With the 2011-2012 season in the books officially on Monday (SIDE NOTE: Congrats, Kings!), all teams are looking ahead to the NHL Draft that starts June 22-23 and July 1st which I affectionately refer to as the Free Agent Free-For-All. With options out the wazoo for any and every team out there, there is one player whose potential relocation has been making waves in the DC area: Alexander “Sasha” Semin.
Some would say the trouble with Sasha started with the change in coaching philosophy of Bruce Boudreau. Before 2009, Boudreau was a coach who preached offensive prowess on the top lines which fit in perfectly with Semin’s M.O.: big goals, big wins. Before the start of the 2009-2010 season Boudreau had an epiphany and decided he wanted his forwards to play a more defensive style of hockey. This did not sit well with the left winger who preferred flashy goals to shot blocking. Semin’s lack of adherence to the coaching style was seen as a foreshadowing of eminent trades. Despite the changes, he managed to earn 84 points in 73 starts in the ’09 -’10 year. In the following season Semin’s performance took a dip with 54 points in 65 games. He appeared to have his own prerogative out on the ice which caused a bit of friction but was overlooked due to the comparably more pressing issues with Alex Ovechkin. Sasha’s lack of interest in following the coach’s defensive philosophies landed him less ice time and a drop to the 2nd line. Boudreau was known to mix lines and would often put young up-and-comer Marcus Johansson in Semin’s place.
The breaking point for Semin was perhaps in the middle of the 2011-2012 season when Boudreau was relieved of his duties as head coach of the Capitals and Dale Hunter stepped in. Hunter preached a higher level of defensive play much like the style he personified as a player for the Capitals. As a result Semin distanced himself farther from the coaching philosophies. Add to this his penchant for high sticking penalties and it was clear Semin was on a tight leash. His play began to emulate that of a defensive forward in the playoffs this past season with him shot blocking, passing, and doing everything the people of DC could hope for and fans and the coaching staff alike were hoping this was the dawn of a new Alex.
There has always been a large question mark over the head of Alex Semin. Having signed only one year extensions for the last two years and two year contracts/extensions in the years prior to that, fans and Caps staff have been a bit apprehensive towards Semin. His demeanor and play continuously has people questioning if he has one foot out the door, waiting for a better deal.There have been back and forth reports that Semin has denounced the Caps since ending their season on May 12th. His agent alleges he is done with the team. His teammates say they don’t doubt his plans to leave, yet he has stated
“This is all just talk. Words can get twisted. There was no talk at all that I am not going to sign with the Capitals for sure. I have not talked to them [the Capitals] about leaving. And please don’t ask me questions about the next season anymore.” (source)
With the way general manager George McPhee has been giving free agents the boot, it seems that if Semin was officially done, then GMGM would have announced his departure by now. With all this information, here are some viable options for the brooding Russian come July 1st.
He stays in DC: One of the many mixups to face the Capitals this season is the crowning of a new head coach. Dale Hunter has stepped down for family reasons from his post behind the bench and if his replacement is an offensive minded man who will let Semin shine, there is a chance he could stay in Washington. However, the coaching philosophy, bank payout, and profuse groveling would have to been fitting for not only Sasha but his agent Mark Gandler as well.
He goes to Detroit: If Semin stays on the continent of North America and leaves DC, this is his most likely choice to call home. Having recently unloaded a significant portion of their payload with the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom, the Red Wings are shopping defense and power forwards. With the star-studded cast of defensemen the Wings already possess, Semin could stick to what he knows best: scoring. Plus, the potential to be on a line with the dekeing god Pavel Datsyuk could be a swaying factor.
He leaves for the KHL: Although many hockey players choose the NHL for the high level of play, many choose the KHL for the money. There has been speculation that CSKA Moscow, a team headed by former NHLer Sergei Federov, is looking for the best of the best hockey players money can buy. Sponsored by Sibneft, a wealthy oil company, the Red Army have a hefty payroll with which to entice players to sign on the dotted line. Their suspected top picks would be Alexander Radulov and/or Semin. With the right price, Semin could return to his native land.
With free agency swiftly approaching, Semin and his agent have a great deal of thinking to do.