This will be the first of a few posts today on New Jersey Devils defenseman and pending unrestricted free agent Paul Martin. Martin suffered from a broken left arm and missed 59 games in 2009-10. However, when he did play, Martin played big minutes. In 22 games, he averaged 17:54 of even strength time on ice (fourth on the Devils) and 22:30 in all situations (second on the Devils).
Given that he is an impending unrestricted free agent, I think it's important to take a closer look as to what he brought to the team. I'm starting this with a With Or Without You (WOWY) analysis, which will examine Paul Martin's Corsi impact on his teammates. Just as I have done with Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk (who also featured for New Jersey in a limited number of games), and Travis Zajac in the past two weeks.
The WOWY analysis only looks at 5-on-5 situations with both goaltenders in net from the regular season, and it can reveal who did or did not play well with Paul Martin. The focus is on Corsi percentage (Corsi%) as it can reveal what the team was doing with the puck when Martin was out there with a teammate - and when Martin wasn't playing with said teammate. If they were obtaining a territorial advantage by attempting to get the puck on net, then it'll be above .500. If not, then the opposition had the advantage. I picked up the method from Tyler Dellow at mc79hockey (example for Alex Ovechkin) and utilized these scripts by Vic Ferrari for his site Time on Ice.
Performing the WOWY for Paul Martin was a lot more straight forward than it was for Parise or Zajac. Martin suffered his left arm injury near the end of October and returned on March 10. So I've collected all data from those time periods when Paul Martin was on the active roster in this past season. The Devils did not only have different rosters from those two points in the season, but they were stable. Identifying which number belonged to each player was much easier, so I feel comfortable that I have everyone properly represented like Matt Halischuk, Vladimir Zharkov, and Cory Murphy.
Not that they are of much concern since they didn't have 100 or more Corsi events with Martin in 09-10. Still, just something to keep in mind when looking at the entire team chart. Speaking of, here's Paul Martin's WOWY for all of the New Jersey Devils he played with in 2009-10.
As with prior WOWYs, players who did not have more than 100 Corsi events are grayed out in this chart. There's not a whole of interest there other than to say that many Devils forwards did well in the short time period they played with Martin. For example, Jay Pandolfo, Niclas Bergfors, and Rod Pelley saw their Corsi% drop significantly away from Martin while Martin suffered as well (but not to their degree). However, with such a small sample size, I'm personally not confident in saying that they would sustain similar Corsi% had they play together much longer.
On that note, let's take a closer look at those players who did have at least 100 Corsi events or more with Martin.
Forwards and Martin - 100+ Corsi Events Together
As a defenseman, Paul Martin has had a significant share of ice time when healthy. Therefore, that he had at least 100 Corsi events with nine forwards should come as no surprise. The results, though, might surprise you.
I don't know about you, but Rob Niedermayer stuck out the most for me. He's a checking center and therefore it shouldn't be that much of a surprise that there's more Corsi events against the team when he's out there than when he is. If he managed a high Corsi%, than he'd be one of the top forwards in the league. Still, he's the only one on this list who had a Corsi% less than .500 with Martin and that just fell sharply away from Martin. Ouch. That's all I can say about that. Ouch.
Interestingly, Zach Parise and Patrik Elias are the only ones to have done better in terms of Corsi away from Martin than with him. Martin only played with Elias after Martin came back from his injury, so the count was going to be low in general. While a .554 Corsi% is nothing to sneeze at, I'm scratching at my head at how Elias' nearly broke .600 apart from Martin. Yet, Martin took a slight hit apart from Elias. I suppose this while the matchup wasn't necessarily bad; but it could mean that Martin benefited from Elias much more than the other way around. Emphasis on could since the population size was relatively small. As for Parise, this is not news and I hazarded my guess as to why this happened in the Parise WOWY.
