Marty’s Compete

Sometimes a thing gets said and then whether it’s true or
not that thing keeps being said. When we talk about players the easiest thing
to do is to just repeat what keeps being said but then when those players start
to develop or play differently everybody keeps saying the same thing anyway. If
somebody in any kind of authority says something then it’s magnified even more
so. Then a thing keeps getting said, not because it actually describes a player
but because that’s just what you say when you talk about that player.

Here’s an example I always found interesting when the local
media would talk to Washington media: Tom Poti took on the reputation in
Edmonton that he was soft and defensively irresponsible. The first things to
come to mind when you say “Poti” are all of his blunders and him missing
assignments. Fans in Washington remember him completely differently because
nobody was there to tell them he was soft and irresponsible. He was in fact
considered one of their better defensive players. The local Washington guys
would laugh when they had to talk about Poti with the Edmonton media because
the perception was so stark.

Here’s another one, “Jeff Petry is soft.” Jeff Petry
struggled with finding the right mix of physicality as he was learning on the
fly how to be an NHL defenseman, no doubt. He was big and mobile and entirely
capable of laying a big hit or standing people up at the blueline but it was a
guess as to when he would in his first season and a half. But despite finishing
in the top three on the team in hits and blocked shots in every full season he
played for Edmonton, his willingness to compete physically was always

Here was a player that put his body on the line to block
shots and made more hits than everybody on the team but the same tropes kept
being written or said about him.

“Soft”, “Not physical enough”, “Won’t use his body.”

Garbage, Lazy, Poppycock.

Right now, Martin Marincin is getting one thing said about
him no matter how well he performs. Martin Marincin has a problem with his “Compete”.

Compete is my least favourite word when it comes to
describing the deficiencies of a player. One of the problems stems from
treating this verb like it’s a noun. “Martin Marincin doesn’t show enough
compete,” is a lazy, unfounded, and nonsensical statement.

Not A Word

There’s no such thing as a compete. How do you count them?
One compete, two competes, three competes? If there are a group of competes (or
competi?) are they a flock, a herd, or a murder? Explain that one to me,

No, when somebody says “Martin Marincin didn’t show a lot of
compete,” what they really mean to say is something entirely different. They
mean to say something that the English language actually has words for but they
either don’t know them or they didn’t think about it all that hard.

Perhaps, for example, what someone critical of Martin
Marincin’s play means to say is “He’s a big guy but he doesn’t hit anybody hard
enough.” If we’re lucky they are a little more articulate than that and have
paid enough attention to say, “Martin Marincin uses good body and stick
position a lot more than he uses raw physicality but I think if this player
adds another dimension to his game he will become much more effective. He broke
up a play at the blueline with his stick but if he lays a guy out once in a
while he can change the way the attackers think about trying to gain the zone.”

I have all kinds of time for discussing the short comings of
these players, but can we speak in more than basic clichés that aren’t even

Where did this silliness even come from? Martin Marincin’s “compete” was the reasoning the GM and
former coach gave for sending this player back down to the minors at the
beginning of the year. This is the same GM who has proven without a shadow of a
doubt that he couldn’t spot a quality defenseman if one developed under his
nose for almost a decade, who thinks Nikitin is a top four guy, and who thinks Schultz
has Norris potential. Then there was the coach, who had to be fired a year and a
half into a four year contract because he was so inept, who played Brad Hunt for
11 games ahead of actual players, and who scratched Petry against the defending Cup Champions.

These are the people whose judgment of Martin Marincin we
keep parroting mindlessly when we talk about this player’s “compete”.

Let’s do ourselves a favour with Marincin and actually
talk about real issues in some kind of detail without using fake words that
originated from questionable sources. Let’s use real examples from games, talk
specifically about his actions or tendencies, and drop the insinuation that he
is in some way shape or form not battling out there.

He has a little more than 80 games of NHL experience and he’s
largely been used against tough opposition or with players who aren’t exactly known
for their offense. He has the second lowest percentage of Offensive
Zone starts among regular defensemen and yet the puck still finds its way to
the attacking zone with regularity. He has the third highest raw Corsi
numbers on the blueline. The only two higher than him are Schulz and Klefbom
who get big offensive pushes. There’s a problem if the focus is about whether or not this guy runs into the corners elbows first.

