The Case for Dealing Sasha Semin

When it comes to Alexander Semin, I feel like one of those parents who has a child with incredible intelligence and the ability to achieve whatever he wants, but he refuses to study or apply himself. He has such great innate abilities, but he squanders them simply because he doesn’t feel like working and developing them. In Semin the Caps have a player who acts just like that, except instead of homework and studying we are of course talking about effort and achievement on the ice — and overall work ethic. Semin is a player I have watched for many years, and one I find exciting and intriguing to study. Too bad he just doesn’t seem like he wants to fully develop his inordinate God-given skills and acts like he doesn’t care. As a result, just like the parent I mentioned earlier, I’m not mad at him, just disappointed in his wildly vacillating impact on the ice in Washington. I see a ‘C+’ student who should be straights ‘A’s.’

As a result, we could see Capitals’ management this week use Semin as a bargaining chip to try and improve the postseason roster.

When I moved to Washington and I started to watch the Caps, it was hard not to notice Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green and Nicky Backstrom. While many other fans were watching those three young guns, I was drawn to the a different player, though, and it was Semin. He may have better pure skill than Ovi, and at the same time one of the worst work ethics on the team. What drew me to Semin was the way he could flip the switch, turn three guys inside out and flick a wrist shot past the goalie like a laser. He possesses a physics-defying ability to launch missiles with just a simple flick of those wrists, even with his weight back on his heels. What’s not to love? He is one of the most electrifying talents on the ice any given night — when he wants to be that is.

For three years now I have defended his lack of interest during the regular season, the disappearing act he pulls in the postseason, and all of those offensive zone penalties. His ability to score a hat trick like it was no big deal and the way he rescued the team from demise against the Rangers in the playoffs helped bolster my case for why he should remain on the team. My bloggermate pucksandbooks once said that if you could transplant Dale Hunter’s heart into Semin’s body you’d have a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Semin’s inability to score consistently, his general poor play in the postseason, and his untimely penalties have delivered me to this concluding conviction as we approach the 2011 NHL trade deadline: there is no longer a space for Semin on the Caps.

Alexander is electric, he has scored big goals, and has certainly helped the team over the years, but it is time for him to be moved. His overall lack of interest on the ice is hurting the team — and especially in this offense-starved season — and taking away a roster spot from someone who may actually want to be there, like Jay Beagle or Andrew Gordon. They may not score as many goals as Semin, but at least guys like that give 100 percent almost every night. This Caps squad which has struggled most of the year and has its eyes on a Cup has no room for free-loaders.

Truth is, Semin would be a top player on any other team, and his contract, while large, is not untradeble. A struggling franchise like Phoenix or Edmonton could certainly use the offense and draw, and they could take on a significant salary. Washington needs help, and Semin can’t give the Caps what they need. It would be different if he looked like he gave two hoots most nights, but truth is there is a limited window for any team to win a Cup. If Semin wants to just gaze out of it during the game, he might as well leave through the door.

It may be unfair to put the weight of the Caps’ problems on Semin’s shoulders, but he can help the team more, I believe, if he isn’t on it. Not just because his prolonged poor play will be jettisoned, but because he can help net the Caps a player who will help them during the stretch run. Not only that, but he has gotten second, third and fourth chances with the organization — been given the benefit of the doubt time and time again — and squandered most of them.

Semin’s run should be over and it could be a big part of this team turning the corner, holding players who don’t preform to their pay and talents accountable. It would be tough to watch him leave, as I have absolutely loved watching him at times, and he will continue at times to dazzle hockey fans with his elite skill, but I’ve arrived at the conviction that on whole he is a piece that no longer fits this roster and its Cup aspirations. I am sure my feelings are not that different than many in Washington, and I may have held out hope longer than most, but the time has come.

The Capitals desperately need a second-line center, and I would especially like to see a Gary Roberts-type warrior acquired as well (talk about a player type that doesn’t grow on trees), and Alexander Semin is likely the tradeable asset George McPhee will need to land them.

