Penguins defenseman feeling heat
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Is Penguins defenseman Paul Martin a $5 million problem or a $5 million player?
The statistics indicate that Martin has been a weak link on one of the NHL's best defensive groups. Coach Dan Bylsma and assistant coach Todd Reirden, however, vehemently came to Martin's defense during the Penguins' Florida swing. Both believe his current funk will pass and that Martin remains an essential ingredient to the Penguins' success on the blue line despite being a minus-10 through 19 games.
"That's not a great number for him right now," Bylsma said. "But I'm not going to be surprised if, at Game 40, he's even."
Martin, one of the NHL's smoothest skating defensemen, has lost an uncharacteristic number of 1-on-1 battles in recent games. The low point likely came Tuesday night, when Colorado's David Jones abused Martin while scoring a goal.
The defenseman, who signed a five-year, $25 million deal with the Penguins 16 months ago, acknowledged that his play has been subpar.
"Obviously when the team is winning, you want to be a reason why," Martin said. "Plus-minus is a deceiving statistic, but the higher it gets, the more you pay attention to it. I've been around long enough to know when it matters and when it doesn't. It's early, but I'm obviously not playing as well as I'd like."
Martin avoided a couple of reasonable excuses. He did start last season slowly before playing solid defense down the stretch, and he's been forced to play the past four weeks without defensive partner Zbynek Michalek, who remains out with a broken finger.
"Personally," Martin said, "it shouldn't matter who you're playing with. I just need to play better."
Reirden, who oversees the defensemen, said Martin's unbecoming plus-minus total has been blown out of proportion.
"Paul does a lot of things that have allowed us to be in the spot we're at in the standings," Reirden said. "He does things that aren't measured by stats."
Martin's effortless skating likely does understate facets of his game that are elite, namely his ability to efficiently collect the puck in his own territory and trigger the Penguins' transition game.
Still, Martin has produced just three goals in 103 games with the Penguins. And then there's that minus-10 total. And that contract.
"We'd love to have that plus-minus number higher than it is," Reirden said. "We're working on it. But our last game (against Tampa Bay) was his best game in a while. He's going to start moving in the right direction. And you've got to realize he's out there against the other team's best players every night."
Michalek figures to return soon, which should only help Martin.
With or without Michalek, however, Martin realizes that his performance must improve. He also feels a little unlucky
"It seems like I've had one bad shift here and there, and the puck ends up in the back of the net every time," Martin said.
Bylsma is clearly a believer in Martin and won't stop playing him around 25 minutes per game.
"He does a lot of good things for us," Bylsma said. "We count on him a lot."Additional Information:
Penguins game day
7:35 p.m. today, at Sunrise, Fla., BankAtlantic Center
TV/radio: Root Sports/WXDX-FM (105.9), Penguins Radio Network
Last year's records: Penguins 49-25-8; Panthers 30-40-12
Notable: The Penguins have allowed the first goal in four consecutive games and have lost four of their past five road games.
Paul Martin, the Penguins' highest paid defenseman, has struggled this season. Here are his numbers:
Salary: $5 million
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins confident Pouliot will be healthy, ready for camp
- Penguins GM insists new coach Johnston was no afterthought
- Rossi: Time with Penguins taught Bylsma importance of stability
- Pens’ Johnston hopes to `lessen the load’ for Crosby
- Penguins coach says team needs to ‘lessen the load’ on Crosby
- Penguins alumni rally to help Mitch Wilson, who is fighting ALS