Comparing Paul Martin to His Fellow New Jersey Devil Defensemen: 2008-2010

Here is a picture of Paul Martin doing what he does best: defending. Will this show up on a scoresheet? No, but preventing Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa from the puck remains important - and desirable for NHL teams looking to boost their 'D.' (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Yesterday was Paul Martin Monday, with a With or Without You analysis posted overnight and a three part analysis focusing on his even strength performance in 2008-09 (Part 1), his even strength performance in 2009-10 (Part 2), and his special teams on-ice impact in both seasons (Part 3). In those posts, I paid particular attention to how the team's stats changed when he stepped on the ice (made possible by Behind the Net), showcasing his impact on the team when he played.  From that, I felt that was enough to conclude that Paul Martin was a very effective defenseman in comparison to others who play as much as he has in the past two seasons.

In the comments to Part 3, ILWT user Zelepukin raised a good point.

To be fair you should actually do this to ALL of NJs D-men because I have a feeling you’ll find almost, if not ALL of them will also show a positive effect on the team when they are on the Ice. Which re-enforces why the team was able to play so well with out Martin and why Martin is not worth 5 mill or more a year… he’s pushing it at over 4 currently.

You don’t pay that sort of money to a defender who can’t quarterback the PP/contribute offensively, or just shut opponents down physically no matter how much the stats uptick for everyone when he’s on the ice.

That will be the goal of this post. Is Martin really that much better than the other Devils defensemen, or just the best player in a system?

At even strength, Martin will be compared with five other Devils defensemen played at least 20 games and had a minimum TOI/60 of 15 in the last two seasons.  For special teams, Martin will be compared with those who played at least 20 games and had a minimum TOI/60 of 1 at  5-on-4 and 4-on-5 situations.  These were the same parameters I kept in Parts 1 through 3, and I'll be looking at the same stats in those posts. This way, I'm comparing apples to apples within the Devils as well as the rest of the NHL defensemen from each analysis - determining how well Martin really stacks up.

The raw numbers came from Behind the Net, so a big thanks go to Gabe for that resource.  I'd also like to thank Derek Zona for showing me how to calculate adjusted Corsi/60.   After the jump, please be prepared for several charts detailing exactly how Martin and the other Devils defensemen stacked up in terms of on-ice impact and adjusted Corsi.  (Also, please set your viewing to Wide, as shown in the gray box next to the headline.)

Special Teams 2008-2010

I'm starting off with special teams because they're straight forward enough to determine how Paul Martin ranked among his teammates.  On the power play, only two defensemen met the criteria set in my analysis: Martin and Andy Greene.

Martin_vs_devils_pp_gf60

In terms of goals for impact, Martin was vastly superior to Andy Greene and ranked among the best in the league in GFON/60 rate and differential in 2008-09.   In 2009-10, the two switched up and Greene stuck out within the NHL in these two stats.

Martin_vs_devils_pp_sf60

The same held for shots for, though the change in impact wasn't as stark.  In 2008-09, Paul Martin contributed one of the best SFON/60 differentials in the league while just outside the top 30 in raw SFON/60.   He clearly did something right on the power play.  In 2009-10, Greene out-did Martin but the two were much closer in the rankings. Both provided a positive contribution when they were on the ice in 5-on-4 situations, so it's untrue to say that Martin was a waste on the power play in 09-10 just by his GFON/60 numbers.

While Martin looked pretty good in both seasons in terms of SFON/60 on the power play (much better in general in 08-09), the penalty killing 5-on-4 situations were not as kind.  Martin was not the biggest positive contributor to the Devils' PK in terms of reducing shots against.

Martin_vs_devils_pk_sa60

In 2008-09, Martin was below average in terms of on-ice impact on the team's shots against rate whilst killing a 4-on-5 situation on both the Devils and among the league.  Johnny Oduya was the best in terms of differential and shots against rate, but even he didn't crack the top 30 among defensemen analyzed.

The 2009-10 season saw much more out of Martin as well as Bryce Salvador and Andy Greene joining the list. In terms of raw SAON/60, all three were in the top 30 with Salvador and Greene among the very best in the league.  All three provided a positive on-ice impact on the kill, though Greene's and Salvador's dwarfed Martin and most of the rest of the league.    While his SAON/60 improved, Colin White saw a decline in his differential and Mike Mottau's wasn't very good at all.

However, White and Mottau do redeem themselves on the PK per the goals against per 60 numbers.  Here, Martin finally led the team on the PK with this stat.

Martin_vs_devils_pk_ga60

Albeit, Martin led the team in this stat in 08-09.  Even there, it didn't rank all that high among other NHL defensemen. His shortened 09-10 saw him just ahead of dead last in terms of on-ice impact and the goals against per 60 rate.  

