November 15, 2010
Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
In case you couldn't tell by the gaudy point totals and series of casually dominant offensive performances: Alex Semin is in a contract year.
Through 18 games he's got 13 goals and 10 assists, and that's very good. He's currently fourth in the league in scoring and second in goals, which is also very good.
Come this offseason, unless Semin shows a huge willingness to take a hometown discount, someone is going to pay him a lot of money.
And they're going to have no idea what they're getting.
(Coming Up: Sean Avery(notes) antics tick off Oilers; to catch a bathroom vandal in Boston; Niklas Hjalmarsson(notes), The Minus Man; Andrei Markov(notes) could miss months; Mark Cuban is not buying the Stars no matter how many times you want to report it; in defense of Ilya Kovalchuk(notes); Marc-Andre Fleury(notes) heating up; hat tricks aplenty; the Bulin Wall crumbles; and an absolutely wild Sabres/Penguins trade proposal.)
The current scuttlebutt is that Washington may end up being unwilling -- or, perhaps more accurately, unable -- to front Semin the money he'd likely command on the open market, since they're already paying Alex Ovechkin(notes), Nicklas Backstrom(notes) and Mike Green(notes) about $21.5 million combined per season.
Semin currently makes $6 million, and, given the season he's had to date, he'll likely be able to demand a significant pay raise. Earlier this week The Hockey News said he could pull down $8 million, and I'd buy that number for a 40-goal scorer who's scored better than a point a game for the last two seasons, even if both were abbreviated by injury.
The problem is an obvious one, though. Semin produces big-time points. But so do Ovechkin and Backstrom and Green. And you have to wonder at what point his offense becomes extricable from that of those around him. Certainly he's exhibited mountains of skill at times, but to the person who perhaps doesn't watch every Caps game, what is your indelible Alex Semin Memory? A guess: the Marc Staal "fight."
More problematic, and the complaint often echoed when discussing Semin's value, is that he seems to disappear in the playoffs.
You've probably heard that he only had two points in the Habs' one-and-done seven-game gong show against Montreal, both of which Ovechkin was on the ice for. But the year before that he had 14 points in 14 games and in 2007-08 he had eight in seven, right? Well, one or both of Ovechkin and Backstrom were on the ice for all but one of those.
The potential issue is that Semin might run into a bit of a down market, since teams may be reticent to open the vault for an enigmatic and often frustrating Russian star of indeterminate quality when the postseason rolls around. Plus there just aren't a lot of teams that can throw around $8 million a year like it's no big deal.
The Caps might end up being the one that overpays for him anyway. After all, it's been said in a couple places that the salary cap could go up by $3-4 million next season. You gotta think Semin tests the market a little bit. And if he comes back with his tail between his legs, the Caps could have him for the bargain basement price of $7 million.
They know for sure what they're getting: one of the best complimentary players in the world.
And that's it.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: Randy Carlyle says the Ducks have an identity finally. They forecheck and they get on the puck. And then later in the article it also says they blow leads with stunning regularity. That second part is not an identity you want, I think.
Atlanta Thrashers: Toby Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien(notes) are two defensemen with a combined 32 points in 18 games. Highest point total by two D-men on one team in the league. And yet they're still a combined minus-4.
Calgary Flames: Brent Sutter was grumpy after Calgary dropped both games of a road back-to-back at Phoenix and San Jose. He also conducted a closed-door meeting with the team. Said he, "There were mental mistakes." I'll say. I mean, who signs Olli Jokinen(notes) again, or keeps playing Steve Staios(notes), or... "Mistakes that were made due to a lack of intelligence when playing the game tonight." Oh THAT'S what you were talking about? Yeah, sure then.
Carolina Hurricanes: Raleigh News and Observer Chip Alexander said on Twitter, "Feeling in locker room: effort was there but Canes have to find way to manage puck better, especially against good teams." Carolina's goaltenders gave up seven on 33 shots. I shudder to think what it would have looked like had the effort not been there. Would Sergei Samsonov(notes) have gotten decapitated?
Columbus Blue Jackets: For some reason, people seemed to think the 8-1 bludgeoning the Jackets dropped on St. Louis earlier this week was in some way indicative that Columbus was about to break out, rather than a statistical anomaly. Then they went and got clowned by the Avs and everyone seems resigned to accepting that yes, Columbus does indeed kind of suck.
Florida Panthers: "Standings Watch: Can the Panthers be out of the league basement by Christmas?" Come up with a better headline for an article. I dare you.
Nashville Predators: Cal O'Reilly(notes) is having a good season as the Preds' top center. He leads the team in points with 12 in 14 games. Given that the team's top scorer usually finishes with about 65, you gotta think that's a solid pace.
New Jersey Devils: Okay no one's going to argue that the Devils, or Ilya Kovalchuk, have been good this season. So why is everyone laughing up their sleeves like the entirety of this 15-year contract is doomed to failure 1.2 percent of the way through the deal? Did I miss a memo about sample size no longer mattering? The guy's scored 50 goals twice! Christ, I hate this garbage.
New York Islanders: That team LA shelled to win its eighth straight home game? The Islanders. Losers of their last 10. It didn't help that, with Jack Hillen(notes) suffering from the flu, and no extra defensemen on the four-game road trip, the Isles started five D and 13 forwards.
New York Rangers: Suspensions gotta be coming after this brawl touched off by, who else, Sean Avery.
Ottawa Senators: Oh hey the Sens beat Tim Thomas(notes) for the first time in what feels like forever, so take that Timmy this is all your fault. All your fault that you made 31 saves on 33 shots and your team got shut out by Brian Elliot. What are you an idiot or something Tim Thomas?
Philadelphia Flyers: Don't look now guys but the Philadelphia Flyers are the best team in this or any other season. Never mind that they've played the 27th-hardest schedule in the league through 15 games, and since their run of eight wins in nine games started, they played one team that was above .500 at the time. They are an unstoppable juggernaut.
San Jose Sharks: Joe Pavelski(notes) was having a bit of trouble getting on the scoresheet early in the year. Three goals on his first 60 shots. Luckily, San Jose played Calgary on Saturday, so he came away with a goal and two assists. Playing the Flames will help anyone look good.
Vancouver Canucks: That Christian Ehrhoff(notes) contract extension is imminent. And he's going to cash in. That's right, we will soon live in a world in which Christian Ehrhoff makes north of $4 million a year.
Gold Star Award
Minus of the Weekend
I know this encompasses more than just the weekend, but in his last 127:19, Nikolai Khabibulin has allowed 18 goals on 73 shots. A .753 save percentage. An 8.48 GAA.
And Tom Renney gave him three starts this week. What in the hell is that all about? But hey, it's not all bad news. He's only got two more years after this one, at $3.75 million, on his current deal. Good one, Tambellini.
Play of the Weekend
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
User thrillermiller89 wants to get Sid Crosby a competent wing.
By the way, Buffalo takes on salary to make this deal.
And now Sonic Youth is in my cooler. Get out of there, you kids!