Penguins Need More from Martin – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Need More from Martin

Through the first 17 games of the season Paul Martin has, quite literally, served as the Penguins’ defensive anchor. He’s registered a team-worst plus/minus rating of minus-11—and it’s sinking fast. On a club packed with overachievers Martin sticks out like a sore thumb, for all the wrong reasons.

This could hardly be what Pens general manager Ray Shero envisioned when he inked Martin to a lucrative free-agent deal during the summer of 2010. Indeed, when the smooth-skating defenseman arrived in the ‘Burgh, many regarded him as a poor man’s version of another former Devil, Scott Niedermayer.

Thus far, the Pens have gotten a pale imitation. After a fine start in 2010-11 (seven points in his first seven games), the Minneapolis native’s output has been positively pedestrian (two goals and 20 points) over his last 87 games.

Worse yet, the normally reliable rearguard’s been prone to coughing up the puck of late, along with some poor decision-making. During a 5-3 loss to Carolina on Saturday he was caught up ice on the final two Hurricanes goals as a result of ill-timed pinches.

Martin’s struggles in the Steel City are puzzling. There’s no denying the 30 year old has the tools to be a top-notch defender. A fluid, nimble skater, Martin possesses tremendous closing speed, which enables him to cut off opposing puck carriers with relative ease. Smart and heady, he generally makes intelligent reads and handles the puck well. While hardly a bruiser, the 6’1”, 200-pounder takes the body effectively when the situation calls for it. The only thing missing from his arsenal is a howitzer of a shot. However, there are far too many nights when No. 7 doesn’t measure up to the sum of his abilities.

Maybe it’s a confidence issue. Or perhaps he misses his regular partner, Zbynek Michalek, who’s been out since October 22 with a broken finger.

Although it’s counterintuitive given his skill set, it’s possible the likeable redhead is more comfortable playing within the confines of a structured system like New Jersey’s.  Coach Dan Bylsma’s full-steam-ahead approach—while highly effective—places extra demands on the defense. This might explain, in part, why Martin appears to be out of sync at times.

Whatever the reasons, the Pens need Martin to start earning his keep. Given the black-and-gold’s organizational depth on defense, if he doesn’t find his game—and soon—look for Shero to dangle him at the trade deadline.

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*Be sure to check out Rick Buker’s books,
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  1. 55 on point's Gravatar 55 on point
    November 16, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    When they were winning all those one goal games last year after Crosby and Malkin were out, no one was complaining about Martin. He carried himself well through that stretch as did the defense as a whole. What I’m watching is a defense that hasn’t consistently hit that stride this season and I’m not ready to lay anything at Martin’s feet just yet. Letang hasn’t been all that responsible with the puck at times either. Anyone catch that pass from in front of the net last night? That’s one of several I’m recalling so far this year. And he’s only plus 2 — not far from the negative side either. Ready to dump him, too? And, really, plus/minus is such a dumb stat. It’s a blame stat. It isn’t a measure of anyone’s value as a player, but only denotes their fortune, or misfortune, of being on the ice when somebody scores a goal. The more time you’re on the ice the more your plus/minus is going to fluctuate. It probably should strictly be a team stat instead of a player stat. That would lay the blame closer to where it belongs. It’s a team sport. Martin’s okay. Just a slow start.

  2. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    November 14, 2011 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Very good points, Techno Rabbit. As you mentioned, Martin is logging a ton of ice time–perhaps he’s not cut out for such a heavy workload. And I’m not sure he and Letang make a good pairing. It might be better to try Martin with a more stay-at-home type like Engelland, who’s emerged as a pretty solid defenseman. Still, with his skill set, I was expecting more from Martin. He had two straight seasons in Jersey where he had 30+ points and was over plus-20. He hasn’t come close to performing like that for the Pens. (PS–Sorry these aren’t coming up as replies to your comments. The “reply to” button isn’t showing up on my browser.)

  3. Techno Rabbit's Gravatar Techno Rabbit
    November 13, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    I don’t see the Pens trading away Martin while two of our starters are out or even at deadline. Martin has logged the most time in on the #1 penalty kill in the NHL, in fact Martin has logged 10% more time than the next closest Penguin on PK’s. Does Martin not fit in great in a Bylsma tempo game? It would seem that the large amount of ice time he is getting is really hurting him in the back to back games. Letang who is 6 years younger than Martin is the only player on the Pens roster to log more ice time per game. Letang is logging the most time on the powerplay, which, let’s face it is easier work than the penatly kill.

    They brought Martin in as a work horse, but it’s possible the problem is he’s overworked.

  4. November 13, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    We mis Z!!! When Strait is back healthy – we can “Straiten” out Mr. Martin.

  5. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    November 13, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Great comments, Conrad. You hit the nail right on the head. Unfortunately, moving Martin (and his $5 million a year contract) might be easier said than done. Perhaps a team with cap space will come a knockin’ …

  6. Conrad Dingleberry's Gravatar Conrad Dingleberry
    November 13, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Paul Martin is a good player but I just don’t think that his style fits our system. He excels in a defensive minded system. I understand that it takes time to adjust but its been over a year and there has been more of a decline in productivity than a progression. I support a trade option


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