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2014 Season Review: Alec Martinez

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I love Alec Martinez. Please keep that in mind before you write your angry comment.

hi beautiful
hi beautiful
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
dCorsi Table


Martinez's dCorsi (2011-14)

YEAR EXPECTED CORSI FOR ACTUAL CORSI FOR DCORSI
2010-11 3.89 11.8 7.91
2011-12 11.26 25.28 14.02
2012-13 13.23 18.83 5.6
2013-14 14.89 14.35 -0.54

(stats via Behind the Net and @mimicohero)

Before we get into his positives or negatives, there's something important that needs to be stated about Alec. It's neither a positive nor a negative of his season, because it's not his fault narratives are a thing. But Alec Martinez is not "clutch". "Clutch" does not exist.

Yes, he scored two key goals to help the Kings win the 2014 Stanley Cup, first in overtime of game 7 against the Blackhawks and then in double overtime of game 5 against the Rangers. Obviously no one would deny that those two goals were huge. What I would take issue with is that this represents some kind of skill or unique trait of Alec's. Think about it for a second: when someone is talking about a "skill", does that not imply a strong aspect of repeatability? What, exactly, was the repeatable skill displayed by Martinez in his two overtime goals? Let's take another look at them both real quick:

First of all, you should go read Eric's awesome post on this goal to see what the Kings did as a team to set it up. But that's not our focus here: what, pray tell, did Martinez do on this goal that could possibly be called "clutch" or repeatable? He stands at the point with his stick down, like basically any defenseman would do when he's completely uncovered and his forwards have the puck down low, waits for the pass, and fires off an extremely routine wrist shot. The fact that said wrist shot happened to hit a Chicago defender and take a funny bounce past Corey Crawford and into the net comes down to everyone's favorite word: luck. Was it "clutch" that Martinez happened to be there to take the shot? Because I sure don't see how it was "clutch" that it hit someone and bounced in.

Here's his other supposedly "clutch" goal. This time Alec does deserve quite a bit more credit for his role in the play: he makes a beautiful exit of the defensive zone, skating it out, passing it over to Kyle Clifford and staying with his two forwards on the rush, and he's in perfect position to tap in the rebound after Tyler Toffoli makes a great shot to get him said rebound. But again, there's still a strong luck component here, because there's no rebound for Martinez to tap in if Toffoli didn't take said great shot. If Toffoli's shot goes wide, or Lundqvist is able to kick the rebound out further away, Martinez never has his tap-in and we're talking about someone else scoring the Stanley Cup game winner (I suppose it's possible the Rangers win the game instead, but pssh, let's try to be realistic here). Was it "clutch" by Martinez to make a nice zone exit, join the rush well, and be in great position to tap in a fortuitous bounce that came right onto his stick? Nope. He's a good hockey player, and he does those things all the time. It just so happened that this time everything worked out perfectly. Embrace randomness.

But with that out of the way, let's talk about his actual season....

Positives

Alec had his strongest season of his career from a goal-scoring perspective, putting up eleven goals to go along with eleven assists in 61 games. His 22 points were also a career high, beating out a previous high of 16 points (5-11) in 60 games during the 2010-11 season. He also set a new career high for games played after only playing 51 in 2011-12 and 27 of 48 in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, so it would appear that #freeAlecMartinez is now a thing of the past. Again, he's a very good hockey player and almost a ridiculously good third-pairing defenseman, so having him in the lineup regularly going forward is very much a positive, even if it may have taken some luck on his part to finally earn that regular spot (more on that in a second).

Martinez was also very good at helping the Kings generate shots on goal on their power play. His 54.7 SF/60 on the man advantage ranked fifth on the Kings among skaters who played at least 41 games last season, and he was second only to Jake Muzzin's 55.6 SF/60 on the power play among Kings defensemen. Yes, he was ahead of Drew Doughty (51.1) in this stat, although Doughty played a lot more on the PP than Martinez did. This was a good bounce-back for Martinez after he had dropped all the way down to 32.7 SF/60 on the PP last year in his limited playing time, basically matching his 2011-12 numbers (54.9).

Alec's scoring chance numbers were okay. He was involved in 1.1 chances/60 minutes he played last year, which put him at fourth among Kings defensemen, behind Doughty (2.1), Muzzin & Voynov (both 1.4), but ahead of Mitchell (0.6), Regehr (0.4), and Greene (0.2). Probably about what you would expect, I think. On the power play he was great though, involved in 8.5 chances per 60 minutes. That's ahead of every Kings defenseman except Willie Mitchell of all people (8.7), including Doughty (8.2), Muzzin (7.2), and Voynov (4.9). Between this and his SF/60 numbers it's pretty clear he had a great year on the power play, and is a hell of a weapon for the Kings' second unit.

Negatives

Perhaps the oddest part of all the positive attention Martinez received this season was that it was easily his worst year as a King from a puck possession standpoint. Look at his dCorsi numbers: he significantly outperformed his expected Corsi for three straight seasons, but this past year he dropped off a ton, from a positive difference of 5.6 in 2012-13 to actually being slightly underwater at -0.54. The drop wasn't quite as severe in his Corsi rel- he went from being a positive 3.2% in 2012-13 to -0.3% this past season, a difference of -3.5 in Corsi rel as compared to a difference of -6.14 in dCorsi- which is probably explained by his easier competition compared to the rest of the team. Scroll down and check out the Kings' usage chart and you'll see that he faces much weaker competition than literally every other defenseman, and his zone starts are quite a bit easier as well. Given these factors, his weak Corsi numbers are definitely a negative. Hopefully he can bounce back next year.

