Alexander Semin: Why Signing Him Would Be a Mistake

Robert WoodCorrespondent IJuly 4, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 22:  Alexander Semin #28 of the Washington Capitals looks on against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on January 22, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

At times, Alexander Semin is the most talented player in the NHL.  

His toe drags, wrist shots and shootout heroics have made him a YouTube legend.  

Yet the man nicknamed "Sasha" is also one of the most maddening players in the NHL.  And that is why signing him would be a mistake for any team that takes a chance on the mercurial Russian winger.   

Alexander Semin is known as a sniper, and his statistics back that up.  For his career, Semin averages 0.42 goals per game and scores on 14.1 percent of the 2.99 shots he takes per game.  

As a result, he should command a competitive salary on the free-agency market.  Washington Post and ESPN contributor Neil Greenberg tweeted his prediction for Semin's new contract, in comparison to other recently signed UFAs: 




Despite the chance to earn such a contract, Semin's production dropped precipitously during the 2011-12 season.  

He scored only 0.27 goals per game and took only 2.38 shots per game, both the lowest since his rookie year.  And his accuracy dropped as well.  He made only 11.5 percent of his shots, also the lowest such number since his rookie season.  

And there's more.  He has always had a penchant for taking bad penalties.  For his career, Sasha averages 0.96 PIMs per game. This season, he improved slightly, bringing that number down to 0.73, the second lowest of his career.  But that was while his production dropped sharply.  

A true measure of a player's greatness, however, is based on how he plays in April, May and June.  Simply put, Alexander Semin does not excel at springtime hockey.  He has 15 goals in 51 career playoff games, while racking up 46 penalty minutes.  

The most maddening fact about Sasha's postseason performance has been his inconsistency.  

In 2009, he scored five goals in seven games against the New York Rangers, before being shut out against the Pittsburgh Penguins in another seven-game series.  

In 2010, he was shut out yet again, this time against the Montreal Canadiens to help the Capitals complete an epic seven-game collapse.  

The following year, Semin led the Caps to a five-game series victory against the Rangers in 2011.  He scored three goals, one of which was the OT winner in Game 1. 

He followed up that performance with only one goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning as the Capitals were swept out of the Eastern Conference semifinals.  


And this pattern continued during the 2012 postseason.  Semin scored three goals against the Boston Bruins as the Capitals upset the defending Stanley Cup champions in seven games.  But Semin disappeared against the New York Rangers, and again was held scoreless.  

Alexander Semin's statistical performance is tangible proof of the risk he poses as a free-agent signing, but he also poses a risk with regards to the intangibles.  

Sasha does not speak very good English, and in fact gave his first English interview only this past September.  This language barrier could cause issues with his new coaches and teammates.  

Sasha's attitude has already caused issues with his teammates.  Former Capital Matt Bradley, a respected veteran, bashed Alex Semin in a radio interview during the summer of 2011, saying Alex "just doesn't care."

And Semin's reputation for being enigmatic is well-earned.  Alex inexplicably abandoned the Capitals during the 2005-06 season to play in the KHL in his home country of Russia, before returning to the NHL the next season.  

But even when Alex did return to the team, he showed an unwillingness to commit to the Capitals on a long-term basis.  He instead preferred to sign a one-year contract extension

Alexander Semin's offensive skills can provide an NHL team with a significant reward.  But his liabilities pose too high of a risk.