Photo credit: Rob Carr

Mark Gandler is always good for a pot stirring. As an agent for Alex Semin, Gandler has rarely hesitated to drop a bombastic statement about his client or his critics. With Semin moved to the Carolina Hurricanes, playing pretty well, and pulling in a cool prorated $7 million for 48 games of work, Gandler must have figured it was his time to speak. In an interview with Sovetsky Sport’s Pavel Lysenkov, Gandler talks about how great Semin is doing in Raleigh, how underappreciated he was in DC, and why the Washington Capitals are so bad this year.

(Hint: Not enough Russians)

Igor Kleyner has your translation.

Why do so many Russian players look so unremarkable this season? Is it because of their KHL efforts?

Normally you start the regular season in the NHL in October. By February there is terrible fatigue. You can’t wait for the season to be over. It’s so unbearable, the results don’t matter. They call it “the dog days” in America.

Why then there are no dog days for Alexander Semin in Carolina?

The people who work for the Hurricanes are direct. If they don’t like something, they’ll come to you and say it. They won’t whisper behind your back and point fingers. The team leader Eric Staal is a great person, and so is his brother Jordan. The goalie Ward, LaRose… they have personable relationships in the locker room. That’s why Semin is comfortable.

In Washington, they didn’t notice all the good things Sash was doing. They only saw his mistakes. But every hockey player makes mistakes. They are not robots. Everybody in Carolina is positive. Semin knows if he plays well defensively, they’ll praise him. The Capitals saw it as a given.

What’s happening in Washington? They are in 13th place in the East.

You need certain chemistry. But with the Capitals, the last few years their backbone is third line players. They can do very well in a few games. But when you don’t have such skillful players as Fleischmann or Semin, the style of the game changes.

True, this season Washington acquired Mike Ribeiro. But the backbone is still the same. Also, the injures hit: Laich, Green… The goalies didn’t always carry them. If they’d kept Varlamov, maybe they would be playing better. Although Holtby is quite a strong goaltender – mentally, and technically as well.

I think they will improve. They are probably strong enough to be the 8th team in the East, to make playoffs. But it’s difficult to catch up when many games are worth three points, but a win only gets you two. Also, because of the lockout, all games are within the conference.

Is it possible for the Capitals to trade Ovechkin?

The team’s problem is not Ovechkin. Such a trade can relieve the pressure, but the team will not get better from it.

  • vahockeymom

    Hard to argue with his point about third line players….

  • Ash

    I was very fond of Sasha, I do wish him luck, and I think a scenery change was necessary for him and the organization– but I can’t say I’m not looking forward to when his honeymoon period with Carolina is over and they get to take their turn justifying and explaining away some of his Bad Sasha!traits.

    Gandler is kind of a nutbag.

  • Well I think Washington was looking Positively and negatively when Semin was here, because he’s an asset. He finally found chemistry in Carolina, good for him.

  • Varlamov? Is he even looking at the Avalanche this year?

  • For real. Varly is stopping .907, below average.

  • Jose

    To be honest I don’t see it bombastic at all, he makes some very true remarks and besides the “whispering behind your back” which is bad the rest is pretty spot on. Injuries and not enough talent (or use of talent had) are the main reason for the caps season (and the abbreviated training camp, I know), and Ovechkin is definitely not, no matter how trendy it is to say so in national TV apparently. And actually the lack of talent may be what’s holding him back a bit. If the 2nd line was actually skilled and dangerous, then opposing teams wouldn’t be able focus so hard on Ovechkin or they’d constantly get burned. As of right now, they can load on against Ovi’s line and double or triple team him because his line is the only real threat. Same that’s happened to Semin: last year playing basically by himself (5 on 5) 54 points. Now on a line with Eric Staal (and to a lesser extent Tlusty, who’s more of a beneficiary of having 2 great linemates as illustrated by his disparity between goals and assists) and having behind a second line with Skinner and Staal Jr., he has more space and defenders can’t focus on him so much, and if they do he’s quick to make a slick feed to Eric. Result? Back to over a point per game.

