[Please note: I’m a southern woman, so if you think my tone is polite rather than critical, please readjust your internal reading voice and understand that this is an exercise in exposing the mechanics of propaganda filmmaking, not helping “carry the load” of Leafs advertising. Bless your heart, if that’s what you think.]
Have you ever wondered to yourself, “Why is Matt Martin in the Leafs lineup, rather than, say, [insert favorite AHLer here]?” Wonder no longer. This episode is the Matt Martin story, and provides a neat justification for why Mike Babcock enjoys having him in the lineup.
The storytelling is subtle yet deliberate. It begins with the game against the Blackhawks, where the 4-2 lead is blown, and the Blackhawks win it in overtime. Babcock’s firm, slightly cranky voice talks over the loss. “We need to be finding ways to finish out games. Gotta find a way to put away the other team for sure,” Babcock says.
Martin begins to speak, talking about how his time as an Islander got him used to the idea of winning. (I guess this doesn’t apply to this season’s Islanders.) He talks about how the Leafs are currently “finding ways to lose,” and that “winning is an attitude.” This establishes that Martin is around because he’s used to a winning culture, and can bring the winning attitude into the locker room.
Then comes a bit of storytelling sleight of hand. Martin discusses the young new guys who are “mature as hockey players,” but who are also still young. Then Babcock slides in with "Martin is a real good leader in the room. Does things right,” and back to Martin for the reason why Babcock likes him. "We don't get our faces washed, and nobody takes advantage of us.”
See what they did there? The implication is that young guys in the room need to be protected by an older, strong leader who goes out and makes space for them. There ya go, that’s why Martin’s a Leaf.
At the 8:03 mark, Martin talks specifically about Babcock’s useage of him, and how he is being challenged to become more than just a face-washer: "Babcock loves to have those blended lines,” Martin says, “Skill guys playing with more meat-and-potatoes energy guys. He's been on me about making plays. I get the puck back by being physical, but to have the confidence to hold onto the puck when I get it and make a play, as opposed to just cycling it back. And that's hopefully something that I can evolve into."
The final act of this parable is the win against Edmonton. Nikita Soshnikov is called up, and on the Ben Smith goal, Matt Martin earns his first point as a Maple Leaf.
Was the win part of Martin teaching everyone to learn this winning culture, this “be just a little tougher than the other side” attitude that the younger skilled guys still need to learn?
What do you reckon?