Alex Semin or Marian Hossa?

That was a question posed recently forum member “Iwanttoknow”.  Being the helpful sort I figured I could lend him a hand, Cage Match style!


The first thing to point out with regard to this matchup is that Hossa, at 33 years old, is a full five years older than the 28-year-old Semin so age will most certainly be a factor. However, if we take a closer look at Hossa we may find that age is no issue so long as we avoid looking too far into the future (ie. beyond three or four years). As fantasy hockey GMs we should always try to win ASAP because very few leagues actually last for that long and well winning is just simply better than losing. If that means taking a few old dudes on your roster of younger and “sexier” players then so be it. Just ask anyone who’s had Teemu Selanne in their pool these past couple of years if they regretted it. Old can still be good but does Hossa qualify.

I think he does. For one, Hossa is a player with tremendous hockey sense. As we have seen, players with tremendous hockey sense can age very well in this league. Look at the likes of Selanne, Martin St. Louis, Ray Whitney and even Jaromir Jagr. Players can be highly productive in this league well past 30 and even well past 35. Hossa has the skating mechanics and hockey sense that he should be able to be productive as long as he remains healthy. That latter aspect has been an issue for him having missed 17 games in 2010-11 and 25 the year previous but maybe we should chalk that up to three straight seasons of going to the Stanley Cup Final. The NHL Playoffs take an absolute toll on players and one cannot imagine how banged up Hossa must have been. After bowing out in the first round in the 2011 playoffs Hossa went on to skate in 81 games last season so he proved he was not totally broken and then this happened.

You want to be able to write off Hossa’s injuries given the healthy and productive year he had last year but when you consider that concussion all bets are off. And it’s a shame since Hossa has remained quite productive when healthy scoring at a 74.7 point pace over the past three seasons in Chicago. That Hossa plays for Chicago and is contractually bound there until the next ice age is also a real plus. Chicago is an offensive juggernaut having ranked in the top five in scoring each of the past four seasons and has a bright future ahead of it with one of the league’s highest ranked farm systems.

There is even an argument to be made that a healthy Hossa could improve on his production from the past few seasons and this is because of the Blackhawks power play. Despite boasting one of the most productive offenses in the league the Blackhawks have had a very inconsistent power play these past few seasons bouncing from 16th in 2009-10 to 4th in 2010-11 down to 26th last season. Hossa still managed nine power play goals and 20 power play points last season despite Chicago’s abysmal power play. When they were rolling in 2010-11, however, Hossa managed eight PPG and 19 PPP in just 65 games and while battling injury. If Hossa can stay healthy and the power play can get rolling then we could be looking at a return to the 80+ point range for Hossa.

Oh and then there is the fact that two of the Central Division’s best defensemen are now departed. With Nicklas Lidstrom retiring and Ryan Suter departing for Minnesota life just got easier for the Blackhawks in what was the NHL’s toughest division last season. Considering how many games the Blackhawks play each season against the Red Wings and Predators the absence of those two stalwarts could easily cause a five-point swing for Hossa. Now he simply needs to stay healthy.

For Semin the story is similar: must stay healthy. In fact, Semin has yet to play a full 82-game schedule in his entire career. He is as Band-Aid Boy as they come despite only ranking as a “trainee” on Dobber’s list. You can book Semin to miss at least five games next season and probably a few more. Given that Semin has played only 12 more games than Hossa over the past three seasons and that Semin never plays a full season there is a real argument that this is a coin flip but then we have to remember this once again and thus favour Semin, even if we do so begrudgingly.

What can Semin do if healthy? Well his move to Carolina is seemingly a good one. The following chart shows Semin’s total ice time and along with his power play time from the past four seasons:

Ice Time

PP Time













Each and every year Semin’s role diminished so a fresh start seems a logical place to start. Semin’s role was so diminished last season that one might go so far as to write it off entirely. There is more evidence to giving Semin the benefit of the doubt for last season’s dismal performance. Along with seeing a reduced role, Semin also shot the puck at the lowest frequency since his rookie season, firing below three shots on goal per game for just the second time since the Lockout. Furthermore, Semin was extremely unlucky when his shots were on target scoring on just 11.5%, once again a career low if excluding his rookie campaign. Semin a career 14.1% shooter should rebound.

Of course, he may not. As mentioned in last week’s discussion of Ovechkin, goal-scorers typically peak around 25 years old. If that’s the case then, even at 28, Semin may be in decline. I wouldn’t go too far in pegging Semin as “in decline” as his shot remains one of the most lethal in the game but with motivation already an issue for Semin one must wonder how willing he will be to do the dirty work necessary to really boost goal totals. Consider Semin “on notice.” One more season of seriously depreciated goal scoring and we can consider him “in decline.”