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39 Responses to The Case for Dealing Sasha Semin

  1. TG says:

    So at $6.7M per, who’s your (potential) trading partner and what can you get in return? At $2M-$3M, you might be able to find a taker for such an “enigmatic” talent. (Russian sterotype, I know.) Or are you just saying take the 50 cents on the dollar that you’ll get for him and do what you can?

  2. @NickBlackstrom says:

    Statistically he is a monster!

    -Points production is great and top 3 even with the injury
    -Top three in shooting percentage (surprisingly!)
    -Takeaway to giveaway ration is one of the best on the team. Maybe only second to Backstrom in all reality. This is mega surprising given his tendency to take pucks 1 on 3 throughout the game.
    -probably leads our team it shorthanded goals each of the past three seasons
    -statistically, I think he was the most improved player before the injury.

    On ice, these do not shine through. The Semin we see now after the injury is totally different. Its the same semin we saw last april when we got thrashed. The semin that didn’t want to play defense or pass the puck on offense. That’s why he can’t play on the first line with ovi who floats on the blue line and refuses to play defense at times. But that’s the nature of the beast. We accept it from ovi because his lack of D creates a serious threat to blue liners who don’t respect his speed.

    Semin can be a great asset to this team but never on the first line. He will get to play with MoJo who is growing into an elite center and eventually allow him to flourish if he plays team puck!

    What is semin worth? A 2nd line center and a solid right winger? Doubtful. That would hurt this team I believe. We have eakin coming up and Johansson coming on. We need a solid Offensive Minded D to play with Hannan. Orlov just got promoted….GMGM might already have his answer for the future. I just hope Semin is a part of it somehow!


  3. Astro says:

    You do seem to put it mostly on him, though. Streaky or not (and even that’s debatable), do you realize what the Caps’ record would be if he had not had a terrific October-November? Neither Ovechkin nor Backstrom have performed anywhere near what anyone expected; Ovechkin is just now starting to look like himself as we knew him. Some people keep wanting to excuse Backstrom’s poor play to some undisclosed injury (and the thumb just happened), yet we know Semin was injured, playing injured for weeks, but he gets no benefit from some quarters for that. Our recent road trip would have been a failure without him.

    Whether McPhee has seriously considered shopping him or not, I don’t know, but I still think he’s adverse to finding out what happens with Semin on another team. I may be wrong; we’ll see. I do believe this season is make it or break it, but not just for Semin, but for others on the team, as well.

  4. Trevor says:

    The biggest problem with trading Semin for a 2C is that the incoming 2C won’t have any wingers to play with. If you trade, say, Semin and Alzner for Brad Richards, then you have a 2C who can produce no matter who his wingers are. But the other 2C choices out there don’t give you much.

  5. sonja says:

    I was that kid who perennially disappointed my parents because I didn’t “apply myself.” I always wondered several things that may or may not be pertinent here …

    First, why should I? And why should Semin? What’s his incentive? Yes, I know he’s getting a gazillion dollar pay check. But money ain’t everything, especially to a creative type as I suspect he is.

    Second, what … exactly … does that mean? How do you “apply” yourself all the time, every time and be perfect? Has anyone else figured that out? Or is this just purview of the smart or otherwise gifted folks? Maybe Semin himself is still trying to figure out how get his muse to speak on a regular basis. Maybe it’s not quite as easy as it looks to get that switch to turn on and off. Perhaps that is his true brilliance.

    Third, grades (and perhaps points) are not the entire measure of a student (or player). They are a convenient and easy way to measure production, but they do not and cannot measure the intangibles of what is going on underneath the surface of the team and/or the player.

    Finally, if Semin is the student in your analogy that makes Boudreau and GMGM the parents and teachers. Parents and teachers do not just shuck off a gifted yet aimless student because they don’t like his attitude after a certain period of time. That is counter-productive and counter-intuitive. You keep those kids around and get them to a place where they can produce on a regular basis … mostly because you don’t want them playing against you!

  6. Paul says:

    It is unfair to place the blame on Semin and while he could garner a useful player in return…no team is going to give us such a player. Your screed against Semin is certainly not new and I guess every team has an enigmatic whipping boy. It would be more useful to name names besides “Gary Roberts-type warrior” of alternatives in return for Semin…then we can have a real debate.

