As different as all the various season previews that have been trickling in over the last several weeks are, they all have plenty to say about one player: Sergei Samsonov.
Some are “concerned” that he may not live up to his performance with the Hurricanes last season (32 points in 38 games), and some are less polite than that, saying he’s due to mail it in now that he has the security of a three-year deal.
The man who made that contract his number one priority this offseason, GM Jim Rutherford, obviously sees it differently.
”It’s funny how people form opinions on players when they don’t even see them in person or follow them,” said Rutherford
. “That’s a real danger for people to do that. It’s probably the same people that said it was stupid for us to pick him up last year, and he was one of our best players from the time we picked him up.”
If you hadn’t followed Samsonov’s run with the Hurricanes last season very closely, it is easy to be skeptical. Prior to joining the team via the waiver wire, he had been struggling in Chicago
, posting no goals and only four assists in 23 games with the Blackhawks, culminating in a two-game stint in the AHL.
After that, it took him only four games with Carolina
to equal his point total from Chicago
, and he didn’t slow down for the rest of the season. Only Eric Staal
scored more goals, assists and points (42) than Samsonov did after joining the team on January 8. He was good on the defensive end as well, posting a +6 plus/minus rating with Carolina
, tied with Chad LaRose
for tops among forwards in an offensive system that isn’t particularly friendly to that stat.
If you do think he’s just in it for the contract or the money this time around, he was an impending unrestricted free agent in Chicago, too, and wasn’t exactly on his way to a big payday at the time. Someone of that mentality also would have capitalized on his own resurgence, tested the open market on July 1 and gone to the highest bidder.
Instead, he signed two weeks after the season ended on April 16, realizing that, after being on a few different teams where things didn’t work out, he had a pretty good thing going with the Canes.
”He’s real comfortable here, and he’s got his confidence,” said Rutherford
. “He got in a couple of situations where for whatever reason, not that they were bad situations, but he just wasn’t real comfortable. But we like him a lot, he’s a highly-skilled player, he’s a true professional and I’m very confident he will continue to be one of our real good players.”