Chances are if you’re complaining about his lack of
“compete” you’re missing what he’s doing well and you’re just repeating
meaningless words.

  • Petrolero

    A little off-topic, but anyone noticed how since Eakins left Pouliot has not taken any stupid penalties, Yakupov doesn’t turn the puck over nearly as much, and even Schultz has Jultzed less often?. I think part of why Petry and others made such stupid mistakes at the beginning of the season had a lot to do with the team atmosphere and Eakins’ handling of mistakes (which was very unbalanced, giving very short leash to some and endless yarn to others).

    I think guys were terrified of making mistakes, thus making more because they were not in the right frame of mind. Since Nelson came in everyone is playing with more confidence and the results have been better despite an increasingly depleted roster.

    Cheer if you agree, trash if you don’t.

    • LibrarianMike

      I hope you’re right, but if MacT doesn’t do a significantly better job of building the team over the summer, they will be once again sitting 4-18 at the end of October no matter how much Nelson is more liked than Eakins.

  • M22

    Beauty of an article. Well done, again.

    A couple of posters possibly missed the point, which I believe has less to do with Marincin and MacT, and everything to do with us as fans. In fact, it has less to do with sports than it does people in general. The title itself, “MARTY’S COMPETE”, is brilliant, and, if I’m not mistaken, fully ironic, with intent.

    Unfortunately, the mob mentality that underlies the crux of your article is so deeply entrenched in all people, but to vastly varying degrees. Just look at politics, where a simple sound bite used against an opponent can have an enormous effect on an election. This is a well-used campaign strategy, because strategists know exactly the very thing that this article is pointing out: Say it once, repeat it a thousand times, and voila! – now it’s fact.

  • camdog

    “Physicality” bugs me way more than “compete.”

    Analyst (usually Pierre MacGuire): “He’s got a lot of physicality.”

    Me: “Oh, you mean he has a body? That’s great.”

    There’s a guy in my over-30 pickup floor hockey game who is just all compete. He’s always trying to take the ball hard to the net, he mucks it up with guys in the corners, especially in his own zone, and he has this funny little short, choppy run so he always looks like he’s just churning his little guts out. He’s got tunnel vision and usually can’t take a pass or put his shot where he wants to.

    There’s another guy who often looks like he’s barely moving at all. Instead of rushing into the corners he keeps his stick in front of him in passing lanes. He finds holes and has a terrific shot. He easily makes “no look” passes because he seems to know where everybody is on the floor.

    Guess who’s by far the more effective player?

    I get why people like players like the first guy more than the second guy. I think for a lot of people it just looks like he’s giving more effort, and people who say things like “my season tickets pay your salary!” or wear their loyalty to the team on their sleeve like to see guys earning it.

    But it’s all perception. It’s a trick of the eye. Player one has shorter legs, so it looks like he’s running faster when he’s not more effective, it just takes him more strides to get there. Steve Staios wasn’t a better player than Tom Poti because he sometimes threw hits. If you like one player more than another that’s fine, it’s allowed. But can we please stop pretending things like Jason Smith being a better player in the 2006 playoffs than Jaroslav Spacek because he had more “compete”? They do different things, but one is clearly more effective than the other.

    • Bucknuck

      I would argue the only reason the second player has the ability to be effective is because of the work put in by the first guy. You need compete, especially for defenceman, hockey is a physical game you can’t get by just taking it easy finding “open ice”. It’s not a coincidence that the team that wins the most puck battles usually wins the game. But ignorance is bliss, that is just my perception

      • KidCanada2975

        I think you’ve got it backwards. I think it’s the guy with the head for the game and the ability to move the puck that lets the other guy play his game. He’s certainly better able to make up for the other guy’s mistakes.

        But that’s not really the point, because you don’t build a team out of just one type of player, and I don’t think anyone’s going to argue that. I don’t think your defense should be made up of six guys like Martin Marincin. I do think a defense of six Marincins would be better than a defense of six Keith Aulies, but that’s not really the point either.