    You also portray something I have not heard of in previous reports…Semin’s “worst work ethic(s) on the team” comment led me to ask…is there a team morale problem here because of Semin? I have not heard carping about him, maybe there is a story there or perhaps it is only your observation? This is how media-types start nasty battles that actually do harm team morale. Do you mean work ethic meaning–doesn’t show up for practice? Complains to coaches and players? Seeks special attention? Refuses to play shifts? I have not heard it, he rarely seems to speak at all.

    In my opinion Semin has a unique skill-set that requires a very savvy coach and team. The old (last year and early this year) fire-wagon Caps fit the bill somewhat. What other team or coach in the NHL has that capability to utilize him. I think it is here and now in Washington for Semin or a return to Russia.

    Also, it is not a function of “work-ethic”. Would you complain about a Ferrari’s lack of cargo storage space as a fundamental design flaw? In my opinion, Semin’s enigmatic play is not a character (work ethic) flaw.

  7. Sobe says:

    Would rather have a player you call lazy but scores 40 goals a season? Or the hardest working 20 goal getter?

    Semin was the teams offensive leader in everything untill December when he got hurt the missed basically 2 months worth of play between being out or playing while obviously still hurt. He’s a crowd pleaser with his amazing skills on display, a lethal weapon when he dose open the scoring taps, and Ovies best friend scense they were 12.

    And dispite all of his “laziness” and injuries he’s only what? 3 goals behind ovie? so why’s no one saying we should trade ovie away to for not producing? He’s playing better D, not taking penalties and doing what Bruce ask him to,

    I’d rather have a whole team of “lazy” 40 goal scorer, Semin’s then try to find someone that might or might not do as well but work harder for it

  8. Chris G says:

    I agree with dumping him. I like Semin, but he really doesn’t fit into this ‘defensive’ version of the Caps right now. Problem is, there just isn’t anybody out there whose available to get comparable value for him right now. But overall I agree. Lets face it, he’s withers away every year in the playoffs. Why? Becuase he’s not built for that type of grind-it-out play that wins cups. You gotta dump him, I’m just not sure where.

  9. donnab says:

    get rid of Semin and get who??? I don’t think trading Semin is the answer. Not sure what the answer is except I think they need to do something regarding trades to get a little better than they are right now. Does anyone know if the Capitals have any cap room right now?

  10. Sobe says:

    According to hockeybuzz they have 1.1 mill of cap space.

  11. Chris G says:

    Another problem mentioned by someone here, that if you take Semin away from the 2nd line and provide a stout center, who’s he passing to? I love Brooks, but he really seems to be falling off. He seems to be getting outworked and loses a lot of pucks. Which brings me to another problem; our 2nd line is really strugling. I like Johannsen (SP?) but he may not be ready yet. Seems that if we could square away the 2nd line, we’d really have something.

  12. The Horn Guy says:

    I agree with virtually all the author stated. I’ve been wishing for Semin to be dealt for many seasons now but it will not happen as long as McPhee is the GM. He sees something there that no one else can. Or maybe Semin has blackmail materials. Either way I’m increasingly frustrated by him.

    I know he’s got unmatched puck-handling skills and a natural scoring touch to which no one else comes close, but what use is it to a team striving for excellence when he is king of the hooking call? He takes dumb penalties at dumb times which lead to opponents scoring. He falls down more than the mites. He has no intensity, no heart, and no place on this team. I say move on, Sasha Minor.

  13. OvieTracker says:

    I’ve been turned off by Semin’s lack of interest, but in all fairness, he’s taken the lion’s share of the criticism for the Caps lack of offense. Ovie and Backstrom were equally goal-challenged and maybe even disinterested, although it seems Ovie has just now decided to wake up and concentrate on playing hockey. So in this sense I think Sasha Semin has been made somewhat of a scapegoat.

