Pittsburgh Penguins Developed Simon Despres Correctly


Prior to this season Simon Despres was never given a chance to show his abilities. Much of that was due to former head coach Dan Bylsma not trusting Despres at all. While I disagree with the extent he “shunned” him, the way the Pittsburgh Penguins developed Despres was the right call. When he was selected 30th overall back in 2009 it was accepted that Simon Despres probably would not make an impact for several years. However, I think Bylsma refused to accelerate Despres’ development by not letting him fill in for injuries and have some playing time on the bottom pairing. 

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The Pittsburgh Penguins saw the upside Despres had and were willing to wait for him to mature and improve his game. This season he has shown durability, sound defensive play and a bit of offensive flair, all while playing a physical game. Simon Despres stat line looks like this: 47 games played out of 50 possible, 2 goals, 11 assists for a total of 13 points, plus three skater, 58 penalty minutes and a team leading 146 hits. The most impressive thing about all of his statistics is that he has accomplished them by playing mostly on the bottom pairing with Rob Scuderi.

It was only in the Pittsburgh Penguins last two games that Despres has jumped up to the top pairing with Kris Letang. In his first game alongside Letang, Despres had a great game and scored the game winning goal in overtime against the New Jersey Devils. His next game against the Nashville Predators was a much different story as Despres was held off the score sheet, only played 13 minutes and was a minus two skater.

Jan 7, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Christian Ehrhoff (10) carries the puck against the Boston Bruins during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Bruins won 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Simon Despres is still an incredibly young player at the age of 23 and this is his first full season playing at the NHL level. The moment he began to struggle against the Predators, Twitter exploded with negative comments and questions about his spot in the lineup. My answer to that is simply, imagine trying to play with Kris Letang. While Letang is a superstar and one of the best offensive defenders in the league, it is incredibly difficult to play alongside him. His instincts are great and because of that Letang makes a lot of great plays, but if Despres is not used to Letang’s style it could be very hard to skate with him.

Give Simon Despres time to fully acclimate to playing with Letang on the top pairing and I think he could push Christian Ehrhoff down the lineup. Despres rise to the top pair is because of Ehrhoff’s recent concussion.

Overall, Simon Despres has finally become ready for the workload of the NHL and the more time he has playing in high pressure situations, the better he will become. The Pittsburgh Penguins also dealt with his development nearly perfectly and his time in the minors has prepared him to be where he is now. As a prospect with a lot of upside who needed to develop his game further, Despres has done a great job and should be a fixture on the Penguins blueline for years to come.