2021-22 Player Review: Alec Martinez made the most of injury-rocked season
The 34-year-old missed 53 games after sustaining a serious face laceration Nov. 11.
In the 2021-22 Player Review series, we will evaluate the 2021-22 performances of each key member of the Golden Knights. Players were evaluated based on overall performance in the regular season with regard to pre-season expectations and how that player performed in his particular role.
Alec Martinez has been an important piece of Vegas’ veteran core since coming over via trade at the 2019 deadline. He signed a three-year, $15.75 million extension last summer but played in just 26 games for the Vegas Golden Knights in 2021-22. Martinez’s face was cut by a skate in a Nov. 11 contest against Minnesota; it was initially believed to be a short-term concern but ultimately kept him out of the lineup for more than four months (53 games). He made his triumphant return March 26 against Chicago when the Golden Knights overcame a three-goal deficit in the third period for the first time in franchise history.
Season in review
Martinez entered this season coming off the best offensive performance of his career, as he recorded 32 points in 53 games for a career-high 0.6 points per game in 2020-21. He also led the NHL in blocked shots with 168, 40 more than the next player (Adam Larsson).
But in 2021-22, Martinez recorded just three goals and eight points in 26 games, giving him a total of 14 goals and 48 points in 89 games spanning three seasons with the Golden Knights. His first goal of the season didn’t come until April 12 against Vancouver; he potted all three of his goals in the final nine games of the year.
Despite the small sample size, his possession metrics were solid.
His 58.33 percent goal share ranked first among regular Vegas defensemen (min. 12 games), as did his high-danger Corsi share (55.32 percent). His expected goal share (53.33 percent) was second behind only Zach Whitecloud.
In Martinez’s absence, Brayden McNabb — who signed a three-year, $8.55 million extension at the end of January — led the NHL with 179 blocked shots for the 2021-22 season.
However, Martinez remains an elite shot-blocker. With a total of 68 on the year, he averaged 2.62 per game, which topped all other defensemen on the Vegas roster. Martinez also finished second in the NHL (among players with at least five games played) in blocks per 60 minutes with 8.03; the only player with a better mark was Edmonton’s Kris Russell (8.52).
Martinez does more than just block shots, though. He’s sound defensively, boasts a booming one-timer, makes smart reads and is an important player on the ice and in the locker room. The two-time Stanley Cup champion offers veteran leadership and plenty of intangibles, which the Golden Knights have benefited from since his arrival in 2019. He didn’t have much of a chance to demonstrate it in a season defined by a career-threatening injury, but he is one of the more underrated players on a talented Vegas roster.
They don't call him Warrior for nothing.— Kevaney Martin (@KevaneyMartin) April 27, 2022
Hard to find anything wrong with how Alec Martinez plays.
With Vegas' season on the line he's leaving it all out on the ice 😤🙌#VegasBorn pic.twitter.com/VELS7PJzJs
Martinez’s future in Vegas is uncertain. The 34-year-old has two years remaining on a deal carrying a $5.25 million cap hit, and he could end up being one of Vegas’ early cap casualties. Nicolas Hague played top-pair minutes in Martinez’s absence, and while Martinez has been more than worth the two second-round picks Vegas sent to Los Angeles to acquire him, it’s unclear if that cap hit is manageable moving forward. Other likely trade candidates include Evgenii Dadonov and Laurent Brossoit, but the fate of Reilly Smith and Vegas’ restricted free agents could determine whether Martinez returns to Sin City. Martinez currently has a 16-team no-trade list, which then becomes a 12-team no-trade list for the 2022-23 season, according to CapFriendly.
Knights On Ice grade: C+
Martinez continues to be a valuable asset on Vegas’ blue line, but he missed extensive time.
How would you grade Martinez’s injury-shortened season?
Statistics courtesy of NaturalStatTrick and NHL.com.