What Semin may lack in initiative, he more than makes up in fit. For the Hurricanes there is arguably no better fit than Semin, a right-handed shooter with top six skills. The Hurricanes are loaded with left-handed shooters so Semin will become a natural fit on the power play, which typically featured only one righty; either Justin Faulk or Jamie McBain playing the point. Last season the Hurricanes’ power play was somewhat of a mess given all the injuries to key players along with a mid-season coaching change. Ultimately the Hurricanes’ power play finished 20th in the league but in reality it was much better. Following the hiring of Kirk Muller as head coach, the Hurricanes power play was successful 18.7% of the time, which would have been good for 7th in the league if achieved for the whole season. Semin could make it even better.

Imagine for a second the Hurricanes’ top power play unit with four forwards and one defenseman, centering around Jeff Skinner’s talents on the right half-wall. While Skinner is no doubt a talented sniper his hockey sense makes him the ideal player to be predominant puck-handler on the power play. He could have Eric Staal playing on the right doorstep with either Jordan Staal or Tuomo Ruutu setting up squarely in front of the net. One of Justin Faulk or Jamie McBain, with their right-handed shots making them ideal targets for one-timers as well as outlet passes, would man the point and Semin could setup for one-timers if Skinner throws a cross ice pass. That final option is one that the Hurricanes never had before and is one that could open things up for the team even further. Whether or not that is the exact arrangement of the Hurricanes’ power play it is almost sure to feature Semin because of his wicked release.  

Even more than being a good fit for the power play, Semin will benefit from arriving in Carolina because of the sheer volume of power plays the Hurricanes receive. The Hurricanes have received the most power play opportunities of any team since the NHL lockout finishing 3rd, 2nd, 1st, 1st, 1st, and 1st before dropping to 5th in man-advantages last season. A great deal of credit for this should go to Tuomo Ruutu who has ranked in the top 20 in penalties drawn per 60 minutes in each of the last three seasons (courtesy of but perhaps even more importantly to Jeff Skinner who has led the league in penalties drawn per 60 minutes in each of the past two seasons (also his only two seasons in the league so as an aside, anyone questioning Skinner’s new contract may want to consider just how valuable he is).

Where Semin fits into the Hurricanes’ lineup remains a mystery. Will the team form a super-line with both Staals and Semin? Will they break the three up in some combination? I’m not sure that really matters. Between the Staal brothers, Skinner, Ruutu and Jokinen there is more than enough top six talent to spread around so the difference between first and second line minutes will be minimal. What’s important is Semin gets power play time and that is something he is assured of.

Of course, as much as Semin appears to be a fit on paper there is no telling how things will actually work out. Semin is headed to a new city, with a new team that features no Russian players. There may be chemistry and comfort issues in play for Semin. There is also the argument that Semin finally being discarded by the Capitals and playing on a one-year deal will be the most motivated in his career. While that is possible, I am skeptical. Semin has posted back-to-back dismal seasons while playing on one-year contracts. This doesn’t seem to be a motivating factor. In fact, I’d argue that since Semin knows (or should know) that he can have all the financial security he wants playing in Russia that contract status is not a huge motivator. He seemingly wants to be an NHL player but wants to be compensated like a star to maintain “star status.” There is nothing wrong with that per say, it simply means that with Semin what you see is what you get. Nothing external is going to factor into his play, meaning that when things are going well he will look good and when they aren’t he won’t.

Semin is a player I still consider a threat to score a goal every two games and a point every game. In Carolina he will have every opportunity to accomplish both when consider both the quality of teammates and the significant amount of power play time he will receive. That puts Semin on par with Hossa in scoring ability and since we already decided that Torres’ brain-rattler on Hossa gives Semin a slight edge in health we have to score this one for Semin overall.

The problem is that I hate this decision. Siding with Semin means choosing the younger player and the player headed for greener pastures. These are the reasons most would side with him but I think they are faulty reasons. If not for that concussion I’d be picking Hossa. This is because I trust Hossa’s on-ice game to age better. Hossa has always possessed the playmaking ability such that once his goal-scoring went in decline he was able to supplement it with assists. Can Semin make the same adjustment?

Semin has never shown himself to be much of a consistent playmaker. If his goal-scoring is truly in-decline then we are probably looking at Semin who never again challenges for 40 goals or a point per game pace. He can still be an effective player but not so much of a star. I’d rather have a guy I know is a star. Unfortunately I simply cannot reconcile Hossa’s concussion. I just cannot call the injury risk for both Semin and Hossa equal after the severity of the concussion Hossa received. Semin wins, now you know.


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Comments (3)add comment

danouille said:

... Wow, I didn't expect an answer like this when I wrote the post on the forum. It's has been very usefull.

With all the unknowns, it was difficult to make a decision in this matter ... concussion of Hossa, the risk of KHL for Semin and the ups and downs of their production.
August 16, 2012
Votes: +0

Katharsis said:

... Really solid read on a tough decision to make -- I'd say this is your best Cage match article so far.
August 16, 2012
Votes: +0

Hellrider said:

... nicely done, I will take Hossa anyday
August 16, 2012
Votes: +0
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