    Moving Semin just for the sake of moving him is problematic for two reasons already mentioned: what player of value can you get for him now so soon after his most recent injury? And if there is a 2C out there for the taking, how will it help the Caps to remove a high scoring winger (when he’s healthy and interested) from the line the 2C will be on? This is a paradox GM McPhee must resolve if he’s contemplating any strategic maneuver before the trade deadline.

  14. D Brashear says:

    I’m a huge fan of Semin but it’s time for something to happen. I could care less about his penalties, they’re minor (cough cough) and really play no part in this discussion. If he could visit the wizard and get a heart he would be one of the three best players in the game today. So, as i see it, either you trade him and get someone with a heart…or you get rid of Boudreau and get someone in who’ll kick Semin’s butt. I hate to say it but someone like Tortorella would either make or break him. More than likely though he’d break him, so I’m sad to say it’s time to trade him for someone who brings passion every night.

  15. Capshockeyfan says:

    For better or worse, # 28 is in his ideal comfort zone here in DC. As much as some armchair GM’s would love to see GMGM use Semin as trade bait, I don’t see a trade happening. Sure he’s got mad skills, but if he does not use them here with his best pal OV in the line-up, what makes anyone think he is going to improve his play in another city? Remember, he already bolted for Russia once a few years back and I think it’s likely he would return there to play rather than spend any extended time in another NHL town besides DC. Other GMs have to know how risky it would be to bring Semin to their team and would be very unlikely to pull the trigger on a deal involving him if they had to give up a # 2 center.

    I see the Caps trading their 2011 # 1 pick and maybe one of their 3 young goalies to get the 2nd line center most folks agree they need. Hopefully the new center and Semin will gell and the Caps will then have two scoring lines to make their opponents sweat in the playoffs.

  16. martin says:

    Let stats speak for themselves. See how many games Semin played and how many goals/points he has and give him a break. …if you want to go really ANALytical factor in the salary as well – points/goals per game per $ 🙂

  17. nafyekcoh says:

    If Semin departs the Caps his next stop will be the KHL. What team with a quality 2C could benefit from Semin’s talents (and cost)? I can’t think of any.

    I sure know one wants to hear it, but we may just have to wait until next year to make a real run at the Cup. MJ will have his first season under his belt, will get a little playoff experience and you what UFAs are out there. Semin can be traded in the off season, his value can’t demishish much more.

  18. selikhova says:

    That’s right, no way! As someone else said, he’s only a few goals behind Ovi and he missed like 13 games or more.
    I don’t think trading him would do anything for this team. He’s a beautiful skater, and while yes, he does get some penalties, he has the hat tricks that Ovi can’t seem to get. Trading him would just be a stupid move and I can’t see it happening and hope it doesn’t.

  19. DIRT says:

    I get really sick of the Alex Semin misconceptions.

    First that he doesn’t play defense. Semin has been on the PK the last several years, and in the last three years he has been a +25, +36, and currently +12. +- can be a misleading stat (See Schultz, Jeff)but you don’t get numbers that high year after year being a bad player.

    Second, is that he disappears in the playoffs. Yes, he was terrible last year, but when a whole team can’t figure out that the other team is basically playing their defensive zone as 6 goalies and no one stops shooting from 60 feet out, no one is going to score. But even with his (and the team’s) dreadful performance he has 24 points in 28 playoff games. Solid.

    If they trade him for a 2nd line center, who the F is that center going to pass to? Brooks “I’m not going to score but I’m good cus I change tires” Laich, or Eric “Ow, my shoulder” Fehr? If it wasn’t for Semin tearing it up the first two months while OV was busy shaving and signing endorsements, this team would be fighting with Atlanta and Buffalo for playoff consideration.

    The fact of the matter is, with a contract in the 6-7 mil range for this year and next, the type of teams who are sellers are not going to want him. Teams who are getting rid of players now are not making the playoffs and want to trim their books, bringing in a player of his stature isn’t going to help them out any, so if we do trade him, it would have to be to a cap-stupid team like the Rangers and who are we going to get? Chris Drury? I’ll pass.

