Why Matt Martin's Hits Record is Significant

During today’s Bruins game, Islanders forward Matt Martin set a record for hits in a single season by recording his 357th hit of the year and finished the day with 360. That’s a nice accomplishment for Martin and some bigger blogs that cover the entire league took notice, most notably Adam Gretz at CBS and Harrison Mooney at Puck Daddy. It’s nice to see the Islanders have something positive written about them by outlets that cover the entire league, especially on a day when they got doubled up by the Bruins, 6-3. Both pieces also addressed the validity of the statistic itself, since hits is a subjective statistic and can be prone to some home-grown bias.

“He’s a standout checker on a team that doesn’t really play all that tough,” Mooney wrote. “The stat may indeed be tainted, but this accomplishment deserves at least a mention.”

For what it’s worth, Gretz was less impressed: “Martin is clearly a physical player and seems to be a guy that the Islanders like, but other than being a potential negotiating point come contract time (he led the league in … something) this is probably the least significant record that could fall during the course of a season.”

I’ll admit the stat itself is a bit wonky and not exactly the most important stat to lead in. But Martin’s role on the team is certainly important and everyone who watches this team on a consistent basis clearly understands his value. But for me it’s not so much that Martin has accomplished setting a record — it’s how he’s has gone about it.

To explain, let’s go back to last season. Things were getting hairy and the Islanders had a night at the fights prompting many folks around the league to hem and haw, wagging their finger at those no good Islanders and one of the people in their crosshairs was Martin. In that infamous game, Martin tried to exact revenge on Max Talbot for Talbot’s shot at Blake Comeau earlier in the year. Martin came after Talbot from behind — not in a Todd Bertuzzi kind of way — but in a way that elicited reactions such as these from the aghast media:

Alright, so Cox is just a professional troll but the point is that all of a sudden the Islanders were thugs, criminals or worse. Right in the center of it was Martin, ready to be the next SportsCenter highlight of hockey’s bad boys who are only out for some kind of primitive blood lust. Martin received a four-game suspension for his actions and used his first time offender card, which lets players off a bit more leniently.

And what’s he done since then?

Hit 360 players and not have any serious dust up or suspension. In fact, there was this moment on Thursday night that showed Martin actually going out of his way to protect an opposing player from one such hit.

For all the attention that hits to the head get around the NHL these days, Matt Martin is leading the league in hits and is not in that conversation. Whether or not the record has serious significance due to the obvious shortcomings of how the statistic is kept is certainly debatable. What is not is that Martin has delivered 360 “hits” without drawing the eye of NHL Disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan.

There are players that know how to hit and have an impact in the game without injuring their opponents and there are those that don’t. Put Martin at the top of the list of guys doing it the right way.


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