From Alzner to Varlamov, we're taking a look at and grading (please read the criteria below) the 2009-10 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2010-11. Next up, Alexander Semin.
#28 / Left Wing / Washington Capitals
Mar 03, 1984
$6,000,000 cap hit in 2010-11; UFA after 2010-11 season
Key Stats: Semin finished fifth in the NHL in goals-per-game during the regular season, but failed to light the lamp even once in the post-season (despite still being in the top-20 in the League in playoff shots on goal).
Interesting Stat: Semin has the best regular season plus-minus (+61) among NHL forwards over the past two seasons.
The Good: Semin put up some awfully pretty impressive numbers in the regular season, including top-ten finishes in goals, goals created, plus-minus, even-strength goals, points per game, goals created per game, multi-goal- and multi-point games, all while getting less power-play time per game than 79 other NHLers and missing nine games. His first career 40-goal season leaves him with the sixth-best goals-per-game in the League, post-lockout, and he's one of just a dozen players with at least 26 goals in each of the past four seasons. Semin scored more points-per-minute over the course of the season than Nicklas Backstrom (despite getting a quarter-of-a-minute less power-play time per game and playing with inferior linemates at five-aside), and had the fifth-best points-per-sixty at five-on-five in the League. Interestingly, Semin skated more often with Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin than he did with Brooks Laich and Tomas Fleischmann (his second-most frequent linemates), but scored more at even-strength with the less-talented duo. Regardless of the with whom he was playing, Semin found a bit more consistency in 2009-10 than he had shown in the past, only once going more than two games without a point and rarely going into prolonged goal-scoring droughts (he only failed to light the lamp in four-straight games three times, and never went more than a half-dozen games without a goal)... during the regular season.
But it wasn't all offense for Semin, who was a fantastic penalty-killer in limited ice time (to the surprise of no one). Impressively, he was only on the ice for three 5-on-4 power-play goals against all season long in more than 71 minutes of SH TOI. Even more impressively, Semin was on the ice for three 4-on-5 goals for (he led the team with two shorthanded goals), meaning that in more than three-and-a-half total periods of short-handed hockey played, Alex Semin's Caps scored as many goals as they surrendered. And while we'll deservedly bemoan his discipline below, it's worth noting that only 12% of his penalty minutes came after the second intermission, which is a bit mitigating, and that he drew more penalties and at a better rate than any other player on the team (with the exception of Mathieu Perreault in that latter grouping), which is hugely mitigating.
The Bad: The playoffs. On the one hand, the odds of a 14.3% career shooter going 0-for-44 are just over 0.1%. On the other hand, he was 0-for-15 in his prior seven-game series (and right at that 14.5% career number in his post-season career previously). So is it a fluke that he's gone 64 playoff shots without a goal (0.005% likely), or is there more to it? Obviously it's a bit of both. Despite the fact that Semin's average five-on-five shot distance in the playoffs was actually lower than during the regular season (i.e. he was shooting from closer in, and yes, those stats are notoriously shaky), his unwillingness to take a hit to make a play became an ever-growing source of frustration to Caps fans (check out this bail-out, for example, and that was probably the closest Semin was to the net all series). It's impossible to place the blame for the series loss on one player, but if Semin had produced in the playoffs at anywhere close to the rate he did during the regular season, the Caps would have advanced. He didn't and they didn't.
Semin's regular season featured some trouble spots as well. While he did set new career highs for goals and points, his per-game goal and assist totals were actually down from 2008-09, and it was very much feast-or-famine for Sasha - he totaled 64 points in 27 multi-point games and just 8 goals and 20 points in 46 other games, being held of the scoresheet entirely 26 times (or in 36% of his games). Semin's discipline continued to be a problem, as he took the most minor penalties on the team in terms of raw number (including the most stick, restraining and hooking, holding and tripping penalties on the team as well as the most offensive-zone infractions) and rate at five-on-five (yes, even more than John Erskine), and no forward had a lower hit-per-minute rate than Semin (yes, even less than Flash). But really, you accept all of this because of the production... as long as that production is there.
The Vote: Rate Semin below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.
The Discussion: Should Semin be in the Caps' long-term plans or should the team pursue trading him prior to next season's trade deadline? What will it take for him to earn a 10 rating next year?