I know this may seem a tad overblown given that Chemmy posted about Alexander Semin yesterday, but I've been ranting about this topic for a while, and I thought I'd toss my 2 cents into the ring.
Ok - so Alexander Semin is apparently an Enigmatic Russian Malcontent... why? Well because the MSM has told us so... and one forward that played on his team for a few years (Matt Bradley) who said the following:
"I think I heard you guys say we had a lot of guys that played hard and played well, and it seemed that sometimes the guys that weren't playing well were the ones getting rewarded with the most amount of the ice time. In the playoffs I don't think it matters who you are. It's who's playing well for you at the time, and that's not always what happened with our team. It wasn't the guys who were playing well at the time, it was the guys who were our best players for the most part who were playing no matter what."
"It wasn't like guys going out the night before a game and stuff like that. But it was not being ready to practice, or missing practice with questionable injuries. Not being focused."
"I don't mind saying Alexander Semin's name, because he's one guy who has so much talent he could easily be the best player in the league and just, for whatever reason, just doesn't care. "When you've got a guy like that, you need him to be your best player or one of your best players. When he doesn't show up, you almost get the sense that he wants to be back in Russia. That's tough to win when you've got a guy like that who's supposed to be your best player not being your best player, or one of your best players."
- Matt Bradley during an interview with the TEAM 1200 in Ottawa Aug 16th, 2011
So Matt Bradley didn't like the way the uber-talented Semin conducted himself in practice... and maybe thought his "injuries" were questionable. I'm reminded of Allen Iverson a bit here.
So things to think about on that note, in January of 2011 Semin missed multiple games in January with injury to his hip and groin... he did not miss any playoff games. As for not stepping up (or yanno... not being "clutch") Semin actually scored 4 goals in the Caps first 6 playoff games that season (they played 9). he had 20 shots on goal in the Capitals 4-1 series win over the NY Rangers, and finished 3rd on the team in playoff scoring behind Ovechkin and Laich.
Matt Bradley played in 9 playoff games in 2010-11, had 0 points, was a -3, and had a total of 6 shots on goal in 79 minutes of ice time. This is totally a guy who should be judging the output of other players! I'm assuming he had to work really hard in practice to justify what little ice time he received from demonic anti-player's coach Bruce Boudreau (whom he also ripped in the interview quoted above).
Yanno who else didn't produce much in the playoffs that year? Nicklas Backstrom (0 goals and 2 assists in 9 gp), who managed to produce 65 points in 77 games that season. But yeah - it's totally Semin that's the problem from a "clutch" play perspective. He's the guy that wasn't stepping up and producing.
All of this is quite amusing to me, because apparently the guy people really want on their team is Bradley. The one taking pot-shots at former team-mates and coaches AFTER he signs with another franchise. It takes real guts to rip a guy once he's not on your team anymore... but while he's on your team? Totally goes against the "code".
Bradley was such a great fit with Florida that they bought him out of his contract on June 29th. Also he missed the last 29 games of the regular season and all 7 playoff games Florida played in with a mysterious "upper body" injury. He was probably faking it so he didn't have to work hard in practice!
I digress on this topic though. Enough about Matt Bradley, let's go over some of te other commentary about Semin that's been making the rounds recently.
Ok so Semin is a floater?... He's lazy and doesn't know how to back check? Am I getting this right? Let's review Semin's SA/60 for the past oh... 4 years or so, and while we're at it I'll compare him to some forwards who most people likely agree are GOOD defensively:
|Player||2008-09||2009-10||2010-11||2011-12||4 yr avg|
So yeah, he's no Datsyuk or Backes, and he's a shade behind Kesler and Bergeron, but he's got the same 4-year average as Zetterberg and he's ahead of Richards and St Louis. For those of you who are wondering, the mediane SA/60 for NHL forwards who played 30+ games this past year was 26.6; 27.1 in 2010-11; 28.7 in 2009-10; and 26.8 in 2008-09.
That makes the 4 year running average of the NHL median 27.3 SA/60 at 5v5. Semin is above average in this regard, and he has faced positive Corsi REL QoC in the first 3 of the past 4 years, which means he faces forwards that generally drive possession in a positive direction.
