From Alzner to Wideman, we're taking a look at and grading (please read the criteria below) the 2010-11 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2011-12. Next up, Alexander Semin.
#28 / Left Wing / Washington Capitals
Mar 03, 1984
$6,700,000 cap hit in 2011-12; UFA after 2011-12 season
Key Stats: Semin played in 65 games this season, exactly his career average after six seasons.
Interesting Stat: In 10 career playoff elimination games, Semin has scored 10 points.
The Good: Over the past seven seasons, the enigma known as Alex Semin has driven the Capitals fan base crazy. One stretch he is the best player on the ice, setting up plays, toying with defensemen, scoring goals, and flashing what may be the NHL's best set of hands. The next stretch he's invisible, except for the untimely defensive zone giveaway and the ugly offensive zone hooking penalty. You never know what you get with Semin, and, consequently, you have a much-divided fan base when it comes to determining his value to the team.
Lest there be any doubt, Alex Semin is a puck possession machine. His SC% of 57.5% was tops on the team (minimum 20 GP); he finished third on the team in GAETAN at +27.0; his 5-on-5 ON/60 was the runaway leader at +1.59; his 5-on-5 CORSI of 11.1 was second on the team; his 5-on-5 shots allowed per 60 was the best of any top 9 forward at 25.4 and he was third overall in 5-on-5 GA/60 at 1.73. The last two stats are not to be overlooked, considering the criticism he gets for inconsistent effort in his own zone. The fact that he keeps the puck away from the other team is his best defensive trait. And in the process, he often forces the other team to take a penalty while attempting to shut him down - his 1.0 penalties drawn/60 is fourth-most on the team.
And he does all of this without an everyday centerman. This year he has skated at least 100 minutes with five centers (Nicklas Backstrom, Jason Arnott, Tomas Fleischmann, Mathieu Perreault, Marcus Johansson). Certainly the Caps have not done him any favors with their carousel of 2Cs.
Finally, it should be noted that Semin's solid start to the season carried the Caps offensively, as he amassed 25 points in the first 19 games and staked the Caps to a 14-4-1 record. And after being vilified last season for his performance against Montreal, he answered the bell in the Rangers series, putting up four points in five games, including one splendid OT game-winner.
The Bad: As solid of a puck possession season Semin had, he did not do enough of what he is paid handsomely to do: score. His 28 goals were the lowest since 2007-08; his TOI/game declined by 1:03 this season; his shots dropped from 3.8/game last season to 3.0 this season; and his points per game declined from 1.27 in 2008-09 to 1.15 in 2009-10 to 0.83 in 2010-11, a 35% decrease over two seasons. These stats were accumulated playing with strong teammates, weaker competition and with a large number of offensive zone starts (55%). Meanwhile, his cap hit will increase to $6.7M in 2011-12, up from $4.6M in 2009-10 and $6.0M this past season. That's a 45% raise in two seasons. Ultimately, Semin's costing more and producing less, not a good situation for a well-paid "core" player, especially one who is not looked upon to provide any leadership in the clubhouse. He's simply here to score goals.
In Semin's defense, some of his drop-off in production can be explained away by the Caps move to a defensive-minded system halfway through the season. Another chunk of it can also be explained by the Caps mediocre power play, which cost Semin nine less power play points than the previous season. (However, some of the power play blame has to rest at #28's skates too.) Another explanation, though, is that the book on Semin is out. Force him to the perimeter, play him physical, frustrate him into taking long shots, take away his space so that he can't launch his potent wrister, and never let him behind you. The whispers are that Semin won't pay the price and go to the front of the net, that he won't put up a fight if you take liberties with him, that he won't adjust to adversity on the fly, and that he'll simply disappear into the backdrop. The Tampa series didn't help dissuade the detractors.
Then there are the injuries. After six seasons, it's fair to say that Alex Semin playing more than 65 games per season - his career average - is exceeding expectations.
Finally, there is the inconsistency. Good Sasha showed up the first 19 games, racking up 25 points. That same caliber player did not show for the final 46 games, where he managed only 29 points. The inconsistency plays out beyond missing out on goals and assists, it manifests itself with the mental mistakes, including the lazy and still-all-too-frequent HHT penalties (most penalties taken per 60 minutes on the team), the cutesy passing and the failed clears. It ultimately prevents a good player from being a great player.
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: Does Semin still fit on a more defensive-minded Capitals squad? If so, should the Caps invest in a veteran, skilled center that can get more out of Semin, or is it time to consider trading him? If he stays, what will it take for Semin to earn a 10 rating next year?