It’s sort of difficult to pin down exactly what is going on with Alec Martinez – or if there’s even anything really to report.
Although coach Darryl Sutter has been critical of his play at times this season – even if he’s occasionally cloaked it in generalities about all the young defensemen needing to get better – the overall numbers don’t suggest any alarming trends.
Martinez opened the season as a minus-1 against Chicago. But, no other Kings defensemen was a plus-player that game, so it wasn’t all on him. He then had an even-rating over the next 10 games before going out injured for a few weeks. Further, there was only one game during that stretch where he was a minus for the game (January 31, a 2-1 shootout loss to Nashville). So, defensively, he was holding his own.
He’s played six games since the injury, again posting an overall even-rating. However, he was a minus-1 on Monday vs. Calgary, where he was beat one-on-one and Sutter was frank about it after the game.
That earned him a night off on Tuesday in Phoenix.
His return to the line-up Thursday in San Jose drew another minus-1 performance.
“Obviously I’ve been better,” Martinez began when we sat down with him for a one-on-one earlier today. “I don’t really think there’s anything else to it, just the fact that I need to be better. Sometimes coming back from injury, when there’s not a whole lot of practice and a whole lot of games, i’s pretty easy to get out of the good habits and things like that – the little plays. That’s where I think I’ve struggled. I felt a little bit better last night. So, I just have to keep playing my game. I know it’ll come, and I just gotta make those little plays.”
The elephant in the room was injuries. Martinez suffered a horrific facial injury while playing in Finland during the lockout (something he described in gory detail here).
“No,” he said, right away, when asked if that was still in the back of his mind. “It’s my face, it’s protected. It’s just like any other guy that gets hit in their face. I don’t know. I don’t really think about it. It’s different than a body part that you actually use. So, it is what it is. I’ve been hit in the face before. Obviously not to that extent, but I’ve been hit. It’s a non-issue.”
What about the upper body injury then from February, does that maybe have him playing timid?
“No. I always believe in myself and my game. But, it’s just like anything, I’m trying to get better. I can get frustrated. But, no I’m not timid.”
If it’s not the injuries, what’s holding him back then – if anything? What does he need to do to play more like he was at the end of last season?
“It’s just getting out there on the ice,” said the 25-year old defenseman. “Just like today – it was an optional day. But, I’m going to get out there because I missed two and a half weeks where I didn’t really play, or wasn’t in game-like situations or anything. So, it’s just a matter of getting back into it, like anything else.”
For comparison purposes, the ‘Martinez of last season’ we referred to had four goals over the final 17 games of the regular season and was a plus-4. He also took 23 shots on goal during that time.
This year, in 17 games played, Martinez has one goal, 18 shots and is a minus-1.
A few weeks after Sutter took over as coach last season Martinez offered this to MayorsManor – “He’s good on the bench. He shoots it to you straight. If you make a good play, he’ll tell you. If you don’t, he’ll tell you too. Personally, I like it that way.”
So, we’ll lay it out straight here then. Something is off.
It wasn’t that long ago when Martinez was one of the shinning stars among the Kings young defensemen.
Now, with all that praise being thrown at Slava Voynov – something the young Russian has more than earned - we have to ask, what about Martinez?
Where did that guy go?
Is it a delayed sophomore slump or something else is going on?
At the very least, he seems to have lost his smile. And we’re not exactly sure why.
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