Paul Martin signed into a lose, lose situation with Penguins fans – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Paul Martin signed into a lose, lose situation with Penguins fans

There is a certain type of Pittsburgh Penguins fan that a few of us on PenguinPoop that have followed the Pens since the ’70’s discuss all the time.  You probably are more familiar with the Steelers version of the fan, the ones that always think the backup QB is the one that should be playing.

When Paul Martin, a shut down defenseman who doesn’t score and doesn’t throw big checks was signed to a $5 million dollar per year contract at the opening free agency a year and a half ago he was basically set up for failure.  Well, failure with these particular fans that is.


Luckily for Martin, when he started the fans already had a most hated player of the moment and that was Alex Goligoski.  Goligoski couldn’t win.  He had the best defensive +/- in all the NHL and was scoring like crazy, well, like crazy for a defenseman with a $1.5 million dollar contract, but once fans had a name and a target and that’s all they needed.

Martin’s luck ran out the day the Penguins traded Alex Goligoski to Dallas for James Neal.  It wasn’t simply the fact that the fans no longer had their “whipping boy”, the Penguins also were able to get a quality winger for Goligoski.  If they got that for Goligoski imagine how good of a winger you could get with Martin’s $5 million a year salary just kept dancing through these people’s heads like sugar plums.

The only thing that saved Martin last year was that these fans stopped paying attention to the Penguins because both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were out with injuries.

Bring on the 2011/2012 season and these particular Penguins fans finally found the crack in the armor they were searching for, Martin who was supposed to be a great shut down defenseman doesn’t only have a plus/minus in the negative numbers, it’s the worst on the team. Target acquired.


Part two, or The picking apart of Paul Martin has worked it’s way up from the minor leagues into the pro’s. (This is the part where I stick up for Martin. If your having trouble continuing, you may be the fan I was talking about above)

Pittsburgh journalists and talk show hosts who found listeners and readers slowly tired of the Sidney Crosby skated today and then drank some water talk have found new hope for readership and callers in the “Paul Martin needs to go” crowd.

In the chat transcript of Dejan Kovacevic of the Trib-Review, Dejan said “It’s a constant struggle for Martin, positionally, with the puck and otherwise.  The coaches see it, too, trust me.”

I’m sorry, last years MVP coach Dan Bylsma does NOT see it, or Bylsma really must struggle with understanding how to utilize a so called struggling defenseman.

Martin who missed 6 games to a lower body injury has played more minutes than every other Penguins player this year.  Even lately, the last two games Martin leads the entire team in playing time.  Either Bylsma doesn’t know how to coach or he isn’t as down on Martin’s play as Dejan would have you think.

Martin is the guy coach Bylsma places on the ice against the best players in the league and for what it’s worth, Martin leads the Penguins defensive core in takeaways. Paul Martin is a big part of the reason the Penguins have the second least amount of shots against them per game in the NHL and you can sit comfortably watching the Penguins kill off penalties to the tune of third best penalty kill in the NHL.

Paul Martin does have the teams worst plus/minus at -10.  Minus four of which can be attributed to Sundays game against Buffalo, a game that saw Martin on the ice for two easy goals against goalie Brent Johnson who was pulled early again.  Even though it was the Pens second game in as many days, Martin once again got the biggest load of ice time, five and a half minutes more than Kris Letang who was also a -4 for the game.

Confidence is something that can make or break a defenseman in the NHL and Martin has been one to admit that perhaps all this talk brings down his game “I’m at my best when I’m just playin’ and skating and not getting too worried about what people are saying” Martin said.

Night after night when Martin goes out and does his thankless job against the best in the league and the fans rip him apart on their way out of a tied game with five minutes left.  Keep in mind.  Paul Martin was coveted by many teams and could have went anywhere, he chose to sign with the Penguins.  He has a limited no trade clause in his contract and probably isn’t going anywhere for a good while,  so destroying his confidence is only going to hurt the team.

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  1. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    February 26, 2012 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    A really creative, clever and nicely written piece, Phil.

    Count me among those who’ve been perplexed by Martin’s play. Aside from lacking a big shot, he’s got all the tools. He’s smart, can skate like the wind, and passes and handles the puck well. I really thought he’d blossom into an All-Star in Pittsburgh.

    That’s why I was so surprised when he got off to such a poor start. He started to come on through December and January. But in the first four or five games after the All-Star break I thought he was downright atrocious. He seems to have regained his form after he and Zbynek Michalek were split up.

    I’m not sure why Martin’s struggled so at times. With so much emphasis on the attack, playing Dan Bylsma’s up-tempo game no doubt puts an extra burden on the defense to cover holes and gaps, although Martin certainly has the smarts and the speed to do it. Having spent his early years in New Jersey, perhaps he’s more comfortable playing in a structured system. Martin Brodeur tends to freeze the puck and control the tempo more than Marc-Andre Fleury, who tends to keep the puck in play.

