Actually, Steve Czaban asked about his sense that Semin is increasingly unpopular among hockey fans in this town.
“I don’t understand why he’s an unpopular player,” Leonsis replied. “Look at his stats from the playoffs. He didn’t have a bad playoffs; he had a very productive playoffs....I don’t know what his future holds. I’m hopeful that he comes in with focus like all of our players come in with focus.”
So, why the criticism?
“The reason that they’re open for criticism is that we’re not meeting expectations, so on one hand I view that as a positive,” Leonsis said. “Fans, media, the industry itself, they’re expecting more from us. They think we have a really really good team, and they look at our core young players, and probably the four – Mike Green, Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom – are top 30 players in the league, would be ranked in the top 25, top 30 players in the league....
“So the expectation on them is big. And now we just have to see how do they perform in that spotlight. But it’s not on Alex Semin, it’s not on Alex Ovechkin, it’s on all of us. It’s a shared responsibility. And mostly why I came to his defense is I don’t think it’s fair, especially in hockey, to blame one player for a team’s failures, and I don’t think it’s fair to heap all the praise on one player when you win. It’s really a team game. He plays 20 minutes a game.
“And I think if he stays healthy, I think he can score 40, 50 goals. And there’s not a lot of players in the league that can do that. And then it comes into the playoffs, and when you look during the playoffs, it’s usually not the high-scoring guys who are the big difference-makers, because that’s where all the defensive attention is. It’s usually in the playoffs, your goaltending and your third and fourth lines, the grinders, those guys, and then how do the stars play on the power play....With Alex, let’s not forget, the very first game we played at home against the Rangers, game winner. We don’t win that game, who knows if we get to go to the second round?”
Leonsis was also asked about giving another chance to George McPhee and Bruce Boudreau to get this thing right in the postseason.
“I believe in them; I also believe in continuity,” he said. “George has delivered on exactly what we’ve requested, and he’s been the architect of the rebuild, and the rebuild has worked to a point. We haven’t gone deep enough into the playoffs, but the team he’s put together has been very very productive...Now that’s not to say that my patience is infinite. I mean, everyone understands that we’re all in this to perform well and make our fans proud, but they’re both good men and they deserve the opportunity to work together and try to get us home.”