Friday, July 8, 2011

Defending Paul Martin From Malicious Attacks By Some Guys Artistry Knows

By Finesse

Paul Martin is under attack.  Two guys who know Artistry are relentless in their effort to tear down this man and run him out of town.  Even Dejan Kovacevic is insinuating that the Pens can/should/want to move his $5 million cap hit.  That's baloney, and like Gary Wallace's grand parents in Weird Science, we won't stand for baloney.

This was originally posted as a comment-exchange, but since no one is going to go back and read that, here it is as an actual post.  Some might think we are Paul Martin apologists, but as we've said since the beginning, we are Professional Explanationists.

The Prime Minister
Anonymous, friend of GTOG, enemy of Paul Martin:
I am a newcomer, but a big fan of the site. I am one of the "friends" who thinks Paul Martin was a waste of money and more specifically, not what we expected. My good friend above has asked me multiple times to bring this discussion to the site, so I thought I would give it a try. Please excuse the format, since this is my first time.

I simply don’t think we should be paying our number 4 defensemen and 4th choice on the power play point, $5 million a year. I would rather have a high scoring winger or stay at home defensemen or a offensive defensemen that can score more than 24 points (Rob Scuderi had 9 less points at $3 million a year). I was doing research on some of the comments and editorials that I could find when we signed Martin. Because my good friend cannot be objective about this, I thought you could be the judge on whether we ended up with what we or others thought we would get in Martin. Feel free to comment:

ESPN: Martin will get the chance to quarterback the Penguins' power play as he did with the New Jersey Devils, but now he'll share that special teams assignment with Alex Goligoski. However, Martin will benefit from skating on a power-play assembly that includes Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, which wasn't the case in New Jersey. Those factors balance out to what you would expect from a healthy Martin every season: 30 to 35 points.
Hockey News: Martin is a decent offensive defenseman who will get a chance to shine with the Penguins as they have a dynamite power play with the likes of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby up front. Look for Martin to have a career year in 2010-11 [BTW, this year was Martin's worst offensive year of his career].
The official GTOG response:
You're way off. 
1) Martin is not the Pens' "4th defenseman." He was second only to Letang in minutes and did so without nearly as much PP time. He played nearly 3 minutes/game more than Orpik and with good reason - he's better than Orpik (all due respect to Brooks). Orpik is solid and he hits more, but he also gets beat more often.  Martin, on the other hand, is, dare we say, So Smart. So Steady. So Serviceable.
2) With only very rare exceptions, defensemen don't get points solely on the basis of their own ability - the big point scorers on D are usually the guys who play with the best forwards. With the amount of games Sid and Geno missed, everyone's numbers were going to be down, especially defensemen who get points by passing to Sid and getting out of the way or passing to someone who passes to Sid and then getting out of the way. In fact, you'll notice that both of the previews you cited mention BOTH Crosby and Malkin. Look what happened to Letang's production when those guys went down...funny how he stopped being a "Norris Trophy Candidate" so suddenly. 
3) As an ultra-conservative estimate, it's fair to say that a healthy Sid and Geno (or even just one) would have translated into 6 more points for Martin. All of a sudden, that's your 30 points, pretty much consistent with his career averages. This isn't to say that Martin couldn't have been better offensively, just that given the circumstances, he wasn't as bad as you say. (Although he only scored goals in 2 games this year which is not good enough). 
4) The Pens as a team took almost unlimited stupid penalties. Martin had only 16 total PIM. He was second on the team in blocked shots, had less giveaways than Letang and Michalek, and was second to Letang in takeaways.  
5) Pens led the league in penalty killing, he was a big part of it.
6) Who is your replacement? If you commit all $5 million of his salary to offense, then you get what a decent forward and have Niskanen, Lovejoy, and Engelland around 20 mins/night. Good luck with that. If you get a $3million D-man and a $2mil forward, well in this market...what $2 mil winger would that be? Max Talbot? And who would the $3 mil D-man be? Mark Methot? Good luck with that, too.  
7) Yes, the PP was terrible, but the PP was terrible with everyone out there - Letang, Michalek, Sid, Geno, Staal ... everyone. You can't pin the PP failures on Martin although, like everyone else, he certainly could have been more productive on the PP. 
8) Sergei Gonchar's first year with the Pens was one of the worst seasons that anyone has ever had. Then, he played 4 years at an incredibly high level. Translation: way too soon to give up on Martin, even if he was as bad as you think he was. 
9) Compared to other defensemen, Martin's salary is reasonable for his production. James Wisnewski makes $5.5 million. So does Sergei Gonchar. 
10) Through December, he had 3 goals, 12 assists, and was a +13. That he fell from that pace is not surprising given he had to play 24 minutes a night with Max Talbot as the team's #2 center. Everyone's production fell off - just think of Letang. 
11) The Pens had 100 points with a team decimated with injuries. That's not an excuse for anyone's poor performance, but it puts into context what the team was working with this year.

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