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2018 Player Report Card: Kris Letang

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Coming off major neck surgery, Kris Letang had an up and down 2017-2018. Was it really as bad as people think? Let’s take a look.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Player Details

Name: Kris Letang

Position: Defenseman

Shoots: Right

Age: 30 (31 on 4/242018)

2017/2018 Stats: 79GP/9G/42A/51P

Playoffs: 12GP/3G/8A/11P

Career Resume

via hockeyDB

Fancy Stats

via Natural Stat Trick

Kris Letang is the Penguins No. 1 defenseman for a reason. His underlying possession metrics are through the roof and rank among not only the best on the team, but among the best in the NHL. Letang’s possession numbers are equal or better to guys like Victor Hedman or P.K. Subban. His CF% ranks well above even the second best guy on the team as does his CF/60.

One major issue of concern for Letang is his GA/60 from this past season. His struggles over the course of the year were not a mirage and some of these numbers in the chart do not paint Letang in a great light. Everyone who watched him could see he was not the same Letang before his injury the season prior.

Another number that sticks out when discussion Letang is the On-ice SV% of 88.76%. That is remarkably low for a defenseman of his caliber. What it means is, when Kris Letang was on the ice, the goalies behind him were not stopping the puck at the rate they typically should. Sure, some of that can be placed on Letang’s shoulders with his play, but there is also an onus on the goalies to keep the puck out of the net. Blame can be shared but if that number improves next season, Letang’s struggles may not seem quite as noteworthy.

via Natural Stat Trick

This was mentioned in the Brian Dumoulin report card and we will reiterate it here. It’s clear who the Pens top pairing is and its for good reason. Letang and Dumoulin are the two best defenseman on the roster and should be seeing time against the opponents best players. Here the GA/60 is again a concern but for the most part, when Letang and Dumoulin are on the ice, the Penguins are driving possession and creating offense.

As a top pairing defenseman, Letang spends most of his ice time with the top forwards like Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, and Evgeni Malkin. Again his CF% remains high which is a good sign for the Penguins as a whole.

via Hockey Viz
via Hockey Viz

via Hockey Viz

A majority of Letang’s shots come from the right side of the ice which makes sense as a right handed defenseman. He is very active across the entire offensive zone given his propensity for jumping into the play, sometimes at the cost of his defensive game.

Based on the third chart, every potential defensive partner Letang is paired with fairs a lot worse when they are playing away from #58. As a team, the Penguins are better off with Letang on the ice than off, something you undoubtedly want from your No. 1 defenseman.

Monthly Splits and Other Stats

via Yahoo!

Nothing major sticks out when looking at Letang’s montly splits from the 2017/2018 season. He failed to register a goal only once but still contributed 10 assists during that month. During the Penguins push to the playoffs after the trade deadline, Letang posted his best month scoring wise in March where he scored three goals.

via NHL

It may not have felt like it, but Letang posted 51 points during what many considered a down year for the defenseman. The total was good enough for 18th in scoring among defenseman this season. His 51 points this season rank as the third highest scoring season of his career, being only 2015-2016 and 2014-2015 where he posted 67 and 54 points respectively.

Quotes and Praise

“It basically comes down to this: He is going to make some mistakes, but as long as the positive plays outweigh the negative plays you have to take the bad with the good.” —Adam Gretz (NBC Sports)

“He’s a real good two-way defenseman. He’s every bit as good a defender as he is on the offensive side, and, when he’s playing at his best, he’s one of the top defensemen in the league. Nothing surprises me for what he’s capable of.” —Mike Sullivan

“We’re a better hockey team with him, I know that much.” —Mike Sullivan

Grades

Even Strength/Fancy Stats: B

Since fancy stats are used primarily for 5v5 play we’ll include them under here. Looking at Letang’s stats from this past season, the numbers don’t equal out to be as bad as many people thought throughout the season. When Letang is on the ice, the Penguins are typically driving possession and creating offense. That’s what you want out of your No. 1 defenseman. What you don’t want is a GA/60 over 3.0 which is where Letang fell. Some of that can be contributed to a low SV% from the goalies but there are areas where Letang simply needs to be better.

Special Teams: B-

It never seems like Letang has developed into the power play quarterback we all expected him to be. He did notch 20 power play points this season, good for 16th in the league and only three points off finishing in the top-10 overall. Still, you expect a little more from a guy who spends a good bit of time on the man advantage. He sees time on the penalty kill as well but that is one area the whole team struggled at times this season.

Playoffs: B-

Returning to the playoffs after missing last year’s run, Letang had a very uneven performance over 12 games played. For one, he scored 13 points in those 12 games and scoring over a point per game for a defenseman is never a bad thing. On the other hand, his mistakes in the third period of Game 5 against the Capitals may have cost the Pens their season.

Durability: A+

For a guy coming off major neck surgery a season earlier, Letang’s 79 game output this season is quite remarkable. He also played in all 12 playoff games despite a scare in the Washington series following a high hit late in Game 4. This season marks only the second time Letang has played 75 or more games in a season. His career high is all 82 in 2010-2011 and this season falls just three short of matching that total.

Overall 2017/2018 Grade: B-

Going into this report card, I was not sure what to think of Letang’s season. Typically, he is one of those guys who plays well 95% of the time but that 5% when he struggles it really sticks out. This year those numbers may have been more like 85/15 which may not seem like a lot but when you have a quality player like Letang it really sticks out. His underlying numbers are very impressive in some instances and leave you wanting (needing?) more in others. When he’s on the ice, the Penguins are driving possession and creating chances, but opposing teams are also finding success. That’s why I settled on a B- for Letang. Not great, not awful, just needs to be better.

For a guy coming off major neck surgery, Letang found a good bit of success and remained healthy for a good part of the schedule. General manager Jim Rutherford has made it clear he wants to give Letang a full, healthy offseason to recover and come back 100% in the fall. I agree with that sentiment and believe he absolutely can. Like it or not, Kris Letang will be in a Penguins sweater come October.

Poll

How do you grade Kris Letang’s 2017/2018 season?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    A+ or A
    (8 votes)
  • 16%
    A- or B+
    (74 votes)
  • 41%
    B or B-
    (182 votes)
  • 30%
    C+ or C
    (135 votes)
  • 5%
    D
    (25 votes)
  • 4%
    F
    (19 votes)
443 votes total Vote Now