Thursday, July 21, 2011

Semin: Best a Stopper?

Even if playing Semin in a defensive role sacrifices his even strength offense, he's one of the best two-way players on the team. Reduced offense should, furthermore, lower his cost, which could mean he could stay with the team past 2011-2012 for much less than the $6.7 million hit he'll put on the cap. Moreover, style aside for a moment, using Sergei Fedorov and Nicklas Backstrom as the statistical examples of Semin's ideal linemates, Laich better matches Fedorov's ability to "tilt the ice" (good relative Corsi with not-so-easy minutes) and put up points at 5v5 (a little under 2 pts/60) than Marcus Johansson, who would presumably center Semin if not Laich.

This all made me think of whether Semin is best suited to be a "heavy lifter." Playing him for offense may lead to some issues. For one, playing him on the 2nd line means the team has two lines for offense without enough offensive ice time to go around (one of the two will have to take mediocre or poor zone starts, one of the two will have to take moderately difficult ice time thanks to time-on-ice distribution patterns--opposing poorer, lower-TOI players won't be out there enough for both Ovechkin and Semin's lines) to use their abilities to the fullest. With Laich the next best forward on the team, then, it makes sense to play Laich and Semin together. Since Laich (and any other option to play with Semin) lacks that high offensive production ability, and since Semin's game translates better between offense and defense than for other Caps forwards (except for Backstrom, I'd say), why not play them in a role that forces them to play both offense and defense? And if your third forward is probably going to bring much more defense than offense, why not skew their usage to favor defense? It will also free up the top line to get ice time more like the Sedin twins than like Ryan Kesler.

I'm not sure I'd do it, but that sort of split would definitely be on my radar if I were coaching the team. Then again, if I knew anything about the game I'd be in it.

Link. Forwards with Semin:

Semin was arguably better with Laich than with Ovechkin and/or Backstrom. I think I know why...

...he played a fair bit with Laich, Carlson, and Alzner, and they kicked ass together.

Another reason to forego making a checking 3rd line with Laich, Ward, and a guy like Chimera or Brouwer, is that Semin is flat-out the best remaining defensive player (at least, considering Semin's stickhandling abilities contribute to playing defense, albeit indirectly), and together with Carlzner Laich and Semin generated more dominance on the shot clock than Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Green. And Semin-Laich never even had a competent third player on that line. Imagine what they could do with Laich at center and Ward on the wing, with another year of improvement from Carlson and Alzner. I guess that's a good backup plan to have in your pocket if you're Bruce Boudreau.

The percentages with Green and Hannan surprise me, as the only two red boxes among the D. Maybe Green+Semin was a victim of small samples--in more than twice as big a sample in 09-10, they were great. What gives with Hannan, then? Small sample as well, or is he simply not as effective at moving the puck up the ice?

It's hard to ignore how dominant the Caps were with Semin on-ice while Holtby was manning the crease, mostly later in the season.

We see Semin's classic hot start, his play trailing off a bit (perhaps as he and Laich took some harder minutes that may have gone to Backstrom before), his missing time a little past the midpoint of the season, and an incredible finish, which continued (for at least one round) into the playoffs. That does worry me a little, since luck comes in streaks and two insane streaks made Semin's season look excellent at 5v5--but that is how Semin is. Love him when he's hot, hate him when he's cold.

One of these postseasons, he'll get hot for more than two weeks. And he'll make other teams sorry.

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