The Hunt For Martin Grenier
by Derek Cheng
Boston Bruins defenseman Hal Gill stands 6 feet 7 inches tall and weighs in at 240 pounds. Penguins superstar Jaromir Jagr once proclaimed him to be the toughest one-on-one rearguard in the National Hockey League.
Martin Grenier stands 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighs in at 245 pounds. He has yet to make his first appearance in a Bruins’ uniform, but fans and management can already feel the impact he could make.
Now imagine these two young giants (Gill, 25 and Grenier 20) standing across Boston’s blueline. It is enough to make every Bruins fan smile and any opponents fearful.
Martin Grenier was orginally drafted by the Colorado Avalanche (45th overall) in the ’99 Entry Draft. He was acquired by the Bruins along with Swedish prospect Samuel Pahlsson and veteran forward Brian Rolston on March 6, 2000. Grenier has some big skates to fill, as he was the only defenseman acquired for Bruins legend Ray Bourque. Grenier had been pegged as a first round pick in ’99, but some scouts felt he lacked discipline and that his skating was sub-par. He improved his game considerably in ’99-’00, but many feel that he is still a wildcard in the trade for the future Hall of Fame defenseman.
Grenier, unlike Gill, uses his body extremely well and extremely often. He was nicknamed “the Rock” by his teammates on the Quebec Remparts because of his bone-crushing open ice hits. His size alone makes him a very attractive prospect with great potential, but his 6-5, 245 lb. frame is not his only asset. Grenier also possesses a good, hard shot and is an adequate skater with mobility for a player of his size. Instead of taking big booming slapshots from far out, Grenier prefers a small wind-up and gets his shots off quickly and accurately. If he can develop his slapshot to get all 245 pounds behind it while getting it on net, he will have one more weapon to add to his arsenal and could someday become a reliable point-man on Boston’s power play. Martin is blessed with great on-ice vision and knows how to move the puck out of his zone safely and effectively. His first pass out of his own end may remind fans of Bourque, who always seemed to make the perfect play on the breakout to start the play. Grenier is not a flashy player and likes to keep his game simple and basic. He is a steady stay-at-home defenseman but has racked up a respectable amount of points in his most recent junior season. He is very good at keeping opponents away from the front of the net. He often punishes anyone who ventures into that area, making others hesitate before looking for open ice in the slot. Picture Grenier making a perfect tape-to-tape pass out of the Bruins’ zone, sending Sergei Samsonov in on a break. Or better yet, catching an opposing forward with his head down at the Boston blueline and levelling him with a crushing but clean open-ice check.
After playing several years of midget hockey in St. Jerome, Grenier stepped into the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He has completed three full seasons with the Quebec Remparts and may be ready to start his pro career, likely with the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League. Grenier has never been much of an offensive threat, but his career with the Remparts has shown steady improvements on the stats sheet as well as in other areas. He will never be a Bobby Orr or Bourque, but he could become a solid 10-15 goal scorer at the highest level. His improvement in the goal scoring department is quite visible as he went from scoring 4 goals in his first year in the “Q” to 7 and finally lit the lamp 11 times this past year. His point production has been even more impressive, going from 15 to 25 to 46 over three full seasons. Grenier has also learned to control his temper and as a result, took fewer penalties this year. This will be important for his NHL career, as penalties are frowned upon.
What the Bruins are looking for in Grenier is a hard-nosed, hard-working, hard-hitting defenseman. Just by looking at his stats you can see that he is just that: a tenacious competitor with a mean streak. Although fighting may be down in the NHL, Martin has proven in junior that he is more than willing to drop his gloves and defend his teammates. It is important for every team to have a player like Grenier who can no doubt fight with the best of them.
If Martin Grenier does indeed blossom into a solid NHL defenseman, the Bruins will have a formidable defense pairing. Assuming that Hal Gill remains with Boston for at least 3-4 more seasons, the Bruins could very well have the biggest, and if Gill learns to take the body, the toughest defense pair in the league. Just imagine a Bruins roster boasting two solid behemoth blueliners. It is every hockey coaches dream.
It’s up to Grenier to make that dream come true for the Boston Bruins.