It seems like we need to have a little talk about Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman John Marino, because it seems like he is going to be a factor one way or another for the foreseeable future.
It was pretty obvious from the moment he arrived that the Penguins were intrigued by his potential, and that intrigue turned into complete fascination the first time he hit the ice. They have been high on him, they like him, and they like him so much that they are willing to carry around an infinite number of defensemen on the roster, to the point of leaving themselves shorthanded so they have to play one of said defensemen at forward (as they did on Wednesday night against the Colorado Avalanche).
Their intrigue with Marino is not hard to figure out. He was fairly successful at the collegiate level, he has decent size, he can skate, he seems to have some puck skills, and he even plays with a little bit of an edge. Lot of things you want to see from a defender, and at times you see all of it on display from Marino.
All of this put together, along with the Penguins’ making him a new regular on their defense, has had the hype train pulling out of the station at a frantic speed.
The thing about that is the early results have not yet matched the hype. This isn’t meant to write him off or be too overly critical of his play because, come on, it’s not only five games, but it is the first five games of his NHL career. But when Marino has been on the ice the Penguins have spent a lot of time in their own zone and getting dominated when it comes to shot attempts and scoring chances. The only thing that hasn’t really happened to this point is the puck hasn’t gone in the net very often, which no doubt makes us forget about all of the shots and chances.
For as much as they surrender, they generate even less with him on the ice which seems to fly in the face of “puck-mover and skater.”
My first instinct here is, well, there is the Jack Johnson effect as that is the defender he has spent the bulk of his time on ice with. We know that Johnson has a tendency to drag down the numbers of his partners — even the best partners — during 5-on-5 play and it stands to reason that the same thing might happen to a rookie getting his first taste of NHL action.
(Just as a quick note: I do want to give Johnson credit because he was outstanding on the overtime penalty kill that ended with Brandon Tanev’s shorthanded goal on Wednesday. We criticize him a lot, but we have to be fair and give credit where it is due and he may have saved the game at one point by breaking up a cross-crease pass from Colorado’s insanely talented power play unit. It was a huge play, and one that should not go unnoticed.)
The thing is, his numbers drop even more when he is AWAY from Johnson (though, this was mostly with Erik Gudbranson ... so who knows?).
Now, there are a lot of other variables at play here.
First, it is again just five games. Even the best players have five or six game stretches where their on-ice numbers go crazy for one reason or another.
There is also the fact the Penguins’ forward lineup is currently pieced together with duct tape and a few pieces of string, and John Marino probably is not getting a lot of ice-time with the one unit that is capable of truly driving play (that would be the Sidney Crosby line).
So with all of that in mind, what are your first impressions on Marino?
There is definitely reason to like him and want to see what he can do.
There is also some reason to be a little skeptical and pump the brakes a little bit on what he has done because the results are not yet there.
Given the other options I’d still like to see him get a regular spot in the lineup with the caveat that if his on-ice numbers do not start to improve you might need to start considering other options.
What do you think of John Marino so far?
This poll is closed
He looks great
He has been okay, but the numbers are concerning
He has not been as good as advertised