Last season was a disaster for Alex Semin.
Struggling with the recovery from wrist surgery performed in the summer of 2014, his health woes were compounded by a lower-body injury that had him out of the lineup for most of the month of December.
He was also left on the shelf by an unimpressed coaching staff on numerous occasions as his offensive production was not close to the 42 points he had achieved in 65 games in 2013-14, and miles off his point-per-game pace in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season that seemed to herald his return to stardom; a showing that earned the Russian winger a five-year, $35-million contract.
Being in and out of the lineup over the course of the season afforded very little linemate consistency for Semin, seeing the most time with Jeff Skinner at just 285 minutes of shared ice-time.
Despite the lack of opportunity to develop chemistry, his possession numbers were good last season. He spent most of year being above the level of his teammates on a Carolina Hurricanes team that finished sixth in five-versus-five shot-attempts-for percentage.
He had the advantage of the most offensive deployment on the team to achieve that success, but don't believe the claims that Semin is a one-dimensional player. Among 'Canes forwards to play at least 500 five-on-five minutes last season, he finished second behind only Jordan Staal in relative Corsi-against per 60 minutes when factoring that beneficial zonal deployment out.
Those possession stats never translated into offence for Semin (though he was able to score the goal-of-the-year candidate above), and a final tally of six goals and 13 assists in the 57 games he did suit up for was not the result the management staff expected of their $7-million man.
On June 30th, he was placed on waivers and the final five years of that hefty contract were bought out, allowing him to test the market.
Semin ended up signing with the Montreal Canadiens about a month into the free agency period, at a bargain price of $1.1 million; less than half the record amount the Hurricanes will pay him in each of the next six years.
At age 31, Semin will hope the offence he had enjoyed throughout his career will return.
Experiencing a full-season total of under 20 points for the first time in his entire NHL career, and his first sub-40-point season since his debut in 2003-04, Semin's offensive numbers are naturally projected to recover. The 1.53 points per 60 minutes works out to a little more than 30 five-on-five points over an 82-game season playing 15 even-strength minutes per game. Judging by his pre-season showing, that number is definitely achievable.
Playing with the two players with the least-explored offensive potential on the team — Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk — Semin's line has been the standout group so far in pre-season action.
If he can have his first healthy season since that promising lockout year, the offence should come easily, giving Galchenyuk a skilled player to setup with his playmaking talents, taking some of the offensive pressure off Max Pacioretty, and finally filling the winger slot that has been in need of an ungrade in the Canadiens' top six.