Photo credit: Our own PensAreYourDaddy
"My style's like a chemical spill." - Vanilla Ice
Season stats: 73 gp, 3g, 24a, 27p, +1, 51 PIMs
Playoff stats: 13 gp, 5g, 2a, 7p, -5, 6 PIMs
Month-by-month Pensburgh grades:
Contract status: Signed through 2013-14 season ($3,500,000 cap hit)...Unrestricted free agent summer 2014
Interesting stat: This season, while in the lineup, Letang had 25 points (5g, 20a) and was a +22 in 49 games when the Penguins won the game. In 37 losses however, Letang had only 9 points (3g, 6a) and was a -26.
The Good: At just 23 years old, Letang's become a vital member of the Penguins defense: he saw a moderate ice-time bump from last year; 21:33 this season compared to 21:08 last, and he cashed in with a $3.5 million contract for the next for years. Lost in that is he played over a minute more per game at even strength and more short-handed too (he played less PP due to Gonchar being less injured).
Letang can skate. He can move the puck. He is surprisingly adequate in his own end when it comes to playing tough in the corners.
The Not-so-good: Consistency. Letang, for all his talents, hasn't proven to put it ALL together at the same time. Every shift for every game. And now for a guy who's going to get paid like a top player, he's going to need to play like one.
And for a guy who scored 10 regular season goals last season, he scored 3 this season, a major step back. Letang had 94 shots that officially missed the net, compared to 174 that were on target, which was by far the highest ratio of anyone on the team. Letang seemed to be trying to pick corners to hit, and unfortunately, he wasn't hitting them. Again, with more responsibility comes more expectations and that will have to change next season.
Final verdict: For a young defensemen, Letang still shows a lot of promise. He's got all he tools and this was another year to establish himself and continue to grow. Next season, potentially without defensive leader Sergei Gonchar will be another chance for Letang to grow and have the chance to shoulder more of the burden. He's good and continuing to get better.
Question and Discussion: If, as expected, Sergei Gonchar departs, can Kris Letang fill his void offensively? He's got all the offensive skill in the world, it's time to show it. On a team that only has a handful of defensemen signed for next year, Letang's going to be counted on to play 22+ minutes next season. Is he ready for it? Are you ready for it?