  • No, this is mostly innuendo-filled, passive-aggressive backbiting. This is vengeful high school gossip. The part about 3rd liners has some merit, but everything else is just more sensationalism like we’ve seen from this clown for years.

  • Jose

    Well, everybody seems happy in Carolina (yes, I know winning helps), Holtby is indeed a good goalie but so is Varlamov, the caps have a lot of 3rd liners and not enough top 6 players, injuries have screwed with them a lot, and Ovechkin is not the problem, I don’t see it that bad and I think it’s pretty true.

  • yes i too get all my intelligent hockey analysis from crazy sports agents.

  • GT

    Do you actually watch any Avs games this season? Varly isn’t the problem. The defensive play or more accurately the lack thereof is the issue. Varly isn’t letting in soft goals very often. I watch all of the Caps and Avs games this season and I think Varly is playing better than Holtby. He is more advanced in his development compared to Holtby, he doesn’t stray for them net so much and let in as many soft goals as Holtby. So this isn’t a crazy statement by the agent. Not everything he said is false.

  • Yv

    From that, now distant, romantic era of free-flowing game, BB left. Now he, team, fans is crazy happy in S.Cal, as you can witness by recent signings and tonight game vs. Hawks. Semin left, now he, fans and team (they now talking about extension) happy in N.C. What is it, capital air that screwing minds and hearts of young guns, or something else?)

  • Varly has a .907, Holtby has a .911. Holtby is stopping a higher percentage of pucks than Varlamov and is therefore the better goalie this year. It’s pretty much that simple.

    (It doesn’t matter, but they’re both seeing 30-31 shots against per game.)

  • 28IS(still)GREAT

    Come on Peter. Varly has played 5 fewer games. If we’re being fair, its closer to a tie than either being demonstrably better than the other. And lets be honest, if Holtby has one or two nights like he had early in the season (or, from the opposite perspective, if our D lets him down more than usual), that .003 differential could swing the other way pretty quickly. Similarly, if Varly’s brittle groin starts crackling, then the same is true the other way.

  • The number of games or number of shots doesn’t affect the rate of pucks the guy stops.

    If anything, Holtby is disadvantaged by the rough systems/coach transition the Caps saw early in the season.

    I’m not even a Holtby fanboy, but the numbers say Holtby is better right now, and I can’t think of anything to sway me on that. I have a feeling that breaking PK Sv% vs EV Sv% would be even more compelling since the Caps have such a bad PK.

    Holtby > Varlamov (for now)

  • 28IS(still)GREAT

    I’m going to correct myself on that one and admit I botched those numbers. Varly has 5 more GP than Holtby, and faced 170+ more shots against. But with the differential just .003, I still think the fairer assesment is that the two are closer to a tie than being able to say one is better than the other.

  • GT

    Actually it’s not that simple. I bet if you performed a statistical test, you wouldn’t get a significant result with numbers that close. So therefore you can’t really say one guy is better than the other because there would be no difference statistically. In that case, I would look at other numbers or pay attention to what your lying eyes tell you about their level of play. My lying eyes tell me that Varly makes less rookie mistakes, whereas Holtby occasionally makes me want to tie him to his net and make a goalie stick that didn’t allow for ill-advised poke checks. At best it’s a draw between them with numbers that close. Also, Varly hasn’t been suffering injuries causing him to miss games in the NHL the past two seasons with the Avs so can’t really use that against him either.

  • GT

    Honestly have you watched the Avs at all this season? There defensive play is astounding in how atrocious it is. There’s a reason they are at the bottom of the western conference, and it’s not Varly. I expect Sacco to be fired after the season, if he makes it that far. The teams seems lost most night, like the Caps did before BB was fired.

  • Peter

    Atrocious D would lead to more shots against, which doesn’t affect save percentage.

    The Caps weren’t lost before BB got fired, they just had shitty goaltending for two weeks.

    I’m not saying Varly sucks. I’m just saying he hasn’t been better than Holtby this year. Nothing earth-shattering there.

  • peter

    Well I’m not saying that one goalie is definitively better than the other — or will be more likely to be better in the future. I’m just saying that so far this season, Holtby has played objectively better.

