Goodbye, Alex Semin

Our site is named for Alex Ovechkin, but our soul belongs to Alex Semin.

For nearly a decade we’ve watched rapturously as Alex Semin did his thing. 200+ goals, 32 of them game-winners: the man they call Sasha has been an exemplar of hockey skill in Washington all along. His finesse puts him in company with some of the best ever to play the game. His ability to send a puck careening impossibly to a distant teammates should be studied at NASA. He’s a stoic pro, like The Shootist or maybe Batman. Yeah, let’s go with Batman. That’s cooler.

But now he’s leaving. After seven seasons with the Washington Capitals, Alex Semin will test free agency this Sunday. Where he ends up is anyone’s guess; all we know for sure is that we’ll miss him.

We’ll miss the 54 points he put up this season and the possession dominance he brought along with him, but mostly we’ll just miss Weird Old Sasha Minor: the cigarette-smoking, English-non-speaking, offensive-zone-penalty-committing, bongo-playing lug we all learned to love.

Pugnacity. (Photo credit: Clydeorama)

Enigmatic. That’s the watchword. Here, let me Google that for you. Because he’s an odd duck and because he doesn’t do a lot of press, Semin got labeled enigmatic. You can chalk some of that up to xenophobia, but we have to admit Semin is sort of an inscrutable character.

Still, he’s a Russian barbarian playing a Canadian sport, he’s been an explosive scorer on a scrappy team in an otherwise rigid league, and he’s a transgressor of enough hockey platitudes to seem insouciant. Some people don’t like that, so they call him names.

Some say Alex Semin is aloof, uninterested in the game around him. Maybe that’s true, but I remember him as the player who always sat on the boards during the shootout, eager to be the first guy to tackle-hug his goalie after the win. I remember the guy who cared enough to let his emotions spur him to penalty some 200+ times. I remember the guy who blocked that shot that one time. For every myth disseminated (heh) about Sasha, I’ll give you two anecdotes that say the opposite.

And I’ll be damned if that doesn’t just make him even more enigmatic.

Mental acuity.

I suppose we’re all forming the definitive consensus of who Alex Semin is right now. A decade from today, you’re going to run into a Caps fan and he is going to say some variation of this: He could have been the best player in the league if he just gave a damn. Too many nights he just didn’t care.

The party line is that Semin is a vanisher. He’d figuratively disappear for a portion of the season and feign injury to disappear literally for another. Semin’s point production after the quarterfinal round of the playoffs was definitively blech, so the party line there is valid. But RMNB alum Neil Greenberg dispatched much of the scoring myth last year with his article, “Is Alex Semin a Streaky Shooter?” In that piece, Neil showed us that what may look like a dry spell is often just an artifact of shooting percentage.

Dedication.

Still, we have to admit that Semin’s offensive productive declined in the last two seasons, but there are good reasons for that. Semin will be 28 this season, way past what are traditionally players’ most productive ages. And in these last few years, the Capitals have transformed from a goal-addicted fiend of a hockey team into something more meek and precious, a team that saw a one-goal lead as an endgame. Semin’s role on that team saw him parted from his tovarisch Alex Ovechkin and instead grouped him with less productive players like Jason Chimera and Marcus Johansson. All of this is to say: No duh, his numbers dropped off. What’s your point?

And despite all that perfectly reasonable stuff, Alex Semin was still perhaps the Capitals’ best player this season.

Whaaa–?

No, really. Among players with more than 20 games played, no one saw a bigger percentage of scoring chances go towards the enemy net than Semin. Plainly said: Semin is a great possession player. It’s a true loss for the Capitals to see him go.

Unless you’re a penalty killer. Alex Semin took way too many penalties. He wielded the hard-won reputation of an irritable imp, a guy a little too eager to go hooking and tripping when frustrated. At the beginning of ’11-’12, Semin’s stick penalties came early, often, and way too far from his own team’s net. But under the kindly tutelage of Dale Hunter, Sasha mellowed as the season wore on.

In addition to already being a great player on the puck, Semin may have become a disciplined player this year. Whoever inherits Alex Semin just might reap what Dale Hunter sowed. Those lucky bastards.

Over time, statistics will fade from memory. Percentages and ratios will matter less. We’ll be left with the quirks, the stories, and the personality (or absence of personality) that made Alex Semin such an indelible piece of the Capitals.

Fortitude.

The missing season, the bongo-drum fight, the headhunting crosscheck, the mile-long stretch pass that became a goal, the three-dozen mile-long stretch passes that became turnovers, seven or so cumulative hours spent in the Sasha box, various jewelry incidents– that’s the good stuff right there. We’ll be spending some time waxing nostalgic before Semin’s contract lapses at noon on Sunday, so don’t be a stranger to RMNB this weekend.

But yeah: it’s time to say goodbye to Alex Semin.