The other forwards all took some kind of a hit to their Corsi% without Martin: either a decently sized decrease (Jamie Langenbrunner, Dainius Zubrus, Ilya Kovalchuk) or a really, really big decrease (Niedermayer, Brian Rolston, David Clarkson, and Travis Zajac). Yet, Martin's own Corsi% only dropped in a major way away from just one of those forwards: Zajac. While Martin's Corsi% also dropped away from Langenbrunner, Zubrus, and Rolston, they weren't anything close to large decreases and Martin maintained a Corsi% of at least .546 anyway. What this suggests to me was confirmation of Martin-Zajac being an excellent matchup, something I brought up in the Zajac WOWY.
As far as the other forwards are concerned, the benefits are mostly one-way - more for the forwards than it is for Martin. Perhaps that in of itself explains this phenomenon? When Martin is on the ice and is playing behind one forward line, he was more likely to be present for improved Corsi%. When that line changes, Martin's own Corsi% may change but if he provides a positive influence on that line, the forwards will may get a similar benefit. Over time, more forwards will have their Corsi% boosted when Martin is behind them than they are without them. That's one possibility, at least.
Defensemen and Martin - 100+ Corsi Events Together
While Martin's played with a lot of forwards, he's had only three consistent defensive partners in his injury-shortened season. And it seems that only two of them really did well with Martin.
Well, here we see that the Martin-Oduya pairing that was so excellent in 2008-09 wasn't so in 2009-10. Johnny Oduya had a noticeably poor start to the season, to the point where Jacques Lemaire split the two up to have Martin play with Bryce Salvador. The change in Corsi says it all about how well Martin-Salvador played together. Yes, it wasn't for long, but .638 Corsi% is a fantastic percentage. It should be of no surprise that both players missed each other apart.
In retrospect, I'm not sure why this pairing wasn't put back together when Martin returrned? The only reason that comes immediately to my mind was Lemaire not wanting to mess with Greene-Salvador. Hence, Martin Skoula got the benefit of playing with Martin. They weren't bad in terms of Corsi, but Skoula's own Corsi% benefited much more from the pairing than Martin.
Should Martin return to the Devils, the new coach should consider keeping Martin with Salvador. If he wants to experiment with the pairings, he should at least use Corsi% or some other puck possession metric to determine whether to keep it.
Among his own forwards, playing with Martin has led to an improved Corsi%. The only exceptions are Parise and Elias; even in those cases, playing with Martin yielded a Corsi% above .520. No, Martin was not and may not ever be a big scoring defenseman. However, the Corsi% being above .500 nearly across the board suggests that he did provide benefit to the Devils' attack in terms of territorial dominance.
The relatively low population size may skew the real numbers that would result from a full season of Martin. After all, Johnny Oduya wasn't playing well at all to start the season and that largely ended his short time with Martin prior to the injury. Had Oduya not play so poorly or Martin play more games, we'd get more of a complete picture of who performed well with Martin on defense. I don't think 2008-09, where Martin-Oduya was the top pairing and performed generally well, was an aberration.
I don't think this makes looking at Martin's 2009-10 is a waste of time, after all, you can only make judgments on actual results. Besides, when contract negotiations come up, I would think teams will be concerned with what he did recently as well as prior seasons. It's not always a mutual benefit where Martin's own Corsi% increased more with said teammate, but there were a few Devils who had a noticeable effect on Martin's Corsi% Still, in the relatively short time that Martin did play in 2009-10, most Devils saw their Corsi% improve playing with Martin than without him. In my opinion, it wouldn't be completely unreasonable to think that a full season wouldn't change the overall picture, just the magnitude of Corsi% effects given Martin's skillset and those he has played with.
Thanks for reading. What did you think of this WOWY analysis with Martin? Did it confirm what you may have felt about Martin? Did it open your eyes as to Martin's effect on his most of teammates? Are you surprised that MArtin had such a positive effect on most of the Devils forwards despite that he's not what you would think of as an offensive defenseman? Please share your thoughts about Paul Martin in the comments. Incidentally, expect another look at Paul Martin a little later today from a different perspective, first from his 2008-09 season and then his 2009-10 season.