As David Johnson at HockeyAnalysis.com recently pointed out, Semin ranked 13th in GA/20 in the NHL over the past 3 seasons, despite ranking 5th in GF/20 over the same time span. The 4 players ahead of him in the GF/20 rankings actually sit 28th, 38th (Sedin twins), 60th (Toews) and 105th (Stamkos) in GA/20 rankings respectively.`
"Not a Playoff Performer"
Ok - aside from the fact that using small sample sizes is relatively poor statistical practice, let's focus on the reality of this position often taken in deriding Semin's performances.
Ok so let's see... he produced 22 points in his first 21 NHL playoff games through 2007-09. Doesn't seem like a problem so far.
Then in 2009-10 he only had 2 assists in 7 gp and NO goals, despite firing 44 shots on net - which led not only the Capitals but the ENTIRE NHL through the 1st round of the playoffs. In fact, no player above him in the shots tally that post season played fewer than 12 playoff games. Soooo... what happened to Semin's game? Oh right... this happened.
So just to make something clear about that playoff season. Yes Ovechkin posted 10 points in the series, and Semin only had 2 assists, but yanno who else couldn't produce on Halak that year? Evgeni Malkin - 1 goal and 2 assists in 7 games vs. the Habs, despite firing 31 shots on goal.
Obviously not producing a lot of points against Halak in one 7 game series is NOT indicative of a lack of desire to compete or win... unless we're thinking of taking back the Conn Smythe and Hart trophies Malkin has won?
So what else is there... well he had 4 goals and 6 points through 9 games in 2010-11, which frankly is fairly solid (no matter what Matt Bradley would have you believe). Then this season came along and he posted 3 goals and 1 assist in 14 playoff games.
Frankly THAT stands out as a problem, but is that the fault of Semin? Alex Ovechkin managed to produce 5 goals and 9 points in 14 games, and Nicklas Backstrom had 2 goals and 8 points in 13 games... but frankly I would put more of the production - or lack thereof - at the feet of defensive minded Dale Hunter.
Dale Hunter sucked the life out of the Washington Capitals offense and creativity. He decided to try on the "defensive shot blocking" mold of the NY Rangers and did his best to ruin exciting hockey for 2 series worth of playoff action. Semin still ranked 2nd on the Capitals in SOG with 35 through 9 games, but facing down against Henrik Lundqvist and Tim Thomas can have a negative impact on shooting percentages... wouldn't you say?
3 goals on 35 shots is an 8.57% shooting percentage. Ovechkin scored 5 goals on 50 shots (10%), Laich had 2 goals on 26 shots (7.7%), and Backstrom produced only 2 goals on 25 shots ( 8.0%). Why does Semin deserve extra blame in this instance? How is he a liability here? What's he doing that warrants derision?
Jay Beagle got MORE ICE TIME than Alexander Semin... and people are wondering why the Capitals didn't produce enough offence? Troy Brouwer and Brooks Laich got more ice time than Alexander Semin. Guess what folks - the Capitals were a better team when they were playing their best players. The Matt Bradley school of hockey tactics is both boring and lame. Dale Hunter thankfully returned to London.
So where does that leave us on Semin? Well - apparently everyone in the Main Stream Media thinks he's destined for Russia, and most seem to think "good riddance". I wouldn't be surprised if he does go, as he likely wouldn't have to put up with the b.s. that's been written and spoken about him repeatedly on this side of the world. There is very little evidence that Semin lacks defensive skills (he killed penalties for an average of roughly a minute a night from 2009-2011 - then saw that drop to 0 minutes this season - no real explanation why).
He is a dominant possession player, he creates offensively, he produces more regularly than Alex Ovechkin (his 4 year average for Pts/60 is higher than Ovechkin's despite facing stiffer Corsi REL QoC). It would be insane to think that the 15th ranked PPG player in the NHL over the past 4 years, who ranks 11th in GPG over that same time frame, would be unable to land a decently paying job in the NHL. Unfortunately it looks more and more like NHL GM's don't want the "headache" of a gifted scorer that helps do the little things that make teams win.
Chalk it up to intangibles if you like, but I'll chalk it up to good old fashioned North American Crazy.