One would imagine it would be difficult for a player to adjust to a new team within the National Hockey League when he’s spent his entire career to date with one organization.
Especially in the case of defenseman Paul Martin
, who inked a five-year contract with the Penguins on the first day of free agency last July.
Prior to his signing, Martin had been with the New Jersey Devils ever since the organization selected him in the second round (62nd overall) of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.
Ever since then, the 28-year-old blueliner had developed within New Jersey’s stingy defensive-minded system that made the neutral zone trap famous, meaning he had to adjust to Pittsburgh’s much more aggressive style of playing defense upon his arrival.
But Martin made the adjustment look seamless, thriving in a system much more suited to his style of play.
“I like it better than always being on the defensive side in Jersey,” Martin said of the Penguins’ defensive mindset. “(The Devils) have had success with that. But for me being there and now coming here, I definitely like the way that we play (in Pittsburgh).”
Martin is a mobile two-way defender with puck-moving skills, qualities that complemented the shutdown abilities of defense partner Zbynek Michalek
, who also signed a five-year contract with the Penguins on the first day of free agency last July.
The pair was a stalwart in the lineup ever since Michalek returned from a shoulder injury in November, and Martin is looking forward to taking the chemistry they built into next year.
“We started to play well together,” he said. “It was a little bit of an adjustment period, but after that I got to know where he was going to be and what to expect. So it definitely got a lot better.”
The team relied heavily on Martin to be on the ice in all situations. He finished the season ranked second on the squad with an average of 23:21 minutes per game and even logged a career-high 35:26 minutes on March 4 against his former team, the Devils.
But not only did Martin provide stability, he also chipped in some offense on occasion – most notably when he became just the second defenseman in franchise history to score two unassisted goals in one game on Dec. 4 at Columbus.
He also stepped up in a leadership capacity in his first season with the Penguins, wearing the “A” on numerous occasions.
Martin is ready to contribute right off the bat once the 2011-12 season starts.
“I’ve got one year under the belt,” he said. “And after a disappointing end to the season, it’s something that you want to improve on and make sure that you’re ready to go for next year.”
Appeared in seven games for Pittsburgh, posting two assists and a plus-1 rating ... Recorded 10 shots on goal ... Averaged 24:42 minutes per game.2010-11 REGULAR SEASON:
Completed his first season with Pittsburgh, recording 24 points (3G-21A) and a plus-9 rating in 77 games ... Ranked second on the team in blocked shots (129) and average time on ice (23:21) ... Scored first goal as a Penguin (and added an assist) Oct. 11 at New Jersey ... Became second defenseman in franchise history to score two unassisted goals in one game Dec. 4 at Columbus (Ab DeMarco, Feb. 24, 1974 at Chicago) ... Logged a career-high 35:26 minutes of ice time March 4 at New Jersey ... Paired most of the season with Zbynek Michalek
|GP ||G ||A ||P ||PIM ||+/- ||PP ||SH |
|77 ||3 ||21 ||24 ||16 ||+9 ||2 ||0 |
|GP ||G ||A ||P ||PIM ||+/- ||PP ||SH |
|7 ||0 ||2 ||2 ||2 ||+1 ||0 ||0 |
Photos courtesy of Getty Images Click here to view the full photo gallery of Paul Martin during the 2010-11 season!
Below is a transcript of Paul Martin's chat with the media on the Penguins' locker cleanout day on April 29.
On if he still watches the playoffs or tries to forget about them:
I don’t watch too much. If it’s on, maybe I’ll watch it. But I don’t pay too much attention to it.
On what his feelings are going forward with having a long-term deal and continuing to grow in the system:
I’ve got one year under the belt and after a disappointing end to the season, it’s something that you want to improve on and make sure that you’re ready to go for next year.
On if was tough for him to adjust to this defensive system coming from New Jersey:
Not really. It’s actually very similar; it’s just being a little more aggressive in certain situations here or there than you would in Jersey. Other than that it’s not too much of a difference. It’s a good system.
On if he likes this system better:
Yeah. I like it better than always being on the defensive side in Jersey. They’ve had success with that. But for me being there and now coming here, I definitely like the way that we play (in Pittsburgh).
On how he feels the other defensemen that weren’t in the top four did:
I thought they did great. When (Alex) Goligoski left, that was tough to see him go. But I think Deryk (Engelland) and Benny (Lovejoy) stepped up and played really well. And then Matt (Niskanen) coming over did well. I thought, down the stretch, they played extremely well – especially Benny Lovejoy, earning that spot. Deryk, when he needed to play, played well. They did everything that they needed to do to help us win.
On why the team never really experienced a dropoff after losing Crosby and Malkin:
I think the fact that we did what we did without those guys is just a testament to the guys we have in here and the way that we play. With the way the playoffs ended, we still did a lot of good things, but it was just one of those things that sometimes you can’t explain where you can’t put the puck in the net. It’s obviously just a tough loss. But without those guys, I don’t think anyone would have thought we’d be where we were and I thought we did a good job without them.
On if they always feel that they could have won when they lose a series:
I think you say you definitely could have. Every game is back and forth and so close that you just think you could win your way at any time. But you don’t make excuses. You just go forward and hope that we’re better next year.
On looking forward to next year after everything that happened this year:
Every year is a chance to do something special. This one is over, so you want to take every opportunity you can to take advantage of trying to win the Cup. This year (the race for the Cup) is obviously over so we’re going to make sure we’re ready next year, be more accustomed to the system and be ready to go.
On if he’s looking forward to what next year will bring now that he’s acclimated:
Yeah. It doesn't take too long to get that used to the system, but it’ll definitely be more exciting coming in next year a little more hungry and ready to go.
On if he’s excited about taking the chemistry he and Zbynek Michalek built this year into next year:
Yeah, definitely. We started to play well together. It was a little bit of an adjustment period, but after that I got to know where he was going to be and what to expect. So it definitely got a lot better.
Author: Michelle Crechiolo