Could there be a remote possibility of Alexander Semin coming to join the Nashville Predators? Semin has offensive skill in leaps and bounds over any current Predator, but there are concerns dealing with his off-ice persona and his on-ice commitments. Through correspondence with Dave Nichols of Caps Network News and Angie Lewis of the Washington Post/The Hockey Writers, we have put together an interesting picture of an elite hockey forward who could be the missing cog to Nashville finally solidifying their offense in hopes of a deeper playoff run.
According to both Lewis and Nichols, Semin is described as “enigmatic,” a puzzle wrapped in a mystery. In the locker room, Semin typically uses a translator so judging his personality off the ice has proved to be problematic.
“He is quiet in the locker room and usually in the showers before media is allowed in the room. Rarely does he speak to the media post-games, and when he does it’s through a trusted member of the Russian media.” ~Dave Nichols, Caps News Network
Lewis notes that rumor is “[Semin] knows and speaks English very well.” Conversing with Nichols further reveals that Semin is the type of player to take advantage of maintenance days, “He is usually one of the first ones off the ice at practice — if he practices at all. The Caps have had a lenient ‘maintenance day’ policy the last couple of years and Semin avails himself of the opportunity whenever it’s presented, which adds to his ‘lazy’ rap,” Nichols said.
Even though this type of behavior could be credited to Semin solely, it also calls into question the lackadaisical attitude taken from the coaching staff. If Bruce Boudreau doesn’t make the practices mandatory, what kind of message does this send the players?
In Nashville, Coach Barry Trotz doesn’t take these things quite so non-chalant. Nashville employs a team-first mentality and as we’ve seen in other such “projects” like O’Brien and Kostitsyn, some times it’s the right situation that can turn a player around with the respect the coach commands trickling down through the organization to where the players have respect for the team and each other.
Alexander Semin – GP, G, A, P, +/-, GWG
2008-2009 – 62, 34, 45, 79, +25, 8
2009-2010 – 73, 40, 44, 84, +36, 5
2010-2011 – 65, 28, 26, 54, +22, 4
In every season over the last three years, Alexander Semin would have led the Predators in goals, points and plus/minus rating.
The fact is Alexander Semin, despite what many may think, doesn’t play on the top line for the Washington Capitals. He plays on the second line with Brooks Laich. “He is extremely skilled and possesses one of the best and hardest wrist shots in the league,” Nichols said, “He’s also capable of spectacular puck-handling, when he has time and space.”
But, as both Lewis and Nichols point out, Semin can be a defensive liability at times. “Since he is so talented he thinks he’s unstoppable sometimes, which makes him prone to turnovers,” Nichols said.
Lewis makes note that Semin possesses a “shot and finesse [that] seems almost unmatched and unstoppable by many in the league.” However, “The 27-year-old still gets muscled off pucks and struggles to avoid defensive mistakes, and the failure to see a difference in that part of his game gives fuel to the belief that the guy just doesn’t care,” Lewis said.
“I think over the time Semin’s been here, it may ‘seem’ like he doesn’t care. But I know Dmitry Chesnokov [On Twitter, @dchesnokov] has said the guy does care. I personally agree that it is still to be determined on Semin’s attitude with the team. However, if the Caps do struggle, this could be [Semin's] last year in Washington” ~Angie Lewis, The Washington Post/The Hockey Writers
Taking his impressive plus/minus rating over the last three seasons into account, Semin seems to be a winger that would fit nicely into Trotz’ defense first system, although Nichols notes that: “Since he’s such a good stick-handler that also makes him good at creating turnovers on the defensive end. The problem there is he’s also prone to stick penalties when he plays defense more with his stick and less with his skates.”
This raises a great question, a similar one that I posed about Nikolai Zherdev: Does an offensive mentality [Semin/Zherdev] keep the pressure in the offensive zone thus utilizing their skill to not play defense? This may be the toughest question to answer since both Zherdev and Semin have impressive Corsi ratings (Semin 11.4/Zherdev 17.3).
I believe that sometimes, and especially in the case of Alexander Semin, a good offense is the best defense. It also helps that the Predators have one of the best defense cores and stellar goaltending from Pekka Rinne, something Washington until this year has not addressed.
Alexander Semin is also in the same boat as another Predator, Martin Erat. Both players are shown to be full of potential that hasn’t been fully realized yet. “Along with the untimely injuries he has suffered, major flaws in his game have hindered Semin from reaching his full potential,” Lewis said.
Such a sentiment has been heard time and time again regarding Erat and his potential to become a top scorer in the NHL and live up to his $6M salary. Since Semin has put up better numbers than Erat and only has a one year contract, it makes sense to go after him and try to harness his potential on an offensively anemic team like the Nashville Predators. Any and all on-ice and off-ice problems that Semin may have can be corrected by Trotz and the system to which all the Predators adhere.
As a Jack Adams award finalist for two straight years, Trotz’ ability to instill the teams mantra and hold all accountable could be just the change Alexander Semin is looking for to earn himself a longer contract and help a team to reach the next level.
So now the question becomes: “What does Nashville have to give up for Alexander Semin?”
The Capitals are pushed to the breaking point of the salary cap and need to unload a contract before the start of the season. David Poile covets draft picks and the Predators farm system. Nashville’s on-ice product is a testament to Poile building from within.
But what to offer the Capitals?
After watching them over the last two seasons what has stuck out like a sore thumb is the lack of defense both on the blue line and forwards. Sure the Capitals can score goals in bunches, but they also give up 3-4 goals in the process. An offensively stacked team like the Capitals tends to falter in the playoffs due to a lack of defense and goaltending.
They took care of one of these issues over the summer signing Tomas Vokoun to a one year contract and have a talented Neuvirth in goal as well, but what to do down the middle.
“The Caps could still use that second line center, but more likely they could use a couple of legitimate near-ready prospects to re-stock their minor league system,” Nichols said. Knowing that, the Predators could trade Nick Spaling, a 1st round pick and a conditional pick to the Capitals for Semin. I know Poile relishes his draft picks but to improve Nashville’s offense in the present, Poile needs to make a purely offensive move.
The Capitals get a solid penalty-killing and defensive center and future picks to stock their depleted farm system and Nashville gets the offensive and play-making skill it so desperately needs to possibly contend for the division title, get deeper into the playoffs and challenge for the Stanley Cup.
Huge thank you to Dave Nichols (Caps News Network) and Angie Lewis (AllWeDoIsPuck, The Hockey Writers, and The Washington Post) for their help and support in completing this article. Go visit their sites for anything hockey related and especially Washington Capitals information.