At least 2009-10 saw improvement from White and Salvador compared to their 08-09 performances - especially White.  He became one of the top 30 defensemen in terms of on-ice impact and raw goals against per 60; when White stepped on the ice, goals were cut down and that's ultimately what you'd like to see with a defenseman on a PK.  Given that Mottau follows up in second in those two stats on the team, it should be of no surprise the duo were Lemaire's preferred pairing on the PK.   Now if only they can improve in their shot reduction.

Special Teams 2008-2010 Conclusions

The power play is a bit difficult to square away as it was a two-player comparison.  Martin was great when he last played a full season, whereas Greene was not.  Last season, Greene got more time and saw big improvements to his numbers while Martin saw his GFON/60 drop like a stone.  At least Martin was able to maintain a good SFON/60 differential.

As for the penalty kill, Martin did not shine at all. The only two areas where you could say he did well was in terms of shots against per 60 in 2009-10 and the goals against per 60 in 2008-09, where he led the Devils.  Elsewhere, other Devils made more positive impacts - or just positive impacts.  The last two seasons clearly show, to me, that Martin is not a PK specialist.

However, that may ultimately be OK - you just have to play him on the second unit or monitor his performances closely.  As Martin's even strength on-ice impact was where he stood out. Given that a majority of the game is played at 5-on-5, top defensemen must be the most effective in those situations more than any others.

Even Strength 2008-2010 Offensive Stats

As with the other Paul Martin posts, I'm referring to shots for per 60, goals for per 60, and adjusted Corsi per 60. The first two will show how the team's shooting or goal scoring rates are effected when the defenseman steps on the ice.  Adjusted Corsi per 60 will give us an idea as to how well the Devils possess and attack when they are on the ice. It's a good measure of territorial dominance as it takes zone start (where the defenseman starts on the ice) into account; a higher value means the Devils are attempting more shots than allowing the opposition.

Martin_vs_devils_08-10_sf60

In 2008-09, Martin was not only behind Johnny Oduya on the team but in the top 30 among all defensemen analyzed in terms of shots for per 60.  This meant when he stepped on the ice, the Devils' rate of shooting increased.  Being behind Oduya was no shame, he was one of the best in the league in terms of on-ice impact for shooting as well as raw SFON/60.  Besides, Martin was accomplishing this against relatively harder competition than Oduya with a lower quality of teammates.  Both are impressive in their own right.

The only other defenseman to have made a positive impact on the shooting rate was Mike Mottau - who saw weak competition and his improvement was only slight.  Not much to laud. Interestingly, White didn't impact the shooting at all despite his relatively strong competition - perhaps that's more impressive than Mottau's lack of significant positive impact.  Both were better than Bryce Salvador and Niclas Havelid, as the shooting rate reduced when they got on the ice for their teams.

2009-10 told a different tale. After providing a positive impact in 08-09, Martin actually put up the second worst shots for on-ice impact on the team at 1.0. As in, the shooting rate dropped by a shot when he came on the ice.  The resulting SFON/60 wasn't that good either.  Even White and Salvador (who made a big improvement) were better.   The shipped off Johnny Oduya finished 86th in the NHL SFON/60 (26.2) and 99th in on-ice impact on that stat (1.4 more shots); so Oduya didn't repeat his 2008-09 impact by any means.

In terms of who benefited his team, Greene was the only one to put up a positive on-ice impact over one shot and even that didn't rank too highly among the rest of the league.  Mike Mottau posted up a slight differential but it's more impressive given that he did it against tougher competition in 09-10.  The 2009-10 numbers suggest that the Devils suffered in this stat.  Fortunately, goals for per 60 show a happier tale for the Devils:

Martin_vs_devils_08-10_gf60

In 2008-09, Martin was among the worst Devils on his team in terms of goals for per 60. But the team as a whole was quite good in this stat.  Johnny Oduya was in the top 30 in both categories, Mike Mottau and Colin White were just outside of the top 30, and the only defenseman to not finish above average in ranking or provide some kind of positive on-ice impact was Bryce Salvador.   

2009-10 saw Martin shoot up to not only first on the team but among the top 5 in the league in these two stats.  An increase of 1.38 goals per 60 when stepping on the ice was just massive.  No other Devils defenseman came close to 3 goals, yet Martin surpassed it when he was on the ice.  He did play with the highest quality of teammates, so I'm sure that had something to do with it. Still, Greene, Salvador, and Skoula all played with good quality of teammates and each negatively impacted their team's goal scoring when on the ice.   Most impressively among the non-Martin players was White as he played with the lowest quality of teammates in 09-10 among these 6 and still posted the second best on-ice impact for goal scoring.