  • Red

    Call me crazy but as an agent I would say and do whatever it took to raise the value of my clients. Regardless of whether you think his points are valid (I do), Gandler has zero responsibility to be factually accurate, and it’s a complete waste of time to try and hold him accountable for his words. Business is business.

    On a side note, unlike Bradley, Brower, and a few others, Semin has never mumbled a single bad word about his former teammates. To me that’s more valuable than any hockey statistic.

  • Mary

    As a Hurricanes fan, we are delighted to have a player like Semin. We don’t get the chance very often so we really appreciate the chance to see a world class player. I hope we can sign him to a longer contract but I don’t know if he wants to stay. No player is perfect all of the time and our fans know that. Even if he does not sign with the Canes again, at least we got to have him for a while……our fans love him and don’t care if he ever does an interview for tv or not!

  • I hope you guys sign him to a multi-year contract.

  • Those are some strong words! Not necessarily based in reality though… You may disagree with his style – but the guy knows his business, which is not objective hockey analysis, but advocating for his client. Unless, of course you think Semin is underpaid at $7M/y. Of the top of my head, Anisimov, Burmistrov and Orlov are also his clients, and let’s not forget that “horrible” deal he negotiated for Alexei Yashin. Oh and both (I think) Jokinens are his clients as well – and neither one is underpaid by a long stretch. And whoever wants to sign Nichushkin will have to deal with him as well. So, considering all the trash Sasha’s ex-teammates have talked – I think he is actually quite reserved in his statements.

  • My point isn’t at all begrudging him for making money for his clients. That’s his job. My point is his talking authoritatively about something he doesn’t have any knowledge of: the things said behind Semin’s back in the Washington locker room. That’s just sensationalism, illuminating nothing.

    I don’t agree with Bradley or Brouwer about the content, style, or propriety of their comments. But they are at least more informed about what they’re talking about as they shared the locker room with the guy.

  • T.K. Jackson

    Yes, but atrocious D leads to better scoring chances for the other team (i.e. shots more likely to get past the goalie), so a team’s D can in fact influence save percentage. It’s not purely a “goaltender-only” benchmark.

  • In small samples, you’re right. In large samples, you’re not.

    It was concluded last year that scoring chances trend so close to possession that it’s not really valuable to track them separately. In single games, however, it’s pretty obvious that some see more dangerous shots than others, and thus harder saves for the goalie.

    But even if that were absolutely true, it’d be evidence why Holtby is even better: The Capitals have the worse PK (29th in the league) and had a very rough transition to the new defensive style at the beginning of the season (i.e. tons of defensive breakdowns). Also, shorthanded chances (

  • You are crazy.

  • Red

    That’s a well thought-out, quality retort Peter. Sanity is overrated anyway.

  • I think as responsible members of society we all have some responsibility not to lie– and that responsibility trumps profit motive.

    And I don’t see you can disagree with what I said on one hand and then say a player’s on-ice contributions (the stats you find not valuable) are less important than whether or not he gossips.

  • Red

    I have no reason to defend Gandler. As an agent, I think he’s quite terrible. However, Mark was stating his opinion as opinion. You are stating your opinion as fact by calling his words a lie. Gandler was asked a question by a journalist, and he replied in a way which would illuminate his client in the best possible light. In Mark’s case, his opinion is easy (and quite necessary) to dismiss because he has such a glaring conflict of interest. He answers to nobody except himself and his clients, and that is as far as his loyalties stretch. He knows this, and anyone who seriously follows sports should know as well.

    It’s much more damaging when a player speaks out, because his entire career is primarily centered around being part of a larger whole, in which, individuality must be carefully measured against the betterment of the unit. The code of conduct for a team athlete is much more clear than that of a businessman. His primary obligation is to be honest and respectful towards his teammates and fans. Intricacies of the game can worked out through hard work on the ice, but true team cohesion comes from respect and communication. This is why strong character is held in such high regard by the hockey community. By not verbally retaliating against being repeatedly shat on by his former teammates, Semin proved to me that he has high moral value as a human being. I just wish more of our guys would demonstrate the same mental fortitude and restraint. All this barking is just negative noise, and accomplishes absolutely nothing.

    Go Caps.