Outside of what happened in the state of Minnesota, the most talked about signing this off-season was the Hurricanes inking Alexander Semin to a one-year deal worth $7 mil. Despite the high salary, this is one of the safest bets the Hurricanes could have made because the team was in need of a top-line winger and Semin had arguably the highest ceiling of any player on the market. Signing him for one year is a good risk to take for a team like Carolina, who were using third liners and AHL call-ups as part of their first line on a regular basis last season. The question now is what kind of numbers will Semin put up in Carolina and will it be in line with his career production?
So far, the expectations I've seen for Semin in Carolina have been all over the place. There are some who think that playing on a line with one of the Staal brothers will help Semin find his way back to being a 30 goal/70 point player while others have said that he may grow complacent and see his production continue to decline as it has the last few seasons with the Capitals. Hell, I've even heard some people say that he may reach 40 goals, which is probably the most unlikely of the scenarios given how tough of an accomplishment that is.
Semin is probably one of the more difficult players to project on the Hurricanes because we don't know what kind of ice time he will get next season and what kind of situations he'll be used in since line combinations are up in the air right now. My initial thought is that Semin will spend most of the year on Eric Staal's line and get a bit of a zone start push thanks to Jordan Staal & possibly the third line, but he did regularly play tough minutes before last season with the Caps, so he doesn't need to be protected. There is also the question of how much powerplay time he will get and whether or not he will kill penalties, both of which will have a direct impact on his goal total.
The Canes are going to be spending $7 mil. on Semin next season, so there is no doubt that they will try to get the most out of him but it's still tough to predict how much he will produce next season. We're going to try to do it anyway after the jump.
The ongoing narrative last season was that Dale Hunter restricted Semin's ice-time but it appears that wasn't true because he played more minutes per game than he did the previous year and his minutes per game were mostly in line with his career numbers. Although, Semin still played on the second line for most of the last couple of years in Washington, as his most frequent linemates last year were Marcus Johansson, Jason Chimera and Mathieu Perreault. The Caps have always tried to spread the wealth with their forwards, so I guess that's why Semin only played with Nicklas Backstrom & Alex Ovechkin when the Caps needed to spark their offense. I don't think the Hurricanes will be that conservative with the team having some flexibility at winger now.
Semin is still going to be "competing" for ice time with Skinner, Jokinen and Ruutu, but I think should play more minutes than those three, except for Skinner maybe, and will get at least 14:30 minutes a game this year. He might actually play more when you consider that Skinner played over 15 minutes per game last season but 14:30 sounds like a safe bet for now.
|Year||ES Goals||ESG/60||ESSOG/60||ES Sh%|
Semin is coming off a bit of a down year in just about every category. Some say that it was Dale Hunter who was holding him back, but you saw earlier that Semin played a decent amount of minutes last year. The reason why his goal total took such a dive was because his shooting percentage dropped but another reason is because he wasn't getting as many shots on goal as he was before. During the Capitals "run-and-gun" years, Semin was a machine when it came to producing shots on goal and that has tailed off a bit the last couple of seasons. I'm sure some of this relates to the system he was playing because most of Washington's players have seen their ability to control possession decrease over the last two years. Bruce Boudreau implemented a more defensive system in the final full year of his tenure and Hunter also ran an extremely conservative system as the Caps bench boss, so that may have had an effect on how many shots the players were able to create per game given the team's possession numbers also went down the toilet.
Getting to play in a more offensive-oriented system could spark a return to form for Semin, but I don't think he will get close to matching his production from 2009-10 because the Canes are not a "run-and-gun" team and Semin scored on nearly 15% of the even strength shots he took. That kind of luck isn't sustainable over the long run even if Semin is known to be a dangerous sniper. However, it's worth mentioning that Semin's career shooting percentage is 14.1% and 13.5% at even strength alone, so it definitely looks like he may have some natural goal-scoring talent that many of players lack. I'm not expecting his shooting percentage to fully bounce-back to where it was this season, but it should be a little higher than it was last season.
Another area that I expect, and hope will improve for Semin is his shots on goal per game. Semin should be playing on Eric Staal's line for most of the year and with that, he should get plenty of opportunities to score and will likely shoot the puck more than he did last year. You also have to take into account that Semin has been able to tilt the ice in his team's favor over the last few seasons, and he should be able to continue doing that no matter which Staal brother he ends up playing with. That is going to lead to him having more chances & more shots on goal, so I think his shot rate will go up next season. However, I don't think he will be good as he was from 2008 to 2010 because that kind of rate is just insane and he was in his true peak years then. He is now 28 and has probably cooled off a bit.
My prediction is that Semin will have roughly nine shots per game and he would need to shoot at a little over 11% to get to 20 goals then. If he manages to shoot at that rate, then I say he has 20-24 goals at even strength this year but I don't see him getting above 27.
|Year||ESA||ESSF/60||ES on-ice Sh%|
Much like his goals and shots on goal, the amount of shots Semin has been on ice for in general has decreased quit a bit over the last couple of years. This could relate to the system he was playing in and his linemates, but it's plausible to believe that Semin has been on the down turn during those seasons, as well since that happens to some players in their late 20's. I think another factor is that the Washington teams were so ridiculous offensively in those seasons that they had to come back down to Earth eventually. At least I think that was the case during 2009-10 when the team had a ridiculous even strength shooting percentage when Semin was on the ice.
Things normalized a bit for Semin last season and he was still on ice for a very high amount of shots and the Caps had a very good shooting percentage while playing with him, so that's good news for the Hurricanes as far as his ability to drive the play is concerned. However, Semin has never been that great of a set-up guy as he has recorded an assist on roughly 34.4% of the even strength goals he was on ice for over the last five years, and part of that is boosted from the 24 assists on 54 goals he was on-ice for last season.
