SAN JOSE –- When the Sharks signed Paul Martin last summer, general manager Doug Wilson and coach Pete DeBoer declared right away on a July 1 conference call that they envisioned their new blueliner paired with Brent Burns.
That’s been the case since day one of training camp, and it’s assuredly a huge reason Burns had a breakthrough 75-point campaign, along with a possible Norris Trophy nomination. Martin’s calm, quiet and responsible game has allowed Burns to wreak havoc all over the ice, particularly in the offensive zone.
But the Martin effect can’t be measured simply by Burns’ production, or his own respectable stat-line of 20 points and a plus-3 rating in 78 games. The 35-year-old veteran has helped to fill what was a huge void last season, when the San Jose blue line was devoid of a veteran leader that could act as a conduit between the team and the coaching staff.
DeBoer detailed one example how on Wednesday.
“I remember there was a game earlier in the year and I kind of came down the bench and barked at one of the young defensemen about a mistake,” DeBoer said. “[Martin] came in to see me after the period, basically to say, ‘Hey, how can I help deliver the message to this guy?’
“He has the confidence, he’s been around long enough, and he recognizes what it’s like to be a young guy and the fragility of that. I thought it was a real leadership moment for him to come in and do that.”
Burns agreed that Martin has helped the blue line group as a whole.
“He’s definitely one of the bigger voices I think for the D,” Burns said. “He’s been through a lot. His experience and his composure has been huge for a lot of guys.”
Impressively, Martin has made the NHL playoffs in each of his 12 seasons in the NHL. He played for New Jersey from 2003-10, and Pittsburgh in 2010-15 before inking a four-year, $19.4 million contract with San Jose in the offseason.
The Minneapolis native knew he was joining a team that had missed the postseason in 2014-15, and he also had to be aware of the numerous issues the club experienced throughout those turbulent 12 months after the 2014 playoff collapse.
Walking into what was a fractured dressing room as a free agent, though, was an easy transition for him.
“The chemistry in the room is great,” Martin said. “From young to old, guys get along and understand that we all want to win and accept our roles. It’s been a pretty easy year that way.”
That’s a two-way street, according to DeBoer.
“People gravitate towards [Martin] off the ice. You want to be around him,” said the coach.
That makes it easier for Martin to serve as a kind of player-coach. It might not be an everyday occurrence, but Martin is a lot like one of those signs at the airport – if he sees something, he’ll say something.
“I’m obviously not loud, but if there’s something that I think would benefit them, like a teaching point or something that I think will help – everyone has strengths in their games, and some weaknesses that most people already recognize. The last fix of the game that he can improve on, occasionally it will come up within a game.”
That’s a luxury for the coaches.
“He plays like a coach wants a defenseman to play,” DeBoer said. “Composure, making the right play all the time, a quiet competitiveness. He’s a great extension of our staff.”