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.

  • flyin ryan

    Not sure if anyone is still reading this post, but thought I’d add some info since (thanks to DVR and NHL Gamecenter) I’ve seen about 97% of his games over since the lockout.

    1) He can be very frustrating. There’s just no denying that the word “enigmatic” truly describes him.

    2) His PP numbers are drastically unrepresentative of how good he can be. He plays on the 2nd PP unit with Keith Aucoin and sometimes Troy Brouwer or Jason Chimera or some other 3rd or 4th liner. I get so upset watching the 1st PP struggle so mightily knowing that they aren’t using Semin effectively. When he does get time and OV is on the point, the plan is to feed pucks from the half-wall (where Semin plays) up to OV for a shot with Laich in front of the net. That’s not a great way for Semin to get points.

    3) He can kill penalties with the best of them. When he was killing for the previous few seasons, he was lethal. He was constantly creating short-handed opportunities, he’s got a long reach to get to pucks, and he’s got such great hands that anytime he’s near a puck, he’s going to get it out of the zone.

    4) He has never had a true center. I mean, that says it all. In the playoffs, he’s been playing with Backstrom, and honestly, if you watch (and even Millbury who hates Semin admits this) he’s been great. If he could get a legit top-line center, there’s no limit to what he might be able to do.

    5) The lame stick penalties were a big problem. Since Hunter took over, he’s been much more careful. Sadly, bad habits don’t always go away. It’s definitely something to be worried about.

    6th and Finally) $6.7MM is a lot. Many of the comments up above are right. For where his point totals are, he’s just not worth that. However, at somewhere under $6MM, the team that lands him will get a guy that should immediately make any top line in the league better, he has a lethal shot to help any PP and is the 2nd best passer on the Caps behind only Backstrom, and he’s great short-handed when given the opportunity.