fortunately for the caps, they knew when to walk away

The Washington Capitals defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 Thursday night, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone who has been paying attention to hockey over the last couple of weeks.

While it can often be difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when a season turns for the better or worse, one seemingly innocent transaction has obviously changed everything for these two franchises.

Since March 25, when it was announced that forward Alexander Semin had signed a 5-year, $25 million extension with Carolina, the Hurricanes have gone 1-9 while being outscored 43 to 18.

Conversely, the Capitals have gone 7-1-1 since March 25 (including their current six-game winning streak), and they’re now the hottest team in hockey.

Coincidence? I think not.

Before Semin’s long-term deal was announced, Carolina was still in the hunt for the Southeast Division title with a 15-13-2 record, while the Capitals were mired in mediocrity at 15-16-1.

But since the day the Hurricanes front office had a change of heart and decided Semin was a player worth building around, they’ve suffered a catastrophic collapse while the Caps — obviously thrilled to be done with Good Sasha/Bad Sasha once and for all — are playing their best hockey of the season.

Still not convinced?

Look no further than the final moments of Thursday night’s win at the Verizon Center, when forward Troy Brouwer (who you might remember had a thing or two to say about Semin back when the enigmatic forward and the Capitals cut ties) gained control of the puck with 10 seconds left in a tightly-contested game.

The only defender in sight was Semin, who was a step or two behind. Brouwer hauled in the puck at center ice and skated towards Carolina’s open net while Semin began hacked and cross checking Brouwer repeatedly.

But because Semin was content to try and take a stick penalty rather than actually try and make a play on the puck, Brouwer continued en route to the open net and easily scored his second goal of the evening.

Of course, anyone who paid attention during Semin’s seven seasons in Washington knew how that would play out. Meanwhile, Hurricanes fans, I’m sure, were crossing their fingers and hoping one of their most talented players would come through when the game was on the line. And that’s when Semin is most effective — when you let your guard down and believe he can be a difference maker.

Truth is, he can be. Just not in the way you’re hoping for, Carolina fans.


  1. mostholy2
    April 12, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    I think this is a bit strong criticism for Semin. He was playing at an amazing pace on Carolina’s top line prior to a few weeks ago and at the time of his contract extension with Carolina. I was questioning if it was the right decision to have let him go, particularly since (at the time) we had a top-line with Hendricks as the LW forward. it seemed glaringly obvious to me at that time we needed better talent up-front. Little did I realize that MoJo would turn his game around getting healthy from a concussion that he was playing with at the beginning of the season and Laich (and Erat) being added to the line-ups.

    Carolina’s recent collapse I think has less to do with Semin and more to do with Cam Ward’s injury and shoddy defense. I’m happy the Caps did not commit a full 5-year/ $7 million-per-year contract to Semin, but to put the blame of Carolina’s slump on him and point that it validates the Capital’s organizational decision to let him walk away from the organization is a bit too harsh.

    Semin is an amazing talent. But with that talent comes a level of frustration from the fans when he is not achieving what is perceived as his full potential. From a $ perspective I agree that the Capitals are better off not to have committed the type of money to Semin that Carolina has and I believe that they will have difficulty in the coming years with the Cap coming down. But if money was not an issue, I would have loved to have seen what Adam Oats could have done with Semin, given how he has really seemed to turn OVI around.

  2. Scott
    April 15, 2013 at 6:01 am

    You can understand why players come and go. but for the Semin situation why didn’t we trade him? I can see the same thing this year with Roberio if we let him go. why not get something for these guys? daft pick’s ,prospects something ,that’s all I’m sayin.

  3. mostholy2
    April 16, 2013 at 11:57 am

    I think it’s tough to get trade value for someone who isn’t on contract for the next year. Most of these types of trades would occur before the trading deadline, that other teams get as “rentals” for a Cup or long playoff run. The Caps being in the bubble of getting into the playoffs (both last year and this), were not “sellers” at the trade deadline, thus made the decision not to turn the valued assests into any trade value before the deadline. After the season was over they had to either sign these Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA) or let them walk for nothing.

    The one exception to this from last year was Vokoun, who was traded in the off-season to the Penguins (a mistake in my opinion) for a 7th round draft pick. The Penguins were willing to give up a very low draft pick only for the ability to get first negotiating rights for Vokoun prior to the start of Free Agency to shore up the main perceived weakness of the team (goaltending). From that example you can see how trade value for an UFA drops significantly if you don’t trade them before the deadline.

    As for Ribiero, the Caps did not trade him before this year’s deadline, so are again left in the same situation as they were with Semin. Either sign him or let him go for nothing (or next to nothing).

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