Last week, the Carolina Hurricanes ended one of the summer’s most interesting free agent scenarios by inking Washington sniper Alex Semin to a one-year, $7 million deal.
That officially ended Semin’s stay in the American capital, a tenure that stretched over 500 regular season and playoff games, in which Semin scored over 200 goals.
For some, the 28-year-old simply wore out his welcome with the Caps. Every article about Semin seemingly included the words “enigma” or “mercurial” and most editorials asked what Semin’s deal was — problem child, or simply misunderstood?
But now, an even bigger question is at hand.
How will the Caps get on without him?
For all of the narratives surrounding Semin, statistical evidence claims he’s far more valuable than he’s been credited for. Carolina assistant GM Jason Karmanos crunched numbers on Semin’s situational play, which GM Jim Rutherford explained to ESPN’s Craig Custance:
“What the people out there who are not fans of Alex are saying are not confirmed by the analytics,” Rutherford said. “Actually, it’s absolutely the opposite.”
The area that stood out the most?
“High-pressure situations,” Rutherford said. “That’s the biggest one for a player like this. When the game is on the line, certain times in the game, who he ends up playing against — all those numbers are very high for him.”
There’s also this, from The Sporting News’ Jesse Spector:
Semin has demonstrably been a possession-driving winger over the course of his career, especially this past season, which was supposedly his worst in the NHL. Starting 51.1 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, Semin had a relative Corsi‚ a statistic measuring the Capitals’ attempts on goal with him on the ice at even strength, compared to his teammates—of plus-11 per 60 minutes.
In 14 playoff games, when he was supposedly at his most invisible and lazy and whatever other adjectives could be applied out of nothing more than xenophobia, Semin’s relative Corsi was plus-16.2, even though he started only 46.2 percent of his shifts in an offensive position.
“No secret that most teams use analytics these days in looking at acquisitions,” Carolina spokesman Mike Sundheim said in an unsolicited tweet. “The Canes are among them.”
Say what you will about Semin’s personality, but the facts remain — he’s finished second to Alex Ovechkin in goals in each of the last six seasons and, at the time of writing, it remains unclear who’ll play Goose to Ovi’s Maverick come next season.
Brooks Laich’s career high in goals is 25, Nicklas Backstrom’s is 33 and Jason Chimera posted a career-high 20 last year, so there are options.
But are any ready to step up and be the second triggerman for the Caps? Would any have done as good as job as Semin, especially with Adam Oates now at the helm?
Or, perhaps more importantly — do the Caps even need someone to step up and be that guy?
Scoring by committee is always an option and hey, scoring by committee rarely has personality flaws.