Changing teams is never a seamless transition for players when they do it for the first time like Paul Martin
did this summer.
But the 29-year-old Minneapolis, Minn. native feels as if exchanging his New Jersey Devils sweater for a Penguins jersey has gone very smoothly during his first month in the black-and-gold.
“It is different than what I am used to, but each game it is becoming more natural with what I am doing as opposed to thinking what I should be doing,” Martin said. “I feel like with each passing game I keep getting better.”
Long regarded as one of the top two-way skating defensemen in the game, Martin joined the Penguins as an unrestricted free agent on July 1 following six seasons playing in the Devils’ defensive-minded system.
After four exhibition games and several weeks of playing in head coach Dan Bylsma’s aggressive, up-tempo system in Pittsburgh, Martin is excited to play a more offensive style of attack, something he believes coincides well with the strengths he brings to the table.
“Some of the things systems-wise are a little bit more aggressive, especially defensively the way we get out of our zone,” Martin said. “Offensively, we have a couple different forechecks where we can create some offense by using the D. I’ve also noticed that we really like to use the D coming up the ice on the breakout, which really plays to our strength because all of the D here can skate very well and move the puck.”
Martin feels as though being allowed to help spearhead the attack on the breakout will allow his game to thrive.
“If you are able to get the puck broke out to the weak side, the D can have some room and get a good look up the ice to make a play,” Martin said. “I think (against Chicago and Detroit) we did that well. We’ll be able to use that breakout more against some teams than others to get out of the zone quicker.”
While nothing has been written in stone yet, especially with the Penguins having to battle the injury bug for a majority of camp, it appears as though Martin will open the season paired with fellow swift-skating, two-way defender Kris Letang
Martin and assistant coach Todd Reirden, who runs the team’s blueliners cited the emphasis on puck-moving defensemen following the lockout as a reason for the pairing.
“Neither is a strict offensive player,” Reirden said. “Those are the kind of guy we want to have in our organization because we want to defend a certain way – and a lot of that involves using our feet and using our sticks. They are both similar players.”
“In the past, people always thought that you needed to have a big stay-at-home guy along with an offensive guy,” Martin said. “When you pair two guys who can do both of those things, especially when they are comfortable with each other and can read off one another, it creates more opportunities to get out of your zone quicker and be more productive offensively.”