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.