    Then again, maybe he and Michalek just weren’t a good pairing. Z’s pretty unorthodox, and perhaps Martin needs a partner he can read better. They’ve both improved since being split up.

  2. February 25, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    I’m glad you took this on, Krundle. I feel like I’m constantly defending Martin. The only thing that I would say is that when we signed Martin and Michalek, I think that it was expected that Michalek would come in as the shut down guy. Martin was expected to have an offensive upside and brought in to help fill some of the void left by Gonchar, especially on the power play. Even with the Devils, he was able to show some of that some of that ability and it was thought that he would certainly excel here in a system that didn’t stifle their defensemen.

    People seem to forget that Martin had a great season last year. And, they never talk about the good games or great plays he makes this season. Typical when a player is struggling. And, like most defensemen, he will not get the attention deserved when playing well and quietly going about his game, but crucified for mistakes.

    When the trade deadline day came and went without a new contract for Gonchar in 2010, it became pretty obvious that we would be shopping for someone to fill his role and help out on the power play come July 1st. I know that Martin became number one on my Free Agency wish list based on watching him play in New Jersey. Watching him last season, and even some this season, you can see how well he can run the PP. He can skate and is not afraid to take the puck in deep while being able to quickly back to the point. But the biggest part of the game is the little things he does, as with many players on this team which is the key to its success. Blocking shots, battles on the boards, screening, etc. He may not have a big shot, but I expect him to get his offensive touch back with his confidence as well. In the meantime, he may not be having the best of seasons, but I’m not ready to hang him out to dry…maybe because I watch for the little things though.

    If you’re going to blame him for give aways and odd man rushes, then spread the wealth…our defense as a whole is not what it was when it indestructable last season and there’s blame to be placed on everyone. And, as Krundle points out, it probably shouldn’t start with the guy who is asked to play more minutes than anyone else, often against some of the best players in the league.

  3. Mike's Gravatar Mike
    February 25, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    great game by martin

  4. February 25, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    blocked shot on net is not a turnover

  5. February 25, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Perfect timing. St. Louis break-away on Martin turn-over. $5M for an older Goligoski.

  6. February 25, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Nonsense, Martin has not played well at all this year. The same could be said of most of the D. Too many odd man breaks and mishandled pucks in the neutral zone.

  7. February 25, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Wow this article is way off base. Martin was split up with his partner Michalek and put onto the 3rd pairing so yes Bylsma did see how his play had slipped. He was making too many bad mistakes and mental errors. The ONLY reason he was put back onto the top pairing was because Orpik was out with injury and Letang is a player who makes his team mates better. The ONLY reason he has played the most minutes of any Penguin is because of injuries. I’m SO not a fair weather fan and miss maybe 2-3 games a year and certainly didn’t miss a game after Crosby and Malkin were hurt. Gologoski never lived up to the hype but his contract was tolerable and the trade was a steal. Its the 5M and being the highest payed D man that has Pens fans bothered, especially when he was demoted to 3rd pairing and Niskanen having more of a solid year then Martin. To say he signed up for a lose lose situation is just plain wrong. He was (and Michalek) loved by many last year when his play was equal to that of his albatross contract. He does have some good qualities but when he is not playing well his softness around the net and costly turnovers really stick out like a sore thumb. If he can continue to play like he did against the Rangers then all will be forgotten but he has to be consistent. Come playoff time he wont be paired with Letang as we need Orpik on the top shutdown line as he IS our best shutdown D man. So Martin will have to figure out what is wrong or I have a feeling he could be leaving in the off season. The drat is in Pitts and I imagine Shero wouldn’t mind making a big bang. Hence why you wont see him trade any picks away at the deadline this year unless it is a sure thing that will help this team. Go Pens!

    • IvantT's Gravatar IvantT
      February 25, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      What the hell are you talking about? Letang in a shut down role? Are you smokin something watching these games? Letang has only played 30 some games and has more givaways than any other Penguins defenseman, not per game, more total givaways and does not kill penalties. Who was Martin paired with when he was on this so called third pairing? Martin lead the defense in playing time on Sunday by more than foru minutes to the next closest defenseman. Who was injured that day? The defenseman that plays the most is the top line, not what Steigerwald puts on the graphics for you at the beginning of the game. Martin plays the most. If it’s all the same with you I’m going to throw you in with the people above that I’m glad don’t have anything to do with the Penguins organization.

  8. Anonymous's Gravatar Anonymous
    February 25, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for that well written article. I loved him as a NJ Devil and rejoiced when he came here!

  9. Alan8771's Gravatar Alan8771
    February 25, 2012 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    I agree Fans should be going by Bylsmas opinion on this sort of thing. I think he knows better.

    • February 25, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, they were going by Bylsmas opinion when he was demoted to 3rd pairing.

      • IvantT's Gravatar IvantT
        February 25, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

        When when when?????

  10. Frank's Gravatar Frank
    February 25, 2012 at 11:40 am | Permalink


  11. Mike's Gravatar Mike
    February 25, 2012 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    i agree. well written.


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