        Guys like Marincin have their place. For people to argue that his “lack of compete” will have him out of the league in three years, or that every defenseman needs to have that FIYAH or he’s an ineffective wuss who should be playing tennis is disingenuous.

  • camdog

    Matt I agree that players develop or change and a lot of time people don’t change how they talk about them, but seriously compete is just a word that means they aren’t the most willing corner battler. Should we just turn a blind to a players bad attributes just because they have good ones? I would argue giving marincin a partner who does all the dirty work would make him a better player, and allow us to see his positive attributes more often, but every player can get better and to pretend that their negative attributes don’t exist would be a mistake. It is also a mistake though, to hang your hat on their bad side and let that blind you from the good

  • Tikkanese

    I was fine with the Petry healthy scratch. At least “visually” before the sitting, he was not playing all that well and afterwards he played better than ever.

      • Tikkanese

        I’m sure veterans and rookies alike would get “butt-hurt” by being a healthy scratch but it was only one game and at least “visually” turned his game around for the better.

        I really doubt that scratching made much of a difference in the relationship as it was pretty much already set in stone before the season started that both parties were moving on after this season. I’m not saying that was the correct move for the Oilers’ side but it is what it was.

          • elgruntus

            that reflects in the tweet that day by Petry’s wife. Can’t remember it verbatim, but I do remember thinking that he was done as an Oiler at that moment. Much like the tweet from Nick Shultz’s brother.

          • Tikkanese

            That could be true but unless you heard Petry himself say it, it really holds no value. Even if it was his agent saying it, it doesn’t necessarily hold value. They only say and do what they think will end up paying off the best for their clients in the end.

            Besides all that, the writing was already on the wall with the one year contract.

        • El Pindo

          If an off his game Petry wasn’t the Oilers best dman by a mile, I don’t think he’d be upset, but on this team, the state it is in, Petry, on an off day, was still their best option, I think that’s where the issue would arise, and I mean cmon, seriously, Hunt, BRAD HUNT, got ELEVEN GAMES (or whatever he got)???!!!!! SERIOUSSLLLYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Tikkanese

    I was also fine with MM being sent down to start the season. People seem to forget that he had a pretty bad training camp overall. He only played ok in the last 1.5 games of preseason. What ever happened to the philosophy of developing prospects? Or of earning roster spots?

    He seems to be playing well now and it did not hurt him. It’s not like MM would have been the difference between making the playoffs or not.

  • Paq Twinn

    Hearing so and so didn’t ‘compete’ hard enough is on par with all your MacT sucks drivel. Annoyong, isn’t Matt. Not saying you are wrong in any way shape or form just saying your foot must be sore.

  • El Pindo

    This is so bang on…some Oiler fans enjoy eating their young. Annoyed the hell out of me to hear some fans disparage Petry like they did with Poti, like they did with Arnott, and so on. I don’t get how these Oiler fans could be as inept as our GM…keeping Nikitin and Schultz over Petry. Soon to be Marincin. This is why we compete for “we are 30th” the past nine years. Until we get real management like Calgary has with Burke/Treliving, we will continue to flounder. Getting beyond embarrassing for Oiler fans.

  • Anton CP

    While Edmonton Oilers fans for being one of the most passionate doesn’t mean that they are the smartest. Oilers fans for being knowning throwing the player under the bus for quite some times. One of the reason for being spoiled so much during 80s and early 90s.

    • camdog

      Not just in recent years either. Oilers fans essentially chased Paul Coffey out of town in the 1980’s too, claiming he was too weak defensively. Grant Fuhr and Jason Arnott also come to mind…

  • Oilfaninvan

    Matt: How about: MM doesn’t “compete” hard enough.

    Your comment that “Martin Marincin uses good body and stick position a lot more than he uses raw physicality but I think if this player adds another dimension to his game he will become much more effective.” is bang on. Personally, I don’t particularly care if he never “lays a guy out “. Lidstrom proved it is not necessary for a defenceman to do that to be effective. Nevertheless, he is still being pushed off the puck far too much.

