This season: 82 games, 9 goals, 30 assists, 39 points, 24 penalty minutes, -17 rating, -0.5% CF%Rel, 21:38 time on ice
The good: Looking at the broader picture for a moment and not focusing squarely on an up-and-down year, you’d be hard-pressed to find a player who developed as well under Darryl Sutter as Alec Martinez, who over the last five seasons progressed into an all-situational workhorse in which his quick decision-making and proficiency in transition grew alongside a game that rewarded those capable of playing with pace and tempo. It’s funny to think of Martinez as a healthy scratch in 2012-13 when only four seasons later Sutter spoke so highly of him here, here, here and here (where he didn’t appear to be too interested in answering questions), and even when he was asked about some of his challenges in the second half of the season, still showed confidence that Martinez would break out of a schneid. It was a trying season for Martinez, one separated by a pair of extremes. Apart from accounting for only two points in February as the collective Jake Muzzin-Martinez performance was simply off, he was actually very consistent and totaled seven points in October, November and December, six points in January and eight points in March. Martinez’s presence puts points in the standings, as his skill set has been a significant factor in the team’s 24-7 record in games decided in overtime since the league’s shift to three-on-three. He was excellent on special teams in 2016-17, accounting for 13 assists and 15 points on the power play and another two goals and five points in three-on-three overtime. In four-on-five play, he posted the lowest GA60 of any team defenseman who logged more than 35 minutes of shorthanded time. His 182:53 of total shorthanded time – which averaged out to 2:13 minutes per game – trailed only Drew Doughty’s 210:43 and 2:34. Interestingly, Martinez’s success in three-on-three overtime is not built on any sort of possession or chance advantage. Though the Kings have scored 10 goals and ceded five when Martinez has been on the ice in three-on-three play, he’s the only skater with a minimum of 10 overtime minutes with a negative (42 CF/43 CA) raw Corsi rating. There’s not a ton of meaning behind it, but it does represent that he’s a defenseman with a relatively high shooting percentage who is capable of making plays with other top players on the ice, and that seems to align with the front office’s clearly stated desire to make its possession advantage bear more fruit. “He’s probably our best defenseman in recognizing when he can get into the rush,” Sutter observed in November. “He’s one of the better defensemen in the league, actually, when you look at that, in terms of not just being there, [but] in terms of creating something or getting a shot or creating a quality chance.” His overall possession rates improved from the year prior, but Martinez also saw a higher percentage of offensive zone starts and a lower percentage of defensive zone starts compared to 2015-16. Without his former defensive partner Matt Greene on the roster, Martinez, who turns 30 in two weeks, becomes the senior member of a young defense and is among those who have taken a firmer grip on the club’s leadership reins. “He’s a really good guy,” Sutter said in December. “Marty’s a mature guy. When you talk to him, you don’t have to talk about hockey. He’s very insightful and knows what’s going on in the world.” Martinez appeared in all 82 games for the first time in his career and also set a career-high 21:38 average time on ice while shaving 16 total penalty minutes off the previous season’s career-high 40 PIM.
The bad: Goals were scored on the Kings while Martinez was on the ice. This inflation of offense against the second defensive pairing was probably related more to on-ice struggles experienced by Muzzin than Martinez, but it was something the team had a hard time escaping from in the second half of the season, and especially during a personal 14-game, minus-10 stretch in February. 3.36 five-on-five goals were allowed for every 60 minutes Muzzin and Martinez were on the ice together; when Martinez was on the ice without Muzzin, the team ceded only 1.78 GA60. But Martinez played more than three times as many minutes alongside Muzzin than any other defenseman because of limited options at the club’s disposal as younger defensemen were incorporated onto the blue line. For someone who takes immense pride in his own game and for being a good teammate, it did appear to wear on Martinez late in the year as Los Angeles was unable to hook on to a playoff berth. “Marty, he relies on his skating and being really mentally sharp,” Darryl Sutter said in February, “and I think he’s made a lot of mistakes that are mental mistakes, and that’s where he has to work with himself and because he is a bright guy and he is a hockey smart guy and all those things, and he’s a caring guy and he’s a good teammate, so when you’re making mental mistakes, that means you’re not quite going through your preparation properly, and I trust that he can do that and will do that.” For all the talk about Martinez’s ability to handle all situations well, he logged only three first assists (and seven assists total) during five-on-five play, and his 14 total points at 5×5 did not represent any real departure from the 13, 14 and 13 he tallied in the three seasons prior.
Going forward: You are familiar with this part from reading Martinez Evaluations of Yore. He was thrust into a wider, unexpected role upon Slava Voynov’s departure, and while there have been growing pains, he has essentially graduated into a second pairing and is capable of playing in all situations. The Kings haven’t entirely been able to replace Voynov’s minutes, but Martinez has clearly made strides in maximizing his diverse skill set as a player, and the past two seasons are representations of the gains he made under a coach who used to be really tough on him. Don’t pay attention to his uncharacteristic minus-17 rating, a flawed metric that represents little more than the bottom dropping out on him and Muzzin during the depths of a challenging campaign. There hasn’t been any real thick smoke to trade scuttlebutt surrounding Martinez, who carries a $4-million cap hit for another four years. But as a player with term who plays at a position of some depth during a time the team is looking to acquire scoring, there will be inevitable speculation, and probably some calls, on an excellent skater well suited to play in a brisker, more up-tempo NHL. That doesn’t mean that he’s going anywhere. With his ability to skate, make plays and distribute the puck in transition and in the offensive zone, especially on the power play, the sleek-skating, heavy-shooting Martinez is an important asset for a Los Angeles back end that also relies on the added gravity and respect he carries when in a room with his peers. Having turned 30, is a 35-to-40-point season while averaging 21-to-22 minutes the limit of what should be expected? Or should there be a prolonged peak to the bell curve of a player who made significant strides in his late-20’s? He’s expected to be ready for the start of training camp after undergoing a “minor medical procedure for a chronic issue related to his groin.”
Player evaluations: ANDREOFF | BROWN | CARTER | CLIFFORD | DOUGHTY | DOWD | FORBORT | GABORIK | GRAVEL | KOPITAR | LEWIS | MARTINEZ | MCNABB | MUZZIN | NOLAN | PEARSON | SHORE | TOFFOLI | BISHOP/BUDAJ/CAMPBELL/QUICK/ZATKOFF | THE OTHERS