Incidentally, Oduya also fell from his high 2008-09 rankings, but not by much.  Oduya's GFON/60 (2.84) was the 29th highest in this analysis and his on-ice impact on this stat (0.77) was the 13th best.  He did quite well in this regard and perhaps if he stayed a Devil, he would have boosted the Devils up in these categories.

Martin didn't only excel in terms of goals for per 60 in 2009-10, he had a very good adjusted Corsi/60 - after having one of the best from this group in 2008-09.

Martin_vs_devils_08-10_adjcorsi

In 2008-09, Martin was just behind Oduya in terms of adjusted Corsi/60 but being in the top 10 among the defensemen studied should still be seen as very impressive.  Tough competition, starting in his own zone a couple more times than in the opposition's, and he's at 9.76 per 60.  Impressive.

That season also saw White and Mottau put up very good adjusted Corsi/60 rates, placing them in the top 30. I think White was more impressive due to his tougher quality of competition and that he really was in his own zone more often than not compared to Mottau.   Salvador and Havelid bring up the rear on the team, as they witnessed the opposition having the better of puck possession when on the ice.  Having four defensemen be on the ice for a high Corsi/60 rate is a sign that the team controls the puck more when out there.

2009-10 saw a reduction in all of that for those defensemen.  Martin still led the team - and was still in the top 30 - with his Corsi/60 rate.  If you'd like to see who exactly Martin's Corsi was impacted by, and who's Corsi percentage Martin influenced the most - check out this WOWY analysis I did on Martin.

Mottau and White remained positive despite starting much more in their own zone, but their ranks fell out of the top 30.  Andy Greene appeared but only contributed an above average Corsi/60.  Salvador's improved to just below 0, so his ranking increased; and Martin Skoula's whole season was better than Havelid's. 

As for Mr. Oduya, well, his Corsi/60 dropped like a cinder block in the East River to 96th at -3.69.   While Martin's own rate dropped between the two seasons, he still maintained a high Corsi relative to most of the other defensemen looked at in the league and so he led the team.   In terms of offense, Martin compares to his teammates well.  Not dominant or terribly consistent, as he only maintained a substantial Corsi/60 rate.

Even Strength 2008-2010 Defensive Stats

In terms of goals against per 60, Martin and the Devils looked very good.

Martin_vs_devils_08-10_ga60

In 2008-09, Martin and Mike Mottau were among the best in goals against per 60 and their goals against differentials weren't too bad.  OK, Mottau's was great but again it came against weaker competition than Martin. Bryce Salvador didn't look too shabby at all here, with an exceptional raw GAON/60 and a good, positive differential of 0.09 fewer goals.  The on-ice impacts of Oduya and White weren't too good, but the GAON/60 they resulted in were still above average.  The only defenseman I'd say that wasn't good in either was Niclas Havelid - and he was just below average.

2009-10 saw much change.  Martin still contributed a positive on-ice impact - 0.14 fewer goals, just under his 08-09 impact - but it didn't stack up so well against rest of the team this time, much less other NHL defensemen. 

Martin Skoula's combined year made him look great here; but I'd be more impressed with Greene and Salvador. They finished in the top 30 in both stats, the top 10 in GAON/60 (where the Devils did very well across all 6 defensemen), and did it against relatively strong competition.  White and Mottau had even tougher competition which can partially account for their poor on-ice impact in this stat. I think that going from Greene-Salvador or Skoula-Martin was just tough for them to follow up on and eventually goals happened. Incidentally, Oduya outperformed those two Devils - and only those two Devils - in terms of on-ice impact (0.20 more goals against per 60, 81st) and just behind White in terms of GAON/60 (2.36).

Now, above all, an effective defenseman has to cut down on the shots against on the ice.  He must be able to clean up loose pucks, prevent the opposition from taking high percentage shots, from making the big play that the goalie cannot stop, and so forth.  In my opinion, if there's one stat that really highlights how good a defenseman impacts the game that deserves additional attention, it's shots against per 60.   It quantifies some of the qualities someone must be to be great on the blueline: positioning, decision making, communication, and so forth.

Martin_vs_devils_08-10_sa60

Wouldn't you know it? Martin was excellent in both categories.  In 2008-09, he led the team and was one of the best among the NHL defensemen analyzed for these posts. He did while playing the toughest competition on the team, not necessarily the highest quality of teammates, and for over 70 games.  There's no argument here: Martin was great in terms of on-ice impact on shots and the resulting SAON/60.   Colin White came real close, highlighting how effective he was despite the criticisms he sometimes gets.

