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.

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Position: Left wing.

How the coach used him: According to, 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…”

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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!

  • Pizzy

    We don’t need anymore wingers………what about Parise who is a UFA and plays center.

    Although I too am impressed by his wrist shot, I’m more concerned about team chemistry………adding a player like this ( who thinks so highly of himself) will only lead to more troubles in the dressing room.

    Might I suggest, that we have a less talented version of Semin named Hemsky! If I have to watch two players continously dangle and accomplish nothing, I going to start cheering for Calgary……..did I just say that. Ouch.

    • what about Parise who is a UFA and plays center.

      Parise plays center now?

      Might I suggest, that we have a less talented version of Semin named Hemsky! If I have to watch two players continously dangle and accomplish nothing, I going to start cheering for Calgary

      Funny, both of these guys have accomplished quite a bit over their careers.

  • Pizzy

    Due to the Oilers overwhelming depth at LW it would be absolutely foolish to take take a shot at Semin for a 2 or 3 year deal if the dollars were right. The last thing they need is a potential 30 goal player screwing up the 10 year rebuild.

      • Greg Stink | ESPN

        If you are referring to the Sedins, I think you picked the wrong two players to single out. You are wrong to suggest they have no heart and don’t show up when it matters. They were both pretty good in the LA series. Henrik had 5 pts in 5 games, Daniel had 2 pts in 2 games. I’m not a Canucks fan at all, but let’s get real here.

        How about Ryan Kesler? 40 goal man with 0 goals in the LA series.
        Burrows? 1 pt in the series. Booth 1 pt. Higgins 0pts.
        And Kassian barely played. How’s that trade looking so far?

  • Pizzy


    “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.”

    I think some advanced stats would help backup or disprove that view. Zone starts/finishes, CorsiRel, QoC, QoT (and comparisons to some other wingers on his team).

    Plus, as a reader, it would save me time from researching that myself.

  • TwoSkidoos

    For anyone who’s interested, here’s a link comparing advanced stats for Washington forwards in the 2011-2012 season.

    Very interesting. To borrow a phrase from LT, he may be the straw the stirs the drink in Washington. High CorsiRel, second highest on the team after Perreault in fact, among players with at least 30GP. After Semin, the CorsiRel on the caps actually falls off a cliff.

    As you say he does take a lot of penalties and doesn’t draw many back.

    Basically even ZS, best Goals For/60 while on the ice for the Caps, middle of the pack GA/60. Third-best +/- per 60.

    I’d almost say he’s underrated. Not for the money, mind you, but not the defensive disaster I thought he was.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Oilers would need to do their homework on Alexander. I think you might see some good riddance quotes coming from one or two of the Capital veterans after he leaves. Edmonton does still have a hole on the left side as well as at center. (along with the hole in the one and two spots on the blueline….and possibly a goalie as well)

    I would take a flyer on Semin. On July 1st send in a 3 yr 15 million dollar offer and see what happens, but only if the Oiler pro scouts think he’d be a possible fit here.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Imo if ST signs Semin, they’ve pretty much washed thier hands of PRV on the 2nd\3rd line.

    But if the Oilers did sign Semin i wonder if his # would be 69?

  • a lg dubl dubl

    ” he’s also the kind of guy that people look at and say, ‘sure, he’s talented, but can you win with him?’ ” – Willis

    And you can say that for nearly all the top russian scorers in the NHL, which is another reason why I am not interested in Nail.

    • DSF

      Oh good grief, not this again.

      The Detroit Red Wings alone stand as testament that not only do Russian players contribute to a Stanley Cup win, they can lead you to one.

  • TwoSkidoos

    Pro scouts in Edmonton? We have those? The same scouts who picked up Ben Eager?…

    Semin may be good for Yak, but beyond that, I would be wary of him in the locker room.

  • TwoSkidoos

    One weird thing about Semin, given his reputation, is the stats say he’s been really good on the PK the past few seasons (this year excepted, although he only played about 1 min on the PK). I’m not sure why they removed him from the PK this season, perhaps they wanted to focus his minutes elsewhere, perhaps they feel he’s not as effective or focused on the PK as he once was?

  • TwoSkidoos

    Semin has been in the dog house from time to time all season. Yesterday he skated with the 4th line after taking two penalties, including an undisciplined retaliatory slash, in game one.

    If they don’t believe PRV can cut it on the top two lines, my preference would be to go after a winger who plays with size and grit, not another finesse player.

  • TwoSkidoos

    Problem is – there aren’t many decent players with size that can a.) think the game and b.) contribute on a regular basis on the top 2 lines aside from players like Lucic (who has his flaws), Thornton, etc.

    Although I would love to see a player with size that can contribute on the Oil, it’s easier said than done.

    Hartikainen fits the mould, but, consistent contribution is likely an issue. It’s slim pickin’s in the remainder of the Oilers system with regards to those types of players.

  • everton fc

    I have to agree with you.

    Do you think Pittlick can play the left side? He has been playing on the wing at OKC, but probably on the right side. Pittlick would provide three options with PRV & Harti.

    Is Kyle Beach worth pursuing in a trade?

  • RKD

    I don’t like the fact that Semin has had declining production like Ovechkin. Back to back 54 point seasons aren’t wowing anyone.

    Sure he could help the Flames offensively, after July 1st he’s younger than Iggy by 7 years. He would be an upgrade to Stempniak or Moss at the RW position.

    However, if he doesn’t produce like he did in the past then we can look forward to another overpaid underachiever and people moaning about his $6.7 million dollar salary.

    • OilLeak

      Capitals have changed their system to more of a defensive approach. Look at the players that have been added to the Kings this year, a large majority of them had a drop-off in production due to the defensive system implemented by the coaches.

  • everton fc

    Can`t say for sure , but I think Semin needs to play for a team, where he is the `main man`,not playing in the shadow of OV. He would have the same problem with Edmonton… behind the kids so to speak. He needs to go to Columbus, or Montreal, or maybe even Predators, and play with Radulov, if he`s still there.Oilers need a Stud center man… maybe Hall will be that guy.

  • Graham

    The Flames have one overwhelming weakness, the lack of a quality #1 center. I would much rather spend the big bucks to fill this spot (which may mean not resigning Jokinen) than on Semin.

    • MC Hockey

      Agreed…can you sign overpay for Parise for a couple years…I’d be OK with that…make it long-term (but not over 9 years) to average it down for cap purposes and NEVER again sign Olli as the Joker will FOOL you with worse play if it’s not a renewal year.

  • 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.