  20. Patrick says:

    All good points from each side, but he is not committing the infractions anymore and backchecks/steals the puck harder than most of our elite players. I would argue that he has out in a better two-way effort to win games than several others. I don’t believe he is completley ailment-free yet and will be the Caps’ leading scorer when the dust settles this year despite a very long injury.
    His price tag is too high for a trade, and (as has been said) if we can get a high quality 2c he will only flourish.
    I, also agree that our young talent is not quite ready for a cup run, but with a couple key FA’s we would look like strong contenders.

  21. Glen Sather says:

    Please, take Chris Drury!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. Patrick says:

    I must have been typing my opinion while Dirt was, cause we appear to have similar and complimenting arguments for keeping Sasha.

  23. Q says:

    Good article. Problem as I see it is which NHL team doesn’t see what you see? Semin isn’t a guy a team can use as the face of the franchise and isn’t signed long term, so no team can build around him. He can only go to a contending team, which means Caps are unlikely to get what they need for a run this year.

  24. Aaron says:

    So you say Semin is occupying a spot that someone like Beagle or A. Gordon should occupy – guys who you say don’t score like Semin but try harder every game. Therein lies the core issue here:

    Do you have a team of guys who run themselves into the ground night in and night out, but don’t score (therefore don’t win) too often. Or do you have a player or two who don’t appear to put in their full effort all the time, but score 30 or 40 goals in a season?

    Effort wins plaudits – goals win games and trophies.
    Keep Semin for his goals – because you won’t find them anywhere else right now.

  25. Avi says:

    ummmm… NO!! For the right price of course I would entertain the thought.For the right price!! Its a rediculous thought to think the Caps would be better off without Semin,absolutly rediculous.

  26. 4capitals says:

    I think it would be a mistake to trade Semin at this time unless the return is comparable which I don’t think it would be. Moreover, I don’t agree with the premise that Semin is lazy or doesn’t care and that his inconsistency is because of lack of interest. I believe it is because he loses confidence. When he has his confidence like after he scores a goal that gives him energy. Have you ever noticed that once Semin scores a goal invariably he will score another or even two. I think he lacks confidence at times. BB needs to find a way to get Semin to believe in himself more. Personally, I think it would help Semin’s confidence if BB played him with Ovie and Backstrom although I understand the reason he doesn’t. Also earlier in the year BB had him killing penalties and I think Semin likes that, I believe he has 2 shorthanded goals. Recently, though he has not been on the PK.

  27. Papa A O says:

    Semin played 46 games this season – scored 21 goals 12 of thous came in 4 games ,and if you subtract 12 goals from his total of 21 you will find out that he scored only 9 goals in 42 games he played this year !!! THIS is NOT a good average for player of his CALIBER . Just get rid of him ! He is the most talented player on Caps team – no joke , bat very selfish , lazy , and inconsistent he can`t understand — main goal for this team is Stanley Cup , Semin regularly non factor in playoffs ! Very hard to believe his approach will change this year . The time is now for GM to make good changes !!!!

  28. Sissy says:

    Usually when people talk trades, it’s easy for me to pick a side and stick with it. And herein lies my personal problem with Alexander Semin. I can see both sides of this debate and can’t choose one. Ironic, given who we’re talking about, no??

    Most of the time he is out in la-la land (and this isn’t just on the ice) but when you least expect it he’ll turn on you and strike like a cobra. Which is what makes him so dangerous. He has to be factored into the opposing team’s gameplan or he’ll wind up making them pay.

    Most (if not all) opposing teams have figured Ovi out and what to do to slow or stop his production. Semin? not so much. You never know which Sasha will show up and so you have to prepare even though it may be pointless. But as soon as you think he’s phoning it in, he’ll toe-drag you into the offensive zone and score three in a row…

    I don’t see any GM being willing to gamble the time and money it will take to see if they can be the one to turn him into that elite playmaker night-after-night.

    His best days may be ahead of him and I’m not sure our GMGM wants to risk having to find that out while seeing Sasha in a Stars or Kings jersey.

  29. JR says:

    I agree with moving him if the return is ample. The contract makes him more tradeable if anything. If a great deal is not there in the next few days, trade him for whatever the market dictates on draft day.