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  • FloridaCap

    Damn you, GMGM. :'(

  • http://twitter.com/lovisa28 Lovisa Munter

    This made me cry.

  • serpent

    It doesn’t matter onw bloody bit who gets Sasha. He will ALWAYS be our Sasha.

  • PuckBuddys

    It feels lonely already. PuckBuddys has sadz.

  • http://www.calacirian.org sonja n a

    I am officially in several stages of grief … all at the same time. This is terrible.

  • Hale

    I haven’t read it yet, and I’ve already started to cry. THIS is the bitter disappointment! Always in my heart, Sasha!

  • Michelle

    I will miss things like this. http://29.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lh5hktBDaI1qfverto1_500.jpg

    Very moving tribute, RMNB!

  • Ovechkin

    We’ll miss you Semin :'(

  • JGP

    I know there’s like a 1% chance of this happening, but I can’t help but think there’s a chance he’s back. He likes it here, he likes his teammates, etc. I think only Detroit is a place he’d rather be. Probably wrong, but I wouldn’t be as shocked as some others.

  • http://twitter.com/VeggieTart Danielle

    Damn Sasha’s idiot agent.

  • ORazor

    That video was awesome. We will miss him!

  • TeamSemin

    So so so sad. He is truly a great player and will find respect and a larger role on another team UNFORTUNATELY!! Selfishly I want him here but he is right to seek more. I will be a fan of his ALWAYS!!

  • Chris

    Then there was that time he went into the corner and hit a player to get the puck, instead of letting the opponent retrieve it first… so he could try and take it away.

  • Dark Stranger

    In many ways, I feel as you, Peter. While I was a Caps fan nearly from the beginning, this group of Caps captured my heart like no other, especially Semin & Ovi who are about the age of my first born. Ovi is so like an old friend of mine that I met from my first job who was also born in mid-September and was also named Alexander. This particular friend was one I had a long and happy association with. Semin is so like my first born in many ways, in that people feel she could have been better and opinions so polarized; etc. And, guess what kid is most like me — my first born. And now I see Sasha living my life when I was 28. His situation on the Caps was like mine. I was the longest tenured person in the job and pretty talented and wanted a better role, they wouldn’t give it to me and gave this song and dance about how temperamental I was, so I left. (I eventually went to work for my old friend, Alexander, and he actually had an introverted friend who was like Semin.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jilrene Jill Harwood Wilson

    I’m not surprised, based on the lack of comments from GMGM. I am very sad. Sasha IS a great player. His absence will be obvious. No way the Caps can find an equivalent on the open market.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=11313646 Kevin Lasnier

    I will never forget the mach 4.3 slapshot against lundqvist from like 20ft during the playoffs. My favorite sasha moment.

  • katzistan

    Not fair. Sasha was meant to be a Capital.

  • http://www.facebook.com/squowl Sarah Von Keller Ramsey

    Can we start some kind of fundraiser to chip into his salary!!?? We can totally sell like 6 million boxes of Girl Scout cookies!!

  • Hale

    Ok, I got through it, but with blurry vision. Peter, your song was inspired & best part. I’m not nearly that talented in any way, so have to settle on popular music.

    This is how I feel about Sasha: #$%*n’ Perfect http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdW5rei_5gI
    But, I was hoping to post this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34nrWcUglVg What could be more perfect than Bon Jovi performing “Hallelujah?”
    Instead I am left with these: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BagR5i3kHo&feature=results_main&playnext=1&list=PL5D9264CFCD4F4FCB
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yq60_Wxx5T0

    Caps will never be the same to me.

  • Pingback: RMNB’s Favorite Memories of Alex Semin

  • KillerBanana

    Great tribute! One of my favorite things is watching Sasha during warm -ups before a game. He takes some shots and then takes a knee in the middle of everything to stretch. It looks like slo-mo in an ’80’s Russian mafia flick!

  • scott

    64 PIM per year is going to be is going to be very hard to replace. With the salary they are going to save on not resigning him they can sign 3-4. GM tends not to discuss contract matters publicly anyways, if he is going to resign a player or not.

  • GoodLoki28

    I’ve cried too much about this. All I can do now is hope he comes to Detroit.

  • Darla Doxstater

    “Whoever inherits Alex Semin just might reap what Dale Hunter sewed.”
    Sew = stitch. Sow = plant seeds.

  • tonyc

    really hope he stays but some part of me wants him to end up in pit playing with an elite center so that he can give the canadian media the biggest “fuck you” ever.

  • longtimehockeyfan

    Great tribute to a great player. I am still in denial. Sasha has been my favorite player for years. Good luck to you, Sasha!!

  • RoadWarrior

    All I can say is, it sucks. The Caps had enough cap space (pun unintended), and Oates would most likely have been the right coach for Sasha to shine. Oh well, c’est la vie…