A familiar name is being mentioned a lot right now in Toronto. A lot of the same arguments Oiler fans have seen before are being chewed through by fans, media,
and likely the hockey staff of the Leafs, just as they were here. Martin
Marincin is an interesting player whom the Oilers jettisoned this past summer
and is now taking big leaps with his team. I’m happy for Marincin, but it’s irksome as one that lobbied for him until the end.
For those who don’t know or don’t remember, Marincin has
always been a personal favourite of mine. I genuinely “saw him good,” as they
say, even though that sentiment was definitely not replicated universally.
Perhaps this was because he is a non-traditional player and I lean significantly
towards non-traditional analysis. Strange birds of a feather flock together, or
The tall, lanky Slovak is having something of a coming out
over the last few weeks as he’s been thrust into a significant role with the
Leafs. He’s now consistently logging top three minutes on the defense and as his
time increases, the impact he has on the game seems to make a better impression
with head coach Mike Babcock.
It’s true now that Babcock is regularly referring to Martin
Marincin as a part of his “Big Three” defenseman. He’s now mentioned in the
same breath as Rielly and Gardiner by one of the most venerated hockey men in
the NHL. That’s a big deal for a kid who was tossed aside by the lowly Oilers,
who had his compete level questioned by managers and media alike, who was the
only defender on the Oilers who didn’t get another year to prove himself to
The 2014-2015 Oiler blueline was a train wreck, not unlike it was
this year, but of the 13 players who suited up for Edmonton’s defense the only
ones who were not with the club or in the system this year were Keith Aulie and
Martin Marincin. Everybody else got a stay of execution, but Peter Chiarelli got
some pretty terrible intel and moved out a player who is now logging
20+ minutes a night in the NHL and has been competent doing so.
The Marincin trade is going to be remembered by many as
Marincin for Gryba, but that’s not actually what happened. The Oilers traded
Marincin for Brad Ross and the 107th pick in the draft. The Oilers
then traded Travis Ewanyk and that pick to the Senators for Gryba. Considering
neither Ewanyk nor Christian Wolanin (the player the Sens took at 107) are ever
likely to help the Senators even win a game, the argument that the
Oilers needed to trade Marincin in order to acquire Gryba probably doesn’t carry
What I’m saying is, I’m sure the Oilers could have found a
way to make something work.
And, honestly speaking, I’ve liked what Eric Gryba has brought to
the third pair. He can play physically, he plays within his means (as in he doesn’t
have delusions of being Bobby Orr), and he’s a right shot. That last bit is
important. Right shot defenders are always in demand and recent analysis seems
to suggest that having L-R pairs really can make a positive difference.
While we’re at it, the emergence of Brandon Davidson may
also have made Marincin expendable in another way. There are a lot of “What-Ifs”
that can be played if we think about what might have happened if the Oilers
kept Marincin. Would they have lost him or Davidson to waivers anyway? Would
the Oilers have been able to keep Nurse in the AHL for longer? Would they have
traded for Reinhart if they believed they had something of value in Marincin?
We can only speculate.
All we can say for sure is that Marincin has been getting
quality results while looking awkward in the process for a long time. He’s not
typical. He is spindly and uses his stick much more than his body. Even as he’s
climbed up the depth chart of the Leafs his coach still wants him to gain more
strength. This is something we’ve heard before, as Robin Brownlee mentioned yesterday. It’s not as if Marincin has never put in a summer’s work before
though. He gained 15 pounds in one off-season with the Oilers to put him up
over the 200 pound mark.
As for his on-ice contributions, they’ve always been positive to the goal of keeping the puck out of the net. I’ve mentioned this
before and I’ll double down on it here: Martin Marincin is one of the best
defensive defensemen in the NHL. He is the modern shut-down defender and the
results speak for themselves. His three year Corsi For percentage relative to
his teammates is 30th among NHL defensemen with 2000 minutes played.
He is number one in the NHL in goals against per 60 minutes relative to his
teammates and 27th in raw goals against per 60 minutes.
Simply put, the puck stays out of Toronto’s net when
Marincin is on the ice to such a degree that the impact is unquestionably
positive. It was that way when he was an Oiler as well. If you hate fancy stats
and are more comfortable with numbers like traditional plus/minus then consider
that Marincin has played 137 games for the Oilers and the Leafs and is only a
career -4. He has played exclusively on garbage teams that had terrible
goaltending, isn’t adding much offense of his own, and has still found a way to
keep things almost even. That’s as impressive now as it was when he was an
Why we’re bringing him up right now as the Oilers limp out
the season isn’t to pine over his loss. It’s to question how the decision to
move him was made. Somebody was feeding the Oilers bad information. Somebody couldn’t
see past the way Marincin looked to see the results he was bringing. That
person is still in the organization today.
Chiarelli is coming up on his one year with the Oilers and
decisions are going to be made. When those decisions are being made, one has to
believe seeing the Maple Leafs pass the Oilers in the standings on the back of
25 minute a night performances from Martin Marincin is going to factor in. Edmonton
isn’t good enough to keep people around who value style over substance.
Edmonton isn’t good enough to keep people around who can’t evaluate talent.
All stats courtesy of stats.hockeyanalysis.com