  30. Jaime says:

    I dont see moving Semin this season. If Flash were still here, then perhaps. We dont have any other forward.

  31. carlosla says:

    there’s just no evidence that Semin isn’t hard working. There’s plenty of evidence that he’s a team first guy (he’s awesome at the PK, if underutilized; plays through injuries, tho he’s brittle). Semin looks incredibly effortless, he never hits anyone and he takes too many penalties. Fans _think_ he’s not maximizing his talent, mostly because of how effortless he looks.

    But I’ll tell you, the best athlete I ever had on any team I played on was a striker on my HS soccer team who went on to win NCAA championships as a starter at UVA and was a borderline national team guy (starter on the U-16 team but as others matured they passed him by). He was the most graceful person I’ve ever seen in person. He could just about anything with the ball, and was such a smooth and fast runner that he’d blow by you looking like he was coasting even though that was his top gear. I say all this b/c if you didn’t see the guy way up close and spend every day in practice with him, you might get fooled by his grace into thinking he wasn’t trying hard. That’s my guess on Sasha, too.

    But fans do seem to enjoy character attacks on their own players for whatever reason, so I don’t expect this to persuade anyone.

  32. 28ISGREAT says:

    Absolute nonsense. These tired memes of Semin not working hard, not playing tough, not having sufficient work ethic, not playing aggressively are all HORSESH*T! These are all subjective impressions – not objective or fact based.

    Such subjective impressions seem to completely overlook the fact Semin is a skill player – not a grinder – not a fighter – not a hitter. Its a totally different STYLE of hockey. So just because he his crashing the boards – or skating like manic – doesn’t mean he lacks work ethic. His stats prove it.

    So when you actually starting analyzing objective facts – like say stats – like many of the posters here have pointed out, he’s a legitimate superstar and probably the only reason the team came out of November with a winning record.

    [Additional fact: every game Semin scored in this season, the Caps won. Anectdotal – sure. But worth pointing out.]

    Next time you want to accuse Semin of not having sufficient work ethic – or free loading – think about how much of a sweat you’re breaking while sitting at home watching him skate and shoot his ass off.

    As an aside – how many shifts have you seen him skate off ice bone dry and not heaving for air? Right – he’s SOOOOO lazy.

  33. Hatt says:

    If the Caps wanted to keep Semin, they would have signed him long-term.

    Trades, especially trades the Caps are involved in, are made for playoff runs. The fact that people even dispute Semin’s playoff scoring effort only leads to one conclusion: he’s not a guy that significantly helps the Caps’ playoff chances.

    I’m sure McPhee will use Semin as trade bait. It’s only logical.

    Whether or not we get a great player in return, I don’t really care. The Caps organization has probably been pondering a Semin trade for a long time now. They’ll make a good move. Regardless of who they trade for, we’ll have a better shot at watching our beloved Caps take turns hoisting the cup.

  34. DarkStranger44 says:

    On Semin’s inconsistency, the folks at the Pension Plan Puppets had done a comparison between Semin and several other comparable players. He actually turned out to be more consistently productive in goals per game played than most of them.

    He’s improved his Plus/Minus since he started his career and, for the last 3 years has been one of the best on the team.

    As for this year, it seemed like his productivity had gone down since the day he missed a practice due to a “nagging condition” — back in late Nov/early Dec. Could that have been the beginning of the groin issues? It sounds like he hasn’t really been healthy since then and that has hurt his productivity.

  35. rich fingerman says:

    well said. i have some friends when we talk about hockey and we talk about all the teams. caps,pens bruins, what you have written is pretty much what we all agree upon.

  36. THE FEDOROV says:

    I dunno. I’ve been to 3 practices this year and he seems to be busting his butt. Unlike some of you I can’t afford a ticket to the games (it aint the 70s you know!)

  37. Archie says:

    I have the perfect solution. An even up trade with the Wizards–Andre Blatche for Semin–they both seem to share the same heart and desire!!

  38. Better than you says:

    Really enjoyed this site until Andrew started writing. He should be fired. See Rangers vs. Capitals playoff game 2011. Good call buddy.

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