This past Saturday, the Washington Capitals held their annual Red Rocker tryouts....
First thing I thought when I found out Alex Semin signed with the Hurricanes: “Well, I’m glad that’s over.” I had gotten so sick and tired of all the talk about where he was signing and why he hadn’t signed yet and why people were stupid or not stupid for stupidly not signing him stupidly.
Second thing I thought was, “Holy crap, Carolina is terrifying.”
I look at that roster and feel queasy. They’ve got talent, depth, have a great coach and a solid goaltender. They have two of the brightest young players in the game in Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk. If they can add another big-name defenseman (which they certainly have the cap room to do), then they move from “Mike Myers is making another movie” scary to “Joan Rivers without makeup” scary.
That’s why this is an amazing, amazing deal for them. I don’t know how anyone couldn’t like it. It puts ALL the pressure on Alex Semin. If he doesn’t fit there or regresses, then it’s no big deal. He’s gone. They get an elite player with a ton of talent that may have just needed a change in scenery to jump start him. And they get one that will be motivated too, not just by the one year contract, as he’s been bashed most of the summer by those in the hockey-pundit community. It’s the ultimate low-risk, high-reward deal.
As for the Capitals, they now find themselves in a sort of bizarro world. For years a key “problem” was identified as a lack of a strong number two centerman. They addressed that issue with the acquisition of Mike Ribeiro (and, as an aside, don’t look now but we’re going to have that same problem next summer when Ribeiro becomes a free agent and someone throws silly money him, but one disaster at a time). But now a “problem” has risen up in terms of scoring wingers. Outside of Ovechkin, are there really any top-six wingers on this team? I can give you Troy Brouwer if you want to be desperate, but it seems that the team has spent the summer collecting pieces in lieu of adding a player that could step right into the top six and be a dependable scorer. Maybe Wojtek Wolksi could be that guy (and wouldn’t that be great, because the Caps are paying him pretty much nothing), but I’m not sold. Luckily, I think dependable scoring wingers aren’t “that” hard to find, especially compared to how difficult it is/was to find a good centerman. It just depends what you want to give up to get them.
Which brings us back to Alex Semin. There will be much debate about his tenure here and what he provided both on and off the ice. There were lots who never really “got” him for whatever reason. Some felt it was lack of effort. Some were tired of him not showing up in the playoffs and/or never really stopped blaming him for the Great Flame Out of 2010, where Semin attempted to break more glass than a College Park rioter. It was kind of interesting to watch, because offensive-minded defensemen (see Kevin Hatcher and Mike Green and Larry Murphy) usually end up being the ones that cause such divisiveness in this fanbase, but Semin’s really the first forward I can think of that earned that distinction (at least with his on-ice play). Maybe Kirk Muller can turn him into what he thinks is a “complete player.”
Alex Semin could be breathtaking, and frustrating and amazing and heartbreaking all at the same time.
He always was a different kind of guy, and there’s a part of me that will really miss that. And there will be another part of me that will thank my lucky stars he’s gone when he takes a stupid stick penalty that leads to a game-winning PP goal. That, in essence, is the Tao of Alex Semin.