Martinez received so much positive attention from those aforementioned strong offensive numbers in the traditional counting stats, but he is unlikely to score double-digit goals or 20+ points again. Alec's 8.6 sh% this past year was the highest of his career, besting his 8.1 sh% from 2010-11 and way up from his 2011-12 & 2012-13 shooting percentages (5.3% & 3.9%, respectively). It's not likely his true shooting talent is 8%, so expect his goals to be back in the single digits next year. In addition to his own shooting percentage being so high, his teammates also shot higher than usual when he was on the ice last year too (7.4% last year, compared to 4.5% in 2011-12 and 5.2% in 2012-13), which means his assist total probably has some room to regress too, though maybe not to the same extreme as his goals. Bottom line, he probably will be back to a mid-single digits goals/mid-teens points player next year.

His zone entry numbers were also a negative last year, as Nick outlined in his post on the subject, describing his 20% carry-in rate as "paltry" (for comparison's sake, Muzzin & Voynov both had identical 34% carry-in rates). He needs to try carrying the puck in more and dumping it in less next season; perhaps with a more solidified role on the team he'll feel more comfortable trying things and less like any mistake he makes will send him back to the press box. As a result of failing to carry in the puck so much, his 0.35 shots per entry was the worst on the team last year, tied for that "honor" with Willie Mitchell. But when he did carry the puck over the line himself, the Kings had 0.78 shots per carry-in, which was good for 8th on the team. Skate the puck Alec!

2000 WWF Superstar Comparable: Rikishi

Rikishi_medium

Before his surprising run in 2000, Rikishi had already been around for quite a long time, although few fans (including yours truly) even realized it then. Originally he was 1/2 of the Headshrinkers tag team in the early-to-mid 90s, but after that run ended he struggled to stay on WWF television with a few forgettable gimmicks. First he was given the gimmick of MAKIN' A DIFFERENCE FATU, a street-wise Samoan who survived a drive-by shooting (apparently this really happened) and rose up to be a positive role model, for the kids! Shockingly, this didn't get over at all, which deprived us of the WWF bringing in his cousins from ECW, the Samoan Gangsta Party (they did appear on TV a few times in the crowd during his matches, but they never even actually confronted him before the whole stupid thing was dropped), to feud with him over whether or not making a difference was a good thing, I guess? Yeah. Then he was repackaged as THE SULTAN, a masked evil Arab (yes, the WWF misrepresenting a Samoan's race, I'm shocked too). That didn't get over either, and Rikishi basically disappeared from television for more than three years.

In November of 1999, Rikishi suddenly reappeared on television as this big fat guy wearing a thong and beating jobbers. He then began teaming with Too Cool, basically a pair of dancing goofball idiots, and by a stroke of dumb luck this somehow became ridiculously popular. After the three of them would win their match, Rikishi would go to leave before Too Cool would produce MAGIC SHADES~~~ that Rikishi would put on and immediately become, uh, funky. The three would then dance together, to the delight of the crowd. The following is an actual quote from Rikishi's Wikipedia page: "The sight of a fat man in a thong dancing deceptively well became popular." Yes. Indeed.

So Rikishi took this ludicrous gimmick of being an enormous fat man who liked to dance in a thong and rub his butt in people's faces during matches (it was called the Stinkface, and it was indeed disgusting in case you were wondering) and almost inexplicably managed to become one of the most popular wrestlers in the WWF with it. He had a memorable bout with WWF Champion Triple H on an episode of Raw and a short run as Intercontiental Champion, culminating in perhaps his career highlight when the legitimately 400+ pound man somehow jumped off the top of a steel cage onto another man without killing either one of them. But perhaps feeling the gimmick didn't have legs as a main eventer (and they might have been right), the WWF turned him into a bad guy late in 2000, revealing that he was the one who ran over Stone Cold Steve Austin with a car in late 1999, to try and take him to the "next level". For some reason he continued wearing a giant thong even after his heel turn, which even as a know-nothing kid I knew was really stupid. Shockingly, a monster heel Samoan in a thong who runs people over with cars and talks about how he did it for the Samoan people didn't get over. I know, I'm shocked too. He did have an awesome heel theme song though! I'M A BAD MANNNNN!

Like Alec Martinez, Rikishi was a solid performer who ended up in the right place at the right time after being forced to sit on the sidelines for a while. But after his ill-advised heel turn, Rikishi never really came close to his 2000 peak again, even after the WWF realized their mistake and turned him back to his original fun-loving babyface character in May of 2001. Martinez, like Rikishi, will probably struggle to reach his own highs of 2013-14 again, even though he'll likely continue to be a solid player.

Going Forward

Martinez needs to carry the puck in more, and he needs to have a possession bounce-back next season. If both those things happen, he will be great again (even though his goal and point production would still likely drop off a bit). But even if he remains what he was in 2013-14, he'll still be well above average as far as third-pairing defensemen go, I think.

Grade

Let's give him a C. Really I think C+ would fit him best, and maybe B- would work too. His possession stats were weak, especially given the competition and zone starts, and he really needs to carry the puck in more than he did this past season. But on the other hand, he was great on the power play in a possibly sustainable way, so he does have that working in his favor. And he certainly wasn't bad or an anchor or anything at even strength. But he's shown in the past he can be better, and I think he will be again.