Radek Martinek's career cannot be separated from the incredibly thorough list of injuries that hampered him since he first showed promise on the New York Islanders blueline.
Whether crossed by cruel hockey gods or the victim of some Iron Curtain-era malnourishment, every time Martinek was a promising answer for the Islanders blueline, the injury bug would come and slap an asterisk on that answer. It happened when a severe knee injury ruined a bright start to his rookie 2001-02 season after just 23 games, and it seemed to happen every other year since.
Most cruel of all, when the Islanders finally let him go after a pretty healthy season (64 games) in 2010-11, he was injured both at the World Championships and after just seven games with his new club, the now-Metropolitan Division rival Columbus Blue Jackets.
So it was fitting, if not terribly useful, that Martinek came back for a swan song with the Islanders in 2012-13, one that -- per destiny -- began with him on IR.
How serious his IR maladies were at the start of this lockout season probably doesn't matter. He ended up serving the sort of seventh (or eighth, or ninth) defenseman role where he filled in for 13 regular season games and two playoff games. As a special final treat, he even managed three goals in those 13 games.
That small-sample .25 shooting percentage sounds like a good note to go out on. By all underlying numbers, Martinek was in visible decline when the Isles first let him walk, though he was serviceable enough in his spot duty this past season.
That said, this should probably be the end. While the Islanders lost Mark Streit via trade-and-free-agency, he's expected to be replaced from within and the Islanders have enough internal candidates as well as no real need to carry nine defensemen (including IR and suspensions) like they did most of last season.
On the other hand, if they want to carry a surplus and would like one of them to be a guy they don't mind sitting out for weeks at a time, maybe that's the niche Martinek could fill rather than a prospect in need of game reps. Again.
In his early summer talk with the Isles booster club, GM Garth Snow appeared to not rule out a Martinek return. Last year, Martinek was a training camp invite as the Lubomir Visnovsky saga lingered into the start of the season and Martinek served as an emergency chute. Could that happen again? Hopefully it's not necessary, as Martinek will turn 37 this summer. If it does, it will be a late development.
If it doesn't, it's been a mostly good, fun ride, and somehow it's all the better that it ended with an Islanders playoff appearance.