Accepting defeat is perhaps the toughest thing for anyone with pride to do. Especially when it means surrendering your dream or goals. Especially when you've invested years of your life trying to make those goals attainable.
So you hang on despite the growing futility. You keep running headlong into that brick wall hoping one of those angles of attack will finally carry you through to success. Nothing changes. Everyone tells you as much. But you keep at it. Keep trying. And keep failing.
And eventually you have to give up and move on.
Everyone, in all walks of life, can relate to those feelings whether it be relationships, careers or something simpler. I certainly can. And that's why I can sympathize with Alexander Semin on some level.
It's the latest failure in a string of them for Semin. Once regarded as one of the league's most gifted scorers, the 31-year-old Russian winger is probably washed up and on his way out of the league.
And that is a shame. Semin's first four years in the NHL with the Washington Capitals were wonderful to watch. He averaged 35 goals a year and eclipsed the 70-point mark three times.
Semin's raw skills were as good as any other elite player in the league. His wrist shot was arguably the most powerful in the game. One glance at his career highlights is enough to know how special Semin was with the puck.
And you know what? He drove possession, too. Semin has never been a negative Corsi For % player in his career. He still drives possession. Semin's 55.48 CF% this year is seventh-best among all Canadiens forwards.
And yet: one goal and four points in 15 games.
That's always been the problem since his downturn a few years back, hasn't it? When he skates and shoots he looks great. His advanced stats look great. But the scoring production isn't there anymore.
And with his production gone, so is his only defense against critics who watch his floaty, opportunistic style of play and call him lazy. It's somewhat ironic that his teammate for so many years was Alex Ovechkin because the Capitals captain has faced the same sorts of criticisms that have dogged Semin for his whole career.
It's not hard to understand why. If you throw the advanced stats out the window and simply watch Semin play throughout a game you'll probably get frustrated. He doesn't usually engage in battles along the boards. Like any elite scorer with a lethal shot, he wafts and circles the offensive zone like a hawk searching for prey.
When that results in goals, he looks great. When it doesn't, it leads to the perception that he doesn't try hard, he cherrypicks and is selfish. All of which are pretty subjective and mostly inaccurate without context.
But narratives are powerful and contagious. And if they aren't wiped away with a high standard of goal scoring they tend to persist throughout a player's career.
There must be some truth to it, because his "pace" is exactly what Canadiens coach Michel Therrien pointed to as the cause for his release this week.
Therrien on Semin: "Pace of his game was not to our standard."— Fluto Shinzawa (@GlobeFluto) December 8, 2015
It's why the Capitals let him walk after he became the fifth-best scorer in franchise history. It's why the Hurricanes waived him this summer after signing him to a five-year, $35 million contract in 2013. And it's why the league-leading Canadiens, who can afford dead weight right now, are deciding to cut ties before the season is even half over.
I give Semin credit for trying to make it work in North America. His exit from Washington in 2013 came at a time when the KHL was an alluring option for Russian players looking for playing time and big contracts. Yet he chose to stay, sign in a small market and bet on himself with a one-year deal. And he waited patiently this past summer for an NHL team to give him another chance. Some would have abandoned their NHL goals long ago. Semin didn't.
But it's been four years and three chances since Semin has even shown flashes of what made him an elite goal-scorer in Washington. For whatever reason, it's not there anymore.
Assuming he reports to the AHL, there's a chance Semin could re-find his game in the minors and turn his career around. But I doubt it will be that easy. And when the season ends and Semin finds himself waiting for an NHL team to call, I think he should be less patient this time. It isn't working here anymore. Semin can seek success back home or in Europe, and if he finds it, then he can confidently force his way back into the NHL.
But right now, NHL's front offices and coaches seem to be moving from hoping old Alex Semin will return. It's probably time the new Alex Semin moves on as well.