Editors note: Update, Alex Semin signs in Carolina. Click here to read our story.
Last year, Alexander Semin started off with a bang. He scored six points in his first seven games. His team was undefeated and many were picking the Capitals as the favorites to win it all.
While the Caps launched off the line like a Bugatti, it seems they got a flat tire just after the first turn. A month later Semin and Washington Capitals found themselves with a new coach and struggling to keep their record above .500 (causing Capital fans to drink heavily). Semin himself tailed-off from his point-per-game pace and struggled heavily in November (vodka binge?), but he managed to pick up his scoring pace mid-season and scored 31 points in 37 games from December to the end of February.
His minutes mirror his point production, as in November he had 15.8 minutes per game and it went up in December to 16.3 minutes, January 17.4 minutes, and peaked in February at 17.5 minutes per game.
He finished the season with only 54 points and 21 goals in 77 games. Even the harshest critics expect 30/40 goals out of his talented mitts. He also had career low, since his rookie year, in shooting percentage at 11.5%, his ice time with 16:47 minutes per game, and power play points with 11. On the bright side, a surprising one at that, Semin finished near the top in plus/minus for Washington forwards. Surprising because his defensive game comes under fire every-time his name is mentioned. So his back-checking game is clearly underrated. Clearly.
The Capitals struggled to make the playoffs and while taking NY Rangers to game 7 in East Conference Semifinals, many(everyone) considered their overall season another failure. The natural reaction for many in the media, and fans, was to point fingers at the stars who did not get it done once again (the pitchforks and torches were out).
Easiest target of them all? Alexander Semin. You know he has that entire “Russian” thing going for him. Don Cherry’s favorite player is currently the most talented UFA. You would think most teams would be dumping money on him, but the opposite seems to be happening. Is Semin’s camp being hush-hush or no one is calling? We don’t know. It does give some pundits a chance to dump some rubbish on this talented winger.
It is hard to understand this negative complex that has developed with Canadian media about Russian players. The epitome of dumb, reckless, and just pure trash was displayed in this TSN Free Agent Frenzy special where Marc Crawford and Pierre McGuire dumped on the winger, calling him a coach killer, among other things. To me this is nonsense, for a winger to play at a high level, especially a true sniper, and be effective, he needs a solid, consistent, talented center.
To prove this theory, I took a few wingers in the league who are not exactly known snipers, yet who had scored the same number or more goals than Semin last season. Let us see what has made them more successful?
What I did is take a look at all the goals they scored last season (including PP but excluding unassisted) by these wingers and see who had the primary assist. I did not bother with the secondary assists as there are countless blogs who use math to prove or disprove the value of the secondary assist.
So the first thing we see here is that Semin never has a true center that he clicks with. His primary assists are all over the place and it seems he had trouble finding his set up buddy. Something can be said about his shooting percentage being off this year, but most can agree that hockey is all about chemistry. True snipers like Semin rely heavily on a proper set-up man to score goals.
What we notice about Callahan is that he definitely spent some time playing with Brad Richard. His stats reflect this. Del Zotto was another affective offensive defenceman for the Rangers. He reminded some people of what Mike Green used to be. His offensive talent clearly reflects on Callahan numbers. I wont argue that Callahan was a utility man for Torts and the Rangers this year playing everywhere, but Brad Richards had a clear impact on his numbers. Brad being a top-tier center, who also gets paid Crosby money, is known as a playmaker that makes other players around him better.
Brown moved up and down the Kings line up but once again we see a clear sign here that most of his goals are coming from a dominant talented center. Both Kopitar and Richards could play top line minutes and are superstars in their own right. Having almost 50 percent of his goals come from the two centers helpers, the impact of Kopitar and Richards is clear as day on Browns production.
Hudler struggled early on in the season after scoring his first goal in the opener. He found chemistry playing with Zetterberg and Filppula, some would argue a career saving chemistry. The stats show clearly that majority of his goals came from those two creative players. This could be a concern for the Calgary fans as they do not posses a true top center that has proven to be a creative play-maker in the middle. Notable mention is that both Filppula and Zetterberg played center for most of their careers.
What does all of this prove? Well to me it proves that Semin needs a strong creative center to be effective. I am not concerned with his work ethic nor his personality. Hockey players are hockey players with their own personalities, not some cancer filled parasites. The point being is that if Hudler can score 25 goals, I have no doubt in my mind that Semin would have had 35 playing on the line with Zetterberg and Filppula. No matter what most Washignton fans will tell ya, what most pundits from Canada try to sell ya, and no matter how silly Don Cherry looks in his clown suits…Alex can score goals. Last time I checked you need those goals to win.
…and that is the Last Word.
You can follow me @maximus91