With the 2018-19 NHL season firmly in the rear view mirror, it’s time to look back at what we learned about the players of the Los Angeles Kings. How did they fare in a down season? What’s next for each of them? Who will still be here on opening day? Join us as we take a look back at the season, try to figure out what went wrong, and see where we go from here. Today we look at Alec Martinez, In the Jake Muzzin vs. Alec debate, Alec won (he’s still a King). Was it the right choice? Will this be the year Martinez is finally off the trading block? Can he play a full season again? All of this and more...
2018-19 Season: 60 games, 18 points (4G, 14A), 8 PIM, -2, 78 shots, 170 total shots attempted, 5.1 shooting percentage, 100.7 PDO, 21:22 time on ice, 48.2% CF%, -1.0 CF% rel, 135 blocked shots.
Contract: Signed through 2020-21, $4.0 million AAV.
Let’s say up front that it’s extremely difficult to fully access Alec Martinez’s 2018-19 season. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but the coaching situation and general disorganization of the team last year puts everything and everyone out of whack when trying to figure out how a team went from 98 points one season to 71 the following season.
For Martinez, it was a season filled with enough injuries that it kept him off the ice for 22 games. Missing a quarter of the season was one reason that allowed/forced the Kings to have to play 11 different defensemen and the resulting baseline team totals weren’t so pretty:
- 2018-19—259 Goals Against / 3.15 Goals Allowed per Game / 22nd in the League
- 2017-18—202 Goals Against / 2.46 Goals Allowed per Game / Best in the League resulting in Jonathan Quick earning the Williams Jennings Trophy.
For as long as anyone can remember, Martinez’s Q rating on hockey rumors sites has ranked among the highest in the NHL. We know that Tampa Bay scouted the Kings for months leading up to the trade deadline and, according to those in the know, another five to six “contenders” also showed interest. After Jake Muzzin was sent to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Sean Durzi, Carl Grundstrom and a first rounder that was turned into Tobias Björnfot you might have figured that the trade talk would have slowed down, but Jonathan Quick, Jeff Carter and Martinez still lead the trade buzz around the league.
Judging from GM Rob Blake’s pre-free agency “we are going to build from within” comments, the Kings seem prime to give some of their younger players more significant minutes this coming season. The team has a number of attractive players who could be ready come October: Matt Roy, Sean Walker, Kale Clague, Paul LaDue, Kurtis MacDermid, former college stars Mikey Anderson and Daniel Brickley, as well as Durzi, who dominated at the Memorial Cup this past spring. In other words, don’t count on the trade banter ebbing any time soon.
With Drew Doughty having the worst season of his career and Muzzin having his best, one could blame the team results on interim coach Willie Desjardins and the way he utilized a healthy Martinez throughout the year.
Think different? Try these numbers on for size:
TIME ON ICE
- 2018-19—21:22 Time on Ice
- 2017-18—22.52 Time on Ice
- 90 second per game reduction, or a 7% decrease
POWER PLAY TIME ON ICE
- 2018-19—1:12 Time on Ice
- 2017-18—1:57 Time on Ice
- 45 second per game reduction, or a 39% decrease
PENALTY KILL TIME ON ICE
- 2018-19—1:54 Time on Ice
- 2017-18—2:22 Time on Ice
- 28 second per game reduction, or a 23% decrease
As much as the Ilya Kovalchuk Enigma confused us all, the Martinez reduction in TOI—both at even strength and on special teams—was even more confounding. Known as a team leader, infinitely coachable, and a standout across the board in all-situational responsibility, no one could quite figure out the reduced TOI. With Desjardins going with the disastrous four-forward alignment for most of his short stay as Kings coach, there was a stretch where Martinez logged only 17 total seconds of power play time in the 11 games prior to the Muzzin trade. It is safe to say nothing worked for the Kings last year and with Martinez on the bench during crunch time, the special teams cratered to league worst levels:
TEAM POWER PLAY
- 2018-19—35 Goals, 15.84% (NHL Averages: 47G / 19.78%), 13 Shorthanded Goals Allowed (3rd worst)
- 2017-18—49 Goals, 20.42% (NHL Averages: 50G / 20.18%), 4 Shorthanded Goals Allowed (4th best)
TEAM PENALTY KILL
- 2018-19—54 Goals Allowed, 76.52% (NHL Averages: 47G / 80.22%)
- 2018-19—39 Goals Allowed, 85.00% (NHL Averages: 50G / 79.82%)
It’s also safe to say that Desjardins was no hockey historian or fan of metrics, or else he would have known that reducing Martinez’s minutes and limiting his use on special teams was exactly the opposite course of action needed to right the ship. Martinez was coming off a limited playoff run where no King played more than his 111:26 four-game total, including a massive 44:58 in Game 2 during Doughty’s suspension. Further compounding his usage is a bigger picture look that tells us that not only did the team play slightly better when Martinez was on the ice, but also he was matching up with the best players on opposing teams:
By far, Martinez excelled when he was on ice with Muzzin, putting up his best numbers pf the season across the board (when looking at the 2018-19 most common pairings and pair production):
Once Muzzin was moved to the Toronto Maple Leafs, both he and Martinez struggled to find a partner who could generate the same positive production (with the Muzzin-Rielly pairing only buoyed by the huge amount of time spent together on the power play):
It’s fair to say that Martinez will be one of the most trusted players in Todd McClellan’s accountability system. He always joins the rush at the ideal time, make plays with the puck, plays physical down low, communicates well on the ice, and knows how to read his partner and see what’s going to happen before it actually does. Although his continued growth as complete defenseman was stunted a bit by the incompetent coaching of Desjardins, Martinez’s compete level remains at a high level and his 341 blocked shots in the last two seasons rank among the very best in the entire league. One detraction is his durability. In his nine full NHL seasons, he’s played in more than 78 games only once (and over 61 games only three times).
One thing you can count on from Martinez is his ability to rise up and play his best when it matters the most—one of the key reasons the team won two championships earlier in the decade. One can only wonder if he will get the chance to elevate again in pursuit of a Stanley Cup while still in a Kings sweater.
Henrik Lundqvist must have some sort of Hockey PTSD because Alec Martinez...
It never hurts going to the front of the net.
And the one timer!
Drawing with Drew: Alec Martinez Quick Guesses