(This article was written based on the data until 5 Feb 2016)
Paul Martin signing with the San Jose Sharks was one of the last steps in a process that maybe had already started with Sergei Gonchar leaving back in 2010. The veteran defense surrounding Letang has stepped aside, leaving room for the number of young d-men, who the Penguins had accumulated through the draft. Derrick Pouliot has now joined Maatta and Dumoulin. Each of them has had a different start to their NHL career.
Maatta had surprised everyone, making the team out of training camp when nobody expected him to.
Dumoulin had paid his due at each stop to the NHL. He was one of the best d-men in the NCAA, where he won a Frozen Four championship. He played over 180 AHL games with a few visits to the NHL, growing steadily until he was ripe for the NHL.
Pouliot was penciled into the starting lineup for this season, but stumbled his way out of it. After an excellent AHL stay, he now has returned to the NHL.
Replacing Paul Martin
Paul Martin was an important part of the Penguins defense for many years, playing steadily in all situations and thriving with most of the d-men he was paired with, and especially Letang. By now, Olli Maatta has assumed the role of playing next to Letang, and the transition has been almost seamless.
Kris Letang and Paul Martin 14-15:
55.8 CF%, 670 min TOI
Kris Letang and Olli Maatta, 14-15 & 15-16:
55.8 CF%, 400 min TOI
But playing successfully with Letang isn't the only thing Paul Martin did. Here is a look at his ice time per game, and how much of it he spent at even strength, on the powerplay, and on the penalty kill.
Martin carried a heavy load of minutes last season. In comparison is Maatta's and Dumoulin's ice time, plus the change they have seen since Sullivan took over as head coach. Both of them are now playing around 20 minutes a night, and while they likely won't see a bump in their powerplay time, their even strength and penalty kill minutes are close to Paul Martin's. Since the coaching change, only Letang plays more minutes at even strength than Dumoulin and Maatta.
Brian Dumoulin's ascent
Maatta has replaced Martin as Letang's partner, but the actual successor of Paul Martin may be someone else right now.
Here are all current Penguins d-men and their shot generation and suppression at even strength since the coaching change. The higher they are up, the less shots they allow when they are on the ice. The further to the right, the more shots the team generates with them on the ice.
Letang leads all of them in shot generation, and if we exclude Pouliot due to the small sample size, Dumoulin leads them in shot suppression.
Domenic Galamini's HERO charts have become a widely used tool to try and put a player's performance into context. He now has added the option to compare two players' seasons to each other. Here is Dumoulin's current one and Paul Martin in 2014-2015.
Production-wise, both aren't goal-scorers, but still have an impact in setting up their teammates. This only looks at primary assists, since secondary assists aren't a repeatable skill, and thus aren't really connected to a player's talent level.
Right now, Dumoulin has as many primary assists at even strength as:
And these d-men have just one primary assist more than him:
His production rate of primary assists is one of the highest in the league among d-men.
The second part of the above chart looks at the player's impact on the shot generation and suppression. Paul Martin has been excellent at suppressing shots, and less so at generating them. Dumoulin is similar.
We know that Dumoulin suppresses shots very well relative to his teammates, but how does he compare to the rest of the league? This time we look at scoring chances, which are shots that are more likely to end up as a goal (rush shots, rebounds, close to the net).
Here is a look at all d-men who have played at least 700 even-strength minutes this season.
Again: The higher they are up, the less shots they allow when they are on the ice. The further to the right, the more shots the team generates with them on the ice.
Dumoulin is above average in generating and suppressing scoring chances. And this looks at the whole season data, so it also includes his numbers under Johnston (since the coaching change, Dumoulin improved to 30 SCF60, 21 SCA60).
Emmanuel Perry has developed a tool that finds similar player seasons based on a few key statistics. Here are the d-men with similar seasons to the one Dumoulin is currently having, with two former Penguins making a cameo.
"Dumoulin's just good at everything"
The above quote comes from John Hynes, current New Jersey Devils coach and former WBS Penguins coach. He continued by saying:
"He has a way of always getting the job done, even if he doesn't go about it in a spectacular way."
Steady, reliable, quiet, important. Those words have been used to describe Paul Martin in the past, and right now they fit what Dumoulin has done so far. The Penguins are getting high quality play from him, and are lucky to have re-signed him to a cheap contract for two more years.
Considering Dumoulin has only played 65 career NHL games, it's almost impossible to say how much he is able to grow further. But his current level of play is already exactly what the Penguins need.
The data used in this is from war-on-ice.com