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"What if" Leaf week continues: fantasy or nightmare? Your thoughts on Alexander Semin in Toronto…

Earlier this week we discussed the possibility of Luongo as a Leaf, and yesterday I asked you to (if you could only choose one key off-season acquisition) select the player that you would most want to see in a Maple Leaf uniform.

Today, we look at one of the most naturally gifted players out there who will likely be a UFA this summer...


There are players that, well, you just love their talent.  (For me, Ilya Kovalchuk has always been one of those, dating back to his very first season as a teenage phenom in Atlanta.)  You can’t take your eyes off them because they make spectacular, sometimes stunningly amazing plays.

Another of those players came to the league a few years ago as well, not long after Kovalchuk, actually—Washington’s Alexander Semin.  Sweetly skilled, the now veteran winger with the uncanny hands has put up some big-time numbers (for this era, at least) with the Capitals.  At 27, Semin already has played seven seasons in the show, with almost 200 goals to his credit.  That’s pretty good.

He is a pending UFA this summer, and indications are the Capitals, at least at this stage, have no interest in continuing to pay him 7 million dollars a season.  Why?  Because while, as I wrote above, he has indeed played seven years with the Caps while displaying often outstanding regular-season productivity, his critics would insist that he has played seven largely disinterested seasons in the U.S. capital.  As in, he plays when he wants to (which isn’t that often; he scored 21 goals this season) and tends to disappear when the going gets tough, though his playoff "numbers" aren't bad over the years. (Witness his modest but very timely production for the Caps as they ousted the Bruins in seven games...)

I don’t see Semin on a daily basis so I best withhold any attempt at a fair assessment of his overall performance with the Caps.  Against the Bruins, he scored a brilliant goal against Tim Thomas (was it Game 4 or 5, I can't remember?), a shot few could pull off.  But he also tends to be invisible at times, which likely infuriates Cap fans.

I know that some of you are well aware of all the pending UFA’s out there, and no doubt have some strong (negative?) opinions based on watching the Russian winger perform on a regular basis.

Clearly, I’ve seen him enough to know that the young man has immense skill. But while we never had Alex Mogilny here with the blue and white in his prime (we had the still nicely-skilled and very smart but slowing, aging, somewhat broken down Mogilny, unfortunately), I can’t help but think of Mogilny when I watch Semin.  When Mogilny had the urge to take things over, he could.  He could be a game-changer.  But, well, he just wasn’t always of a mind to do that.  Or at least that’s how it sometimes seemed.  He would drift through lengthy periods where you just didn’t notice him much—odd for a guy with so much flair and natural talent.

And Semin seems that way too.

Semin would give any team some instant offense. He’s certainly a top-six forward.  But do his inadequacies overshadow what he might bring to a club like the Leafs?  Would we be getting a guy who has maybe had an early “prime”,  a player who has already made his money and just doesn’t have the will to compete at the level you need to, to be successful into your 30s in the toughest league in the world?

My guess is Leaf fans would overwhelmingly say they are not interested in a player like Semin.  He’s not tough.  He’s not defensively sound by most accounts, though he has generally been a strong “plus” player the past four seasons with the Capitals.  And whether he is a true team player, a guy that will make your dressing room better would certainly be up for debate.  Most observers would likely land on the notion that being a great leader or teammate is not exactly one of his strengths.

I have a feeling I know what you’re thinking, but he’s one of the players that “would only cost money”, this summer, as they say.  No assets have to go the other way.  The Capitals have been signing him to one-year deals for quite some time, so maybe he doesn’t need a ridiculous term.  Maybe he's looking for a change of scenery.  No, he doesn't fit the need for a first-line centre, nor does he bring "toughness".  And he can't play in goal or on the first defense pair.

But he sure is talented.

Share your thoughts and let me know how you feel about this notion. (I won't even call it a possibility...)


  1. Long suffering Leafs fanApril 26, 2012 at 10:16 PM

    I have one nightmarish answer on this topic "Dmitri Khristich". THANKS, but NO THANKS!

  2. Michael - this notion will never fly with Carlyle. I'd sooner watch Parros and Penner stumble around instead of Semin floating.

  3. 27leafs. Agreed. As I mentioned in the piece, I'd be surprised if people liked this idea. But he will be available this summer, it seems. Thanks.

  4. You're Mogilny comparison is scary bang on for me. Broken Down Mogilny was able to produce I think due to the fact we had some tough hombres like Gary Roberts, Shayne Corson, Darcy Tucker, and of course Tie Domi. We had a tough team back then and it allowed Mogilny freedom to utilize his crazy skill. I think we need to get tougher and it would allow this team to take on an enigma like Semin. We wouldn't notice his no show nights if we had a more defensively sound supporting cast. If we could get a guy like Ryan Suter on the backend and a few large forwards I can see it working to be honest.

  5. LeafluvrCC..Semin is one of those guys who you love when he makes those sweet plays, but loathe when he floats. That said, many good teams have taken advantage of those types of players in their line-up, with, as you cite, the right kind of supporting cast to support him (and keep him in line). The guy is seemingly surviving under Hunter, so who knows? Carlyle is a similarly demanding coach, but maybe, as 27leafs said, this just wouldn't fly in the first place with Carlyle.

    Food for thought, though. Good stuff, thanks.

  6. Mike I don't feel I have an informed opinion on Semin but you noted that some might say he "would only cost money". If we are talking a lot of money, he would then also take up valuable cap space which in this day and age may be more important, especially to a cash rich team like the Leafs.
    Interesting topic though and I look forward to comments from others who are more familiar with him. Is he just a very skilled floater? If so, I can't see that as a good place to allocate our cap space at present.

  7. You make a very fair point about cap space, Ed. Yes, any team signing a UFA doesn't have to give up player assets, but on any big contract you devote a good chunk of your limited cap space. There is always some kind of "cost", for sure. Thanks Ed.

  8. Nyet! The last thing we need is another talented part-timer. (Though I think he actually blocked a shot the other night...) Mogilny usually showed one move per game that was breathtaking... but he was also the guy who lazily dropped the back pass that led to our losing the Hurricanes series way back when.
    If one thing's clear from the playoffs so far, it's that the type of team we were under Wilson won't go far in the post season.

  9. I hear you loud and clear, Gerund O'. (And yes, I remember the Mogilny OT pass in Game 6 against the 'Canes in '02 like it was yesterday....Our son who was watching with me at the time still reminds me how upset I was at the time...)