Free Agents: Alexander Semin, Washington Capitals

Despite a sixth consecutive season with more than 20 goals, 2011-12 was not a good year for talented Washington Capitals’ winger Alexander Semin. His 21-goals was a post-lockout low, his 54 points fell below expectations, and he was dogged by frequent criticism that he wasn’t giving it his all when he played.

2011-12 Cap Hit: $6.7 million.

Position: Left wing.

How the coach used him: According to behindthenet.ca, Semin saw the eighth-toughest competition of the Capitals’ regular forwards. He started slightly more than half of his non-neutral zone shifts in the offensive zone and was middle of the pack among Capitals’ forwards in this regard. He played 14:15/game at even-strength, 2:31/game on the power play.

How he fared: With Semin on the ice, the Capitals outshot their opposition by a hefty margin, and his even-strength scoring numbers (2.30 PTS/60 in 5-on-5 situations) were pretty robust too. Washington’s power play was not good in 2011-12 and Semin’s 5-on-4 numbers reflect that; at 3.24 PTS/60 he’d be a sub-average power play option league-wide.

What McKeen’s says: “[T]ricky, hot-shooting winger packing a wristshot of remarkable velocity and accuracy .. mesmerizing 1-on-1 dangles, utilizing a long reach and ultra-soft hands .. slick, elusive … relies on the element of surprise – and impulsive bursts of quickness to open up lanes .. his unpredictable nature makes him an ever-present threat – and a liability who can’t resist attempting fancy plays in dangerous areas .. loses focus and interest defensively and takes undisciplined penalties .. a precocious talent with issues…”

My take: Semin’s bound to have lost luster after two consecutive 50-something point seasons, and he’s also the kind of guy that people look at and say, ‘sure, he’s talented, but can you win with him?’

Of course, people used to say that about Brett Hull, too. My view is that while Semin’s a flawed player in some ways – the undisciplined penalties are undeniable, and he’s not going to be a defensive-zone specialist any time soon – but that he’s also one who by-and-large drives the play in the right direction and in a specific role he can be a major attribute to almost any team. He’s earned a reputation for disappearing in the post-season – thanks in large part to a bad run in 2009-10 where he fired 44 shots but couldn’t score a goal – but he’s also had some effective runs in the playoffs and as a supporting player I’d feel comfortable using him.

While Semin has definite negatives, his talent level should put him near the top of a weak class for free agent wingers. He’s basically a guy who can score 30 goals and 65 points on a soft minutes line, and drive play the right direction, and there simply isn’t that sort of goal-scoring talent readily available.

If a team signs him with their eyes open – knowing that he’s a good player who can add offensive punch but not a guy to lean on in all situations – then he could be a good fit. Because of the last two seasons being weaker, he should be available for reasonable money.

Key statistic: Since the NHL lockout just 10 players in the league have scored more goals on a per-game basis than Alexander Semin. He scores more frequently than Rick Nash, Vincent Lecavalier, Eric Staal, Thomas Vanek, Bobby Ryan, Jeff Carter, Corey Perry and a host of other more highly-touted forwards. Whatever his weaknesses, he’s an elite goal-scoring option.

    • master of my domain

      I was thinking he’d be great for the Flamers. They’ll have a ton of cap space to sign UFA’s. I’m sure Flames fans are all a tither at the thought of Semin and Jokinen (assuming the Flames resign him) playing together and leading them to the promised land!