    At the end of last season, the Oilers stated several times that MM needed to “take a page out of Chara’s book” by building up his strength in the offseason so he could physically handle the big forwards in the Western Conference, and not be pushed off the puck. Did MM do that? Not enough, clearly, based on his play this year. The real question is: why not? Perhaps he figured that since he played much of last year on the Oilers, he was a lock to be back on the big team again this year and got complacent? That might explain some of the “tough love” the Oilers showed him this year. MM is a talented defenceman with tons of potential, but it’s up to him to decide how hard he wants to work at his craft.

  • bradleypi

    I like most of what you’re saying here. I do take issue with your rant on compete though.

    I remember MacT or Eakins mentioning that Marincin needed to up his compete level. I have no opinion on that. I did note it and wonder about it a little but I figured they picked up something watching the game or tapes or something. I generally didn’t notice Marincin much, which is a good thing when playing defense.

    Compete level. I coach bantams and use that reference off and on, usually tied to a criticism or accolade.

    You can have intensity without compete.
    You don’t need to be talented to have compete.
    You can have effort without compete.You don’t have to be physical to have compete.

    It’s a combination of these plus realizing what you can do that best benefits the team and doing what you can to achieve this.

    I don’t know what it would be at the pro level but in minor hockey the guys with a good compete attitude are going to improve at a faster rate than those that don’t apply themselves. They’re the ones that might be one of your worst players at the start of the season and one of your best by the end.

    There’s more to it but then I would have go on and on. It’s Friday. My weekend is starting.

    Have a good one!

  • I don’t recall Poti being unfairly and widely pegged as being defensively irresponsible. I was covering the team when he came in and when he went out. He wasn’t much of a risk taker and wasn’t mistake-prone.

    Most of the criticism of Poti was that he was soft and that, to an extent, was true. He preferred positioning over physical play. He had one of the longest sticks in the league and preferred fishing for the puck and stick-checking rather than banging bodies. He was a fairly big player and got the soft tag many bigger players who don’t hit a lot get. Sort of along the lines of Tom Gilbert.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    Marincin has been awesome and was the only bright spot of a bad season last year.

    Maybe they’re taking it slow with him and trying to develop him properly but it seems like they just don’t like him. He came back 15 lbs heavier and outperformed guys in the pre season but his poor start is apparently what got him banished.

    Stupid move to banish a guy for a slow start to the pre season. That’s what the pre season is for. Gotta shake off the rust…or play your way into shape which apparently doesn’t get you banished to the minors.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    How many times do we have to be reminded that Petry did not want to be here.

    He was on the 1st bus out of town and at least we got a pick for him.

  • Zarny

    Many Oilers fans like two types of players; HoF skill and Jason Smith/Ryan Smyth. And right or wrong that is who everyone is compared to.

    I’ve never thought of ‘compete’ as running into the corners elbows first. More so intensity. Specifically when it matters most.

    Like in front of the net. In the corners. When it’s a 50/50 puck to fight for. Or in OT against Winnipeg with Wheeler rushing down and you have position. When you hit him do you win that battle or get dumped on your a**.

  • Zarny

    he seems to know defence, which puts him ahead of any norris candidates we currently have which means we should keep him. the more guys we have that can pass the puck to hall the better

  • Crazy, but this is the first I heard Marincin doesn’t have “compete”. I thought he did, now Justin Schultz I think doesn’t have it. Marincin just appears to use his stick more often for checking than driving people into the boards. I think that defenders who always try to plaster opponents into the boards miss just as often and so end up out of the play – great compete, lousy defense. It would be great if Marincin would plaster a guy once and while like he gets plastered once in a while, but I think defending and getting the puck out of the zone is much more important

  • I don’t think I will ever understand the average fan’s preference for players who look like they trying really hard over players who actually get results but don’t flail around constantly.

    Sometimes the appearance of trying harder is nothing more than a by-product of not being as good at the game and trying to compensate for it.

    I’ll take the player who actually accomplishes something over the guy who hockeys harder every time.