The rest of the defensemen varied: Mike Mottau and Johnny Oduya were above average but definitely a class behind White and Martin from that season. Bryce Salvador and Niclas Havelid were below average and the shots against per 60 actually increased by a couple shots when they got on the ice.

2009-10 was even better for Martin.  First in SAON/60 impact, first in SAON/60, and while he played with a high quality of teammates, his quality of competition wasn't weak at all.   That the shots against per 60 rate dropped by 7.3 when Martin came on the ice was and still is ridiculous.  No, you actually don't have to be big or have a pedigree to have such a positive impact on your team.

The Devils as a whole were excellent in terms of SAON/60 - Greene was the worst and he still ranked 35th overall at 25.5.  Only if Oduya wasn't traded and still played the same would the Devils had someone below average at 27.8 (82nd) with an on-ice impact of 1.4 more shots (93rd). 

Great job by the defense, but if we want to identify who contributed to these excellent numbers, look no further than the on-ice impact.  Martin Skoula's entire season showed a great differential; and Mike Mottau - for all of his faults - stands out with 1.2 fewer shots against per 60 while facing relatively tough competition.   White wasn't as impressive but he wasn't a drain at only 0.1 more shots per 60.  Greene and Salvador weren't great in terms of on-ice impact as they had a negative impact on shots against per 60, but both kept it under a shot per 60.

No matter how you cut it, Martin stood out in terms of shots against per 60 and in his on-ice impact in both seasons: full and shortened by injury and against varying qualities of competition and teammates.  Not just among his team, but among defensemen who have played as much as he has across the NHL.  Paul Martin cut down on shots against at even strength and he'll continue to do so, period.

Even Strength 2008-2010 Conclusion

In case you didn't feel like reading all of that, well, shame on you. There's a lot of insight and numbers I put in there for your benefit.  Still, if you want a quick reference, here's how Martin stacked up with his own teammates in both seasons in 5-on-5 hockey.

Martin_vs_devils_08-10_team_rankings

What are the stars?  A number is starred if that defenseman finished in the top 30 in that particular stat.  I was inspired to highlight the top 30 - here and with all of the other references to it in this post - from this comment by ILWT user Matthew Gigawatts Maneri:

PREACH IT John! So what if he’s not the most physical man.. or possesses the hardest shot. He’s not fragile, and i’d say is a top 30 most stable/solid dmen in the league. (not top 30 BEST dmen.. but definitely solid).

I don't know about you, but I think being in the top 30 in 6 out of 9 stats at even strength should definitely qualify as being one of the 30 best defensemen in the league.  

If you want the actual rankings and numbers, please read the prior sections for the details.   To summarize this summarizing chart, in 2008-09, Oduya was the best offensive defenseman and Martin followed close behind.  In fact, only in terms of goals for per 60 did Martin fall behind most of his peers.  In 2009-10, Martin took the team lead in more categories (5) and instead only faltered in terms of shots for per 60 (whilst leading in goals for per 60).  No other Devils defenseman finished in the top 30 more than Martin across both seasons, and Martin did it 12 times out of 18.  (Aside: Oduya would come in second if we include this season where he'd total only 7 out of 18.)

I think it's clear that Paul Martin has been the Devils' best defenseman in the past two seasons.

At even strength, Paul Martin has been very effective at both ends of the rink despite what his point totals may suggest.   On the power play, he's been a good contributor to shots for per 60.  The only area where Martin wasn't exceptional is on the penalty kill; and I think that can be accounted for depending on the roster.

Basically, whoever signs Paul Martin is going to get an excellent defender who can log a lot of minutes - just as Devils fans have seen over the last two seasons, whether they noticed or not.   

Thank You

Again, big thanks to Behind the Net as it has provided the raw numbers for all of the charts you see here. Thanks to Derek Zona for showing me how to calculate adjusted Corsi/60.  Thanks to user Zelepukin for the initial inspiration for this post; and thanks to you, the reader - emphasis on the reader part, I'm assuming you read all of this.

I will conclude this extended look on Paul Martin by Thursday at the latest.  I will be doing a similar comparison as you see here only with unrestricted free agent defensemen who played comparable time to Martin.  Just to see if there's anyone out there who has made a similar impact on their team as Martin had in the past two seasons. 

Are you now convinced that Paul Martin has been a very good defenseman?  If not, why not?  Either way, do you have a better understanding of how much Martin has meant to the team?  Do you have also have a better understanding of what Greene, White, Mottau, and Salvador have done in the past two seasons as well?  Let me know what you think of this post and Paul Martin among his teammates in the comments. 

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