PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 27: Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Pavel Kubina #13 of the Tampa Bay Lightning crash the net in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on April 27, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Interesting Note: Before the All-Star game, Letang recorded 9 power play assists in 26 games, after the all-star game in 25 games Letang only notched 2 PP helpers.
The Good: Without injury, Kris Letang was one of the best defensemen in the NHL in 2011-12. He had point production (23 points in 27 games through January), he ate up a ridiculous amount of ice-time, and plays in all situations as a top defenseman. Letang’s physical tools have made him into an elite player: he can skate as well or better than any player in the league, he’s got aggression, he is comfortable with the puck, can cover mistakes of his partners so much the Pens paired him with Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin, and both had the best portions of their respective seasons when they were with #58.
The Bad: Injuries. Letang can get overly physical and has such little regard for his own well-being that he puts himself at bad positions. He’s also still prone to getting overly emotional and taking needless penalties when he runs too hot. There’s also the matter of turnovers and trusting his immense physical gifts too much- no one would ever accuse Letang of being too smart on the ice, he’s much better in a read-and-react situation.
Moment to Remember: November 26, 2011 at the Montreal Canadiens. It might almost be a moment to forget, or at least a pyrrhic victory. Letang was all over the ice, played a game high 24:43 despite being caught by a brutal high hit from Max Pacioretty that left his nose bloody and his head rattled. The Montreal team doctors cleared Letang to return for the over-time, and he return Letang did. He found a James Neal rebound to poke in the goal for the winner. But it’d be the last game Letang would play until January 19th, as a result of the head trauma. It was Letang in a nutshell: brilliant, but dangerous. Rewarding, but costly. No matter how you slice it or judge it- a tremendous and gutsy (if ill-advised) effort.
Moment to Forget: February 19, 2012 at the Buffalo Sabres. An all-around stinker for the Pens. Letang was a -4 in a 6-2 loss, including a nasty short-handed goal.
Discussion: At this point, the Pens have only three real "top 4" defensemen (apologies to Matt Niskanen). Who would you like to see Letang paired with- Orpik or Martin? And what constitutes a successful season for #58 next year? With Steve Sullivan gone, the Pens will need a PP rusher, can he handle that duty?