Alexander Semin has become the subject of considerable criticism among Capitals fans, many of whom see him as underachieving and overpaid. Former teammate Matt Bradley’s comments that the Russian winger “just doesn’t care” haven’t helped that perception, and as a result, many fans believe Semin should be traded or let go when his one-year, $6.7 million deal expires at the end of the season.
But let's try to set the record straight:
Semin has not just been a very good player; he has been an outstanding one.
Let's look at his accomplishments, both through fancy stats and conventional ones, so you can see exactly what I am talking about.
Semin was drafted by the Capitals in the 1st round (13th overall) of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. He debuted in 2003-04 at age 19 and played 52 games, posting boxcar stats of 10 goals and 12 assists.
In 2006-07, his second year due to the lockout, he scored 38 goals and assisted on 35 others.
During the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons he had injuries that limited him to 63 and 62 games, respectively, but he still managed in excess of a 30-goal pace over 82 games. His Corsi percentage at even strength, a proxy for puck possession, was .568 during those two years. That means that when Semin was on the ice, almost 57 percent of shots directed at net (goals, shots saved, missed and blocked) went in Washington's favor — 20th best among forwards playing 1,500 or more even-strength minutes over that two-year span.
In 2009-10, his Corsi percentage was .541, 17th best in the NHL among forwards, ahead of noted "puck-possession machines" Zach Parise, Marcel Goc and Ryan Clowe. Semin was also 12th in goals scored with 40, 20th in points with 84 and seventh in plus/minus with a plus-36. He did this despite playing the second-toughest opponents among Washington forwards in terms of Corsi relative to the competition.
Semin's offense regressed a little last year. His goal total fell to 28, his assists to 26 and another injury caused him to miss 17 games. However, the entire team saw an offensive decline with an inferior power play and a change to a more defensive system. His Corsi percentage remained high at .541 and Washington saw more than 57 percent of even-strength scoring chances go in its favor with Semin on the ice, despite playing against tough competition again.
Over the last four years, Semin has also proven himself to be an excellent penalty killer. His 4.2 goals against per 60 minutes is in the top 10 lowest among forwards during that period, and he has kept opponents to 44 shots against per 60 when he has been on the ice, 26th best.
Detractors will try to point to Semin's playoff performance, but that argument is shaky at best, as General Manager George McPhee said earlier this week. Semin has tallied 30 points in 37 playoff games, and while it is true that you can point to any individual series and find fault, the sample size of a few games over a period of four years is not conclusive.
Bottom line: Alexander Semin is a two-way player who is great offensively, stellar defensively and terrific on the penalty kill.
The statistics speak for themselves.