The number of assists he has next season will depend on how many goals he is on ice for, and that correlates with the number of shots he is on ice for, so this is going to be tough to predict. If Semin continues to be on ice for at least 30 shots per 60 minutes, he should be on-ice for about 673 shots this year so that would lead to him being on ice for 53-67 goals depending on how well the Hurricanes shoot the puck. Semin would be on ice for 71 goals next season if his on-ice shooting percentage is at his career average, but I see him being on ice for only 64 since it's best to be conservative when making projections. That's lower than his career average but it's in the ballpark of an above average on-ice shooting percentage, which Semin should have. This would lead to Semin having 17-23 assists next season.
|Year||PP TOI||PP TOI/G|
Power play time is the one area where Hunter did restrict Semin last year as he played fewer minutes per game than he ever had before. A player of Semin's offensive caliber should be playing at least 3 minutes per game on the powerplay and given the Hurricanes options right now, I could see him playing that much there. Much like at even strength, the only players I see challenging him for powerplay ice time are Skinner, Jokinen & Ruutu, so there should be enough minutes to go around.
|Year||PPG||PP SOG/60||PP Sh%|
Semin had a horrible shooting percentage slump on the powerplay last season and I don't expect that to sustain in the long run, so look for him to have more powerplay goals this year. He should also have more shots on the powerplay, as well since he should get more ice time there and it's really hard to be much worse than he was last season. Even if he doesn't shoot the puck as much as he used to, he should end up with more goals based on shooting regression alone.
While I have little to no doubt that Semin will score more powerplay goals than he did last season, he still only scored two goals so him topping that total isn't going to be very hard and the Hurricanes are going to be expecting more than 3-4 PPGs out of him. If he is able to get more shots on net per game, then he should be able to accomplish this feat. Semin's average powerplay shots per 60 minutes over the last four years is 8.35, so let's say that his PPSOG/60 rate is that next season. If he shoots at an average percentage of 12.5%, then he'll have four powerplay goals. His average PP shooting percentage over the last five years is 19.2% and he would end up with 6 PPGs if he shoots at that rate. I think it's safe to aim for something in the middle here.
|Year||ESA||PP SF/60||PP On-ice Sh%|
You might be noticing a pattern here...the amount of shots Semin was on ice for with the man advantage also took quite a plunge last season and there's been a noticeable decline over the last two seasons. Semin also recorded an assist on only 27.3% of the powerplay goals he was on ice for, which is very low compared to his five-year average of 46.7%. Can he bounce back? It depends, really. Having more powerplay time will certainly help his point total and I think he should be on ice for more shots on goal as well since the Hurricanes were a good team in that regard last season and most of their top powerplay guys are returning.
Let's say that Semin is on-ice for 53.5 powerplay shots on goal per 60 minutes next season, if the Canes were to shoot at a league average 12% with him on the ice, that would make Semin be on ice for 26 powerplay goals. If he records an assist on 40% of them, then he would have 10-11 assists, which would be an improvement over last season.
Given his contract, I am expecting Semin to get top minutes with the Hurricanes this year, play regularly on the first line and top powerplay unit. He should be behind Eric Staal for the forward leader in ice time and the only other player I see challenging him for that position is Jeff Skinner. In short, I'm projecting 14.5-15 minutes of ice time per game for Semin next year.
So we know that Semin will get the minutes, but the only thing fans will care about is the number of goals he scores because that's the first thing people look at with a player like him. Semin is going to make this team, and Eric Staal's line, a better territorial unit, which should lead to him having more shots on goal and hopefully he can take advantage of those opportunities. I have Semin recording 9 shots per 60 minutes at even strength this year, and if he shoots at his five-year average, he would have 24 goals. If he has the same shooting luck as last season, khe would end up with 19 and if he matches his career high he would have 27. To me, the most likely scenario is for Semin to shoot at 13%, which would give him 23 even strength goals on the season.
If the amount of shots Semin is on ice for stays consistent, he should have a similar assist total to what he had last season. How well the team shoots with him on the ice could go either way, but if that were to improve a little bit from last season, he could have anywhere from 18-21 assists. I'm going to take the high number there.
Semin's powerplay goal total is the one thing we know is going to improve next season and if he shoots at a better rate than he did last season and sees his shooting percentage regress to the average, then he should end up with at least four powerplay goals on the season. He could end up with as many as eight if he gets really lucky but 5-6 looks more realistic right now.
His powerplay assists is one thing that I'm expecting to stay the same but it could improve depending on how many shots on goal he is on ice for. I think he will be on ice for more shots than last season but his on-ice shooting percentage will stay relatively the same. Given that, I think he will have 10-11 assists next season. There is a lot that's up in the air concerning the Canes powerplay with Semin and Jordan Staal being added to the unit but I don't think much will change, so Semin's numbers will stay relatively the same as last year.
82 Game Projection
|Semin 2012-13||ESG||ESA||PPG||PPA||SHG||SHA||Total Pts||PPG/82|
Semin could reach 30 goals this year, but I'm taking somewhat of a conservative route with my projection because he has regressed from the player that he was two years ago. A lot of people are going to look at the contract and say that Semin SHOULD be scoring 30+ goals this year but people often forget that a 30 goal season isn't a given in this era of the NHL. I feel that 28 is even a bit generous but I'm very optimistic about Semin this year and I think he will get at least 25 and be a big contributor at even strength.*
It should be a good year for Semin and I get the feeling that a lot of fans will be glad that Rutherford brought him aboard.
*If he plays an 82 game season, that is.
Stats courtesy of Behind The Net & Time On Ice