife won't ruin the chemistry of his squad by adding a guy with attitude, no matter how good he can be. So, go to Hamilton. Suck it up and work your nuts off. Get mad and tear up the AHL. Miss the speed and skill of the NHL and get desperate to get back there and stick around. If you do, you'll be back in the big league before a dozen games are up.

If you don't, you'll be packing up your gear and your attitude and become some other team's enigma. The Habs have had enough of those in the last few years to last them another century.


Raphaël P. said...

Indeed, Enigma is the word. As a fan I find these kinds of players frustrating. You get worked up when you see the talent, the potential... and fall back down to earth when you see the laziness.

The culture shock IMO seems to be the culprit: Money, attention, jet-set life, material bliss. I'm not saying these things are inherently evil or bad, but in the case of Sergei he's taking too much in too fast and wants to enjoy it to the fullest.

I guess it's up to the coaching staff at Montréal and Hamilton to make him understand that these things are temporary when no effort is offered and become permanent with hard work.

It's easy to forget how privileged we are in North America compared to some regions (like eastern Europe). Belorussian is presently host to a authoritarian regime and since the fall of the Berlin wall the region has seen an overall drop in the quality of life of it's inhabitants. As such, for someone like Sergei (and Andrei) who have only known a shattered country, seemingly limitless wealth in a world with unlimited wants must be dizzying.

Thus what Sergei now lacks, again IMO, is a reason to fight, a reason to play.

sheldon said...

I hope this also has something to do with Sergei's shoulder. Not 100%, but i think one more game in the bigs and Sergei would have to clear waivers to be sent down.

I think this has to be his year to prove he can put up points,without the bad retaliation penalties.

Mr. Mills said...

Did Sergei get sent down because of an alleged attitude problem, or because of an injury, or because of waiver considerations?

He missed a bus (hey kid, don't miss the freakin bus!) and he got yelled at in practice. These are anecdotal and hardly a smoking gun for evidence of an attitude problem. Any reference to last year's listlessness would do well to remember some other key players (some gone and some still with the team)who disappeared as well. But that was last season.

This Pre-Season, Martin let him play one of the last two games he was cleared by the medical staff to play in, and he scored a goal and showed a hell of a lot of feistiness (did anyone else see the bruin defender loose his footing at his blueline fall to his knees and still try to stickhandle-- Sergei did and decided that rather than ease up or take a stupid penalty he would drop to his knees and get his body on him).

If Martin thinks a stint in the minors might help Sergei's attitude ( or his shoulder, or waiver conditions) fine. I respect the guy enough to let him do his job. But I will not engage in some cult-like revisionism that sees Sergei through this weird prism of unrelenting ad hominem attacks (not you J.T., but, boy, the comments at one site in particular are knuckle-dragging in the extreme)

And God help us if (*warning speculation alert) this move was nothing more than a new coach using a situation to set a tone or create an impression. Accountability works both ways. I hope this works our for the best, otherwise we lose a player with phenomenal potential for nothing more than a p.r exercise, as it's easier to play tough with a young kid who can be sent down than it is to get rough with more veteran players (who wouldn't clear the waiver wire).

Ian said...

Excellent observations. I'll watch Sergei here in Hamilton and hope his stay is brief.

LIAM said...

@ sheldon

It's more 39 more games for waivers in Sergei's case.