One-on-One With Matt Martin
With the playoff picture narrowing by the day, Matt Martin gave me a call yesterday afternoon to discuss some playoff hockey as well as to take a look at the Islanders as they prepare for next season.
Martin is currently waiting for a new contract with the New York Islanders and has been training a lot this off-season in preparation for 2013. He set an NHL record in 2012 with 374 hits in 80 games played to go along with tying his career high of 14 points. Along with his explosions along the wall, Martin has become one of the biggest fan-favorites for the New York Islander. In fact, his hard work, fisticuffs and willingness to stick up for his teammates earned him the Bobby Nystrom Award for 2012. (CassieMadonia/Flickr)
But apparently all that hard work takes it's toll. The guy didn't even do to much for his 23rd birthday that just passed on May 8th.
So did you do anything special for your birthday?
No, not really. Just got together with my family and friends on the weekend. I didn't really celebrate, my birthday fell on a weekday so it was really just training and a lot of laying around, I guess.
What about this summer, anything special planned?
No, not really. I don't know if you know Mark Katic, he plays down in Bridgeport, I played with him in Junior in Sarnia. He's getting married this summer so I will be standing up for his wedding. So I have that to attend, I think I'll be heading down for Kyle Okposo's wedding. Other than that, just training for next season.
Who do you live with during the hockey season?
I actually live on my own. I had a one bedroom apartment but Hamonic had an apartment right next door so we were pretty much roommates. But when we got sick of each other we got to have our own privacy as well. Last year I lived with Rob Schremp before he got over to Atlanta. But living on your own is more comfortable and to have your own place and your own space when you need it. But we're a pretty good group so we get together a lot of the time.
Who was harder to live with? Hamonic or Schremp?
Well me and Hamonic get along pretty good, we're pretty close friends. We have the same interests so we get along great. We're around the same age where Schrempy is probably four years older than me so for him it wasn't the funnest thing to live with the young guy.
Speaking of the season, you had an all around career year, setting an NHL record in hits. What did you do to improve your game coming in from 2011?
You know I just worked on my skating with skating coaches, I worked with them a lot throughout the summer. Just worked on obviously getting stronger. After my first season I got a taste of what it's like to play a full NHL year. It's a grind, it's a long trip. It comes with experience, the more you play the more you learn. Coming into this summer I've learned even more. I'm excited about the off-season training and the endurance I want to add and I'm looking forward to next year to take my game to another level.
Many people are friends with you on Facebook, and they can see that you knew players like Steve Stamkos or Zack Kassian in Juniors, the latter of which you had a very impressive fight with in Buffalo. Do you maintain good relationships with these guys as well as others even though you play on different NHL teams?
Definitely. With Stamkos when I'm in Tampa Bay we try to go out, have dinner and catch up. With Zack Kass, we train together in the summer. I'm actually training with him later today. You definitely try to stay in touch with some of those friends. You know you've been friends with some since you were sixteen years old. You definitely try to stay in touch and try to keep those relationships because they are your close friends and you want to see them succeed.
2011 had you aligned with Trevor Gillies, Zenon Konopka, and at times Micheal Haley. With the exception of Haley's late season call up this year, you were the primary enforcer on the ice. Is that a responsibility you take with pride, or is it more of you just doing your job?
I think it's a little bit of both. I mean it can go both ways. I guess you can say the Islanders organization, Garth Snow and Jack Capuano have the confidence in me to be able to take on that role and be successful at it. But it's all for me just doing my job. I don't want to go out there and fight every shift. I don't think of myself as a heavyweight player. I think of myself more of a power forward and that's what I want to build my game into. At the same time, if I need to stick up for a teammate or when I need to get the team going, that's something I take on. Fights are part of the game and I feel like it always should be part of the game. My team needs me to chip in that but I also want to push my game and be more of an offensive player. (clydeorama/Flickr)
David Clarkson of the NJ Devils started out as a fourth line enforcer and now suddenly had a 30 goal season. Is he an example of the type of player you would like to see yourself become?
Definitely. He's exactly what a power forward is, you know guys like [Brayden] Schenn and Milan Lucic. These are the guys that I want to develop my game into. Like you said, Clarks is a guy that came into the league that was fighting twenty times a year and obviously he had a great season with 30 goals and he's in the Eastern Conference finals now and the playoffs so he's having a great season and definitely the kind of player I want to be.
If you were Garth Snow, what would you do with this year's first round draft pick? Would you look towards a defenseman or forward or even look to trade it?
That's a tough question, that's one that can get you in trouble. I'm just going to say that I'm not Garth Snow. He's going to make the decision that he feels is best. I just play hockey, I do what they ask of me and that's just as far as it goes. As soon as you start thinking that you're more than a hockey player that's when you start to get yourself in trouble.
2015 is slowly but surely creeping up on everyone; do you or any of your teammates concern yourselves about the playing future of the franchise?
Obviously it's hard not to pay any attention. It seems that it's one of the biggest discussions on Long Island right now. I think as an organization, on a team we want to play in New York. We want to bring another Stanley Cup to Long Island. Once again it's one of those uncontrollable circumstances for us as players. The bottom line is that Charles will make the best decision that suits him and the County has to make a decision as well. Once again we don't have much say in that, all we really can do is play hockey.
Have contract negotiations begun yet between you and Garth?
You know, that's, once again, something that will be discussed between my agent and Garth Snow. I feel like we have a good relationship, me and Garth Snow on the Island. It's a close organization and the direction that the team's heading, I feel that's it's great and I want to be a part of that for a long time. But once again, I just focus on training. I pay my agent to take care of that and Garth Snow's the GM.
Have you talked to PA Parenteau at all about staying with the Islanders?
You know, it's not something that's really been discussed. I know they were talking earlier in the season and they kind of put things away there for a while. I have been talking to him, I really can't say either way. I know he's made a lot of close friends on the team but it is a business. You hate to see players go but it happens every year. If he stays, great, we'd love to have him. But it's obviously a decision that he needs to make for himself and his family and it's Garth's decision as well. I can't really give you a very good answer on that one. I don't have too much information on that. Like I said, we'd love to have him, but at the same time it is a business. Ever year you see new faces in your locker room. It's out of our control but that's just how it is.
With the playoffs narrowing down, who are you rooting for and why?
I don't think I'm really rooting for anyone. It's tough to watch obviously. You want to be a part of the playoffs so bad that it almost breaks your heart to be sitting at home watching. There's no one in the league to really root for, you play against these teams every day. But I do have some friends, I have Adam Henrique in New Jersey. I guess if there's one team I wouldn't want to win it would be the Rangers.
What's your prediction for the outcome tomorrow at the Garden for Game 7?
I'm not really sure, the last few games have been wild ones. It is the playoffs, it is game seven and anything can happen. Dale Hunter has done a great job with that Washington team. He kind of has them all playing the same way and playing a strong defensive game. They [Washington] won Thursday night and I won't be disappointed if the home team loses but if they win that's good for them, they've definitely earned it.
And who says that the rivalry is dead? I think we can all agree that Martin bleeds blue and orange and shares the same feelings of most Islanders fans.