Since the lock-out, only nine players have scored at a greater goal per game pace than Alex Semin. He is also top-30 in terms of points/game (23rd), ranking ahead of guys like Ryan Getzlaf (24th), Patrick Kane (25th), Anze Kopitar (27th) Jonathan Toews (29th), Patrick Marleau (30th) and Rick Nash (33rd). The only season in his entire career when he didn’t manage to score 20 or more goals was his rookie campaign back before the lock-out.
So whatever else you might think about Semin, let’s first establish that he is an excellent-to-elite offensive player in this league.
The Other Numbers
Im the first to acknowlege that output doesn’t necessarily tell you how good or bad a player is. The issue with Semin is his underlying numbers are all universally good as well.
Last year, for instance, which is generally considered one of his worst and is the prime reason he’ll be available on July 1, Semin’s relative corsi rate was +11.0/60. Meaning – the Caps directed 11 more puck on net for/against when Semin was on the ice versus when he was on the bench . The only guy above him was Mathieu Perrault, a youngster who skated against 4th liners.
Semin’s zone start wasn’t outrageous either (51.7%) – he finished right in the middle of the pack and below many of his top-6 peers on the Caps who nevertheless finished with worse possession metrics.
Semin was similarly impressive in terms of scoring chances. Neil Greenberg’s count shows Semin as the Capitals team leader in scoring chance ratio (54.8%) amongst regular skaters. Only tweener Keith Aucoin had a better rate, and he only appeared in 20 games.
Last year wasn’t a fluke either. Semin has been top-3 in Washington for the last three years by these measures, and has finished top-4 in each of the last five.
So the 28-year old is one of the best snipers in the league and has consistently driven the play in the right direction during his career. Those are the good points.
The Bad News
There are a few reasons the Capitals are walking away from Semin: he is perceived to have work ethic issues, he takes altogether too many penalties and he’s fragile.
The first concern is one that tends to dog Russian or European players who don’t tend to play balls-to-wall style hockey. I can’t speculate on his care level, but can say that apparently even a half interested Alexander Semin can score and drive play more effectively than most of his peers.
Semin also plays a sort of Kristian Huselius high-risk style game where he can look dominant if his moves and maneuvers work, but can also seem like a giant liability if they don’t. This can end up turning a portion of the fan base (and probably his coaching staff) against them if he goes into a dry spell.
More concerning is his predilection for taking bad stick penalties all over the ice. Despite being fast, shifty and clever with the puck, Semin took the most minors on his club last year (tied with new Flame Dennis Wideman). He also had a terrible penalty differential, only drawing 12 minors himself. Good offensive forwards who spend more time at the good end of the rink shouldn’t be that far underwater when it comes to penalties taken and drawn. This bad habit likely exacerbates perceptions that he is careless or lazy. And for good reason.
In addition, Semin always has a hard time staying healthy. He has never appeared in a full 82 game schedule over his seven year career. He tends to average about 67 contests per season, so any team who signs him can bet on Semin being on the sidelines for 15-20 games.
On top of all that, of course, is the ever present KHL factor. Semin has never shown any real interest in fleeing back to Russia, but it’s possible if things get rocky down the road he’ll choose to take his ball and go home.
Also – he’s a terrible fighter.
Semin is a high quality offensive talent who, at 28, could fill a need for the Flames, who are desperate for a few more forward stars who are closer to their peak than their retirement. He can score, can drive play north and will likely come much cheaper than a guy like Parise because of some of the question marks surrounding him,
On the other hand, Semin can be frustrating player to watch and deal with during dry patches, takes altogether too many penalties and is an injury/fight concern. Like the rest of the Capitals, his star power seems to have peaked in 2009-10 and is slowly slowly fading over time, so even though he’s a got a couple of years before he hits 30, the days of Semin being a legit point-per-game guy may be over.
Personally, I think Semin warrants at least a call from Jay Feaster despite some of the concerns. If his issues sink his stock far enough, the Flames may be able to snag him for a relatively cheap ticket which would make the risks involved acceptable given the potential upside.
Quick Hits – JayBo Rumors
The word making it’s way through the media is that the Tampa Bay Lightning have interest in Jay Bouwmeester. It makes sense because the Bolt’s blueline is rather bare outside of Victor Hedman. Eric Brewer is locked up for awhile. Ditto Mattias Ohlund (who is a shadow of the shut-down defender he once was). After that, it’s MA Bergeron, Brendan Mikkelson and Brian Lee. Yikes.
So you can see why the grapevine is whispering that Yzerman would like to add JayBo. The issue is return, because they probably wouldn’t want to absorb the full $6.68M cap hit. Which is why the rumor is about interest, rather than a potential trade.
Feel free to speculate hypothetical returns in the comments.