Paul Martin is back. The entire Devils' community is happy, relieved, perhaps drinking a little, and excited for his return on a very special Devils' night already. It's been a longtime waiting, and finally for the first time this season, the Devils are playing with a full healthy roster.
Martin is our #1 defenseman. Maybe not right this moment, but he will be come playoff time. It still amazes me a little on how much success the team has had this season without him (well actually I shouldn't....look at Marty and last season). Anyway, for the next couple of games, we should all except Martin to play 3rd pair minutes (say 15 minutes). With Salmela and Fraser scratched for tonight's game against Pittsburgh, Martin will likely be paired with Skoula and the usual top 2 pairs will remain. But this will not last. Martin will be in the top 2 pairs in the next week or two. His skating, his handling, and his leadership easily place him in our top 2 or 3 defensemen.
There has been A LOT of talk over the past couple months about the defensemen and their respective play. I think every defender has been criticized at least once for their mistakes, bad positioning, and bad offensive play. Mottau probably the worst, then Fraser, Greene, and Salvador, and then everyone else. The problem was Martin was out, the defense was limited, and all these men had to play and play significant minutes. Well Martin is back, the defense has good depth now, so now what?
The defense has played better the last 3 or 4 games. They are playing solid defense, and getting involved in the offense which is a great sign. They are still making mistakes here and there, but not to the extent they were a month ago. But now that Martin is back, changes are going to be made. Pairings will be broken and rearranged. One player who has played on the top 2 pairs will be brought down the 3rd pairing. There will be 2 defensive scratches a game (unless Lemaire plays 7 D, or Lou sends someone down to Lowell).
So here we go. Let's discuss this. Paul Martin is back...
Where does he go? Who does he get paired with? Who gets "demoted"? Who becomes the other scratch? Does someone get sent down, and if so, who?