The big counter point to the teams record sans Martin this year is the record without him in previous years. It is abyssal. Some food for thought, since Rafalski has left Martin has averaged about 3 minutes more a game in icetime than anyone else on the team. It has cost him about 9 games a year in injury time, but otherwise he doesn't show many signs of slowing down on the ice. Jacques had to over use Greene and Mottau to take that icetime, and it killed both of them. By the olympic break both guys were just out of gas. There just arent the guys on this roster that proven they can take big icetime all season long. Of the UFA's out there only Neidermayer and Gonchar got more icetime than Martin averages in a healthy season.
Offensively Martin is an enigma to me. He doesnt have a good shot, but has the skating and stick handling skills to be a great transition defenseman. We see it almost every time he is on during a 4 on 4 situation where he takes full advantage of that extra room. Yet he largely does not take those chances at 5 on 5 except for the rare occasion. It could be that the coaching staff has asked him not to, and given who his defensive partners have been since Scott Neidermayer id say its justifiable. Or is it that he just does not have the vision to carry the puck through the neutral zone in a congested 5 on 5 situation? The skills are there to take his offensive game to a new level, but I dont think his head is there for it. He doesnt think offensively enough, or take enough chances.
The criticism that is often levied against Martin is his defensive zone play. Sure he isnt going to pound opposing forwards into submission, but his positioning and stick work are among the best out there. He rarely ends up on the wrong side of opposing forwards in coverage. There is not a better defender on the team at forcing turnovers along the boards. Really Martin and to a much lesser extent Greene are the only two guys on the team that do force turnovers. All the other guys just get beat, and end up a step behind leading to longer zone time for the opposing team than is necessary. Part of this is how Jacques had them playing, but giving the opposing team the outside, but White/Mottau/Sal just suck at taking the puck away.
While we are at it lets get into breakout passes. Martin is the only guy on the team who makes good first passes on a consistent basis. Greene has the ability but throughout his career he has been hit or miss. Lets look at the free agents who are out there. Only Gonchar provides a better ability for a team to leave its own end.
So is he a game changing defender in the definition of a huge hitter, a big shot, or end to end rushes? No. But he does all the little things in the game that keep the Devils playing more offense than defense while he is on the ice. Oh, and he almost always makes his defensive partner look great. Johnny Oduya, Bryce Salvador, and even the ever lost Martin Skoula have all looked their best while playing along side Paul Martin. He doesn't need to be replaced, he needs better 2nd pair support.
Anyway, there is not another free agent that combines Martin's ability in his own end with his transition skills that can be signed long term. This team does not need another defensive d, especially one whose forte is shot blocking like Volchenkov. They need guys who have the ability to play good d, while still being able to move the puck in order to create some semblance of a transition game. The inability to cleanly break out of the zone killed the Devils for the last 30 games and playoffs last year.
Corvo is almost done as offensive defender. His time with Washington, which should have played right to his style of play, was a disaster.
There are only two guys on the list I like. Hamhuis, who if Philly has their way is off the market before July 1st anyway. And Michalek who is really just Paul Martin light.
Another person who understands.