Last season was anything but what Alec Martinez had hoped for. In June of 2012 he was an integral piece of the Kings Stanley Cup winning team. By the time the calendar flipped to 2013 he had undergone major facial surgery following an on-ice accident in Finland and was about to suffer another injury soon after the NHL started back up.
Being limited to just 27 games during the regular season was compounded in the playoffs when coach Darryl Sutter had him suit up for only seven of the team’s 18 post-season games.
“We had our exit meetings and things like that, with coaches and management,” Martinez began. “So we discussed things that they want you to work on, parts of your game that they want you to get better. We can give feedback, too. So it’s good to have a good dialogue at the end of the year. I know what they want from me, and that’s what I took focus going into summer, to work on those kind of things and try to improve.”
Like every player, Martinez had a summer filled with training, while still finding time for those non-hockey activities.
“I went to a lot of weddings,” he said with a laugh. “I’m at that age when all my buddies are getting married and I’m the last one standing. I went to Lake Tahoe for a week, my buddy lives up there. Went out on the boat for awhile and did one of those tough mudder races, so that was pretty cool. Other than that, just going to weddings and laying low at home.”
Upon his return to LA for training camp he finds himself in a whole new battle – not just for playing time, but for an actual roster spot.
“This is pro sports, that’s the way it works,” remarked Martinez.. “Obviously you strive to have a competitive environment and we have nine D all fighting for a spot here. I think if you think about that too much, it can get the best of you, so I think you just have to go out there and focus on yourself and try to focus on your game and get that in order as soon as you can. That’s what training camp is for. Even Darryl said yesterday, we look better than we did the first day. You just take a focus on your own game and try to play your best out there, and wherever the chips fall, that’s where they fall.”
Looking back to last season, it can be easy to point to the injuries as the real issue, but Martinez prefers to think of it as a small piece of the overall story.
“Obviously that’s not the way you want to start the year. I had the surgery and I think the year started maybe eight or nine weeks after I got the surgery. I’m not going to use that as an excuse – it’s not optimal but as an athlete, stuff like that happens. Injuries happen, you have to deal with it. Not for a second am I using that for an excuse. I don’t know, I felt good coming into the year and obviously getting hurt ten games in didn’t help either, so it was just an up and down year for me personally. I think it was kind of a weird year for everybody. It’s behind me at this point, and I’ll learn from it. I think everyone goes through something like that at some point in their career – almost everyone. A little adversity. Learn from it, it’s behind us- and just focus on this training camp and this season.”
Saturday afternoon at Kings camp took a little different turn than originally scheduled. Sutter added in a scrimmage and nearly all the players embraced the idea, including Martinez.
“It’s impossible to simulate a game situation, especially as a defenseman, when you’re going back for a puck and trying to break it out and the guy behind you chasing you down full speed wants to put you in the first row. There’s really no way to simulate that other than a game situation, so I thought it was good to do that.”
In addition to the fight for roster spots, the other big storyline on the Kings blueline is the health of Willie Mitchell. So far, so good, seems to be the prevailing theme on that front.
“First of all, he looks great,” Martinez said. “Obviously he’s a great player, he’s been around a long time. He was a huge part of that cup run that we had and obviously it hurt us last year not having him out there. He’s a great hockey player, he has that good presence on the ice, where he’s a big guy, he has a long stick, can break up a lot of deep plays. We watched some video on him, too, that he helps dictate the other four guys on the ice, too, by his solid positioning in the D-zone. Everyone can feed off of that, that’s what all of us as defensemen try to do. He’s a good veteran presence and looks good, and hopefully he’ll have a good year.”
Note to webmasters/reporters: When recapping news or interviews from this site please include a link to www.MayorsManor.com