Alex Semin didn't speak to the media assembled on the first day of Washington Capitals camp, following a summer that featured speculation about his future with the team and critical comments from an ex-teammate.
Last month, former Capital and current Florida Panthers forward Matt Bradley told Team 1200 in Ottawa:
"[Alex Semin] is one guy who has so much talent he could easily be the best player in the league and just, for whatever reason, just doesn't care.
"When you've got a guy like that, you need him to be your best player or one of your best players. When he doesn't show up, you almost get the sense that he wants to be back in Russia. That's tough to win when you've got a guy like that who's supposed to be your best player not being your best player, or one of your best players."
I spoke with Semin on Saturday about the Capitals' off-season changes, their quest for the Stanley Cup, his training and the KHL Lokomotiv plane crash. But we began with Bradley's comments:
Q. Could you give us your comments about the words of your former teammate Matt Bradley who said that Semin plays for Washington and 'just doesn't care?'
SEMIN: "I don't pay absolutely any attention to his words. I don't even understand what Bradley meant. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. You should say what you want."
Did Bradley ever accuse you to your face?
"No. There is no point to discuss it now. He said what he said. That's all."
You are constantly being shopped to other clubs, according to rumors.
"These are only rumors. People hear something somewhere…"
Do these rumors affect you psychologically?
"Of course it is unpleasant to hear about it. But what can you do? The sport is full of rumors of who gets traded, who gets bought and who gets sold.
"I simply go out on the ice and do what I can. There are no such things that I try to play even better just because of the trade rumors. I always try my best. The main goal for me is for Washington to win more often. And I don't pay any attention to the criticism from the outside. To me, the most important things are what my coach and my teammates think. And, of course, my father who I listen to a lot."
I know you started training a lot earlier this preseason. How long have you been skating?
"Since August. It is earlier than usual. Why? I just started missing hockey during my vacation. I wanted to start running, training."
A very long summer. This is because Washington went out of the playoffs.
"Maybe this is the case."
You already had your medical? How are you feeling?
"Yes, we had it on Friday. There were some tests and a practice. I am feeling good. I am ready for the season to start. Although we didn't skate the two days before the medicals. In addition the jet lag is still there."
How do you like the new Washington? The club made a few acquisitions this summer.
"A few very strong players joined us this offseason. I think they will help us a lot in the regular season and in the playoffs. We already had a very good team. And now we added even more experience."
What signing surprised you the most?
"I didn't expect that Washington would be able to acquire [goalie Tomas] Vokoun. He is a very known goaltender."
You should know him a lot because he played for Florida in your own division.
"In every team a player plays for, he does it differently. God willing, Tomas will play just as well here helping us out. He is a bit more experienced and a bit older than Neuvirth. Washington will feel even more confident with Vokoun [in goal]."
Is there a pressure that Washington must win the Stanley Cup now?
"Every year our team is pumped up for the Cup, but the pressure comes from within us. We couldn't do it last season. I don't understand why, but we lost to Tampa. Even though the season was going good and we played well against them in the regular season. But a lot of things can happen in sports. In some aspects, perhaps, we didn't finish the work …"
Did other teams surprise you in the offseason? For example, the Flyers got Jagr and Bryzgalov and traded Carter and Richards.
"It is difficult to judge. Every general manager has his own views on his team and its future. They understand it well in Philadelphia themselves what they are doing and why. Of course I was surprised. World-renowned players with long term deals — and they get traded. I couldn't imagine that. But this is the life of a hockey player. We are told and we pack our things and leave."
What club will be your best competition for the Eastern Conference?
"It is difficult to talk about anything like that before the start of the season. A few years ago we weren't given any chances to make the playoffs, and since then we won our division four years in a row, and the last two seasons we won the conference [in the regular season]. Everything depends on the development of a team and acquisition of new players.
"And on the other hand, everyone thought that Vancouver will be the [Stanley Cup winner]. And not a lot of people believed in Boston. They made it past Montreal with difficulties in the first round. But you do remember who won the Stanley Cup in the end."
Did you watch the Finals?
"Yes, when I was in Russia already. Those were some interesting games."
Were you jealous?
"Maybe I will also play in the Finals some day. We will really do our best this season…"
How did you find out about the Lokomotiv tragedy?
"I was driving. It was about 10 in the evening in Krasnoyarsk. My sister called me and told me that a plane with Lokomotiv on board crashed. It took me a long time to recover…
"I knew a lot of guys there. I even played with some of them on the same team in Togliatti. I had a lot of friends on that plane. There are no words …"