Kris Letang Posting Career Season: Will He Win the Norris Trophy?


Can we take a minute to talk about Kris Letang?

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ defenceman has been an absolute monster for the black and gold lately, and is putting together as convincing a bid as any for the 2015 Norris Trophy.

Letang currently ranks second among all defencemen in scoring with 9 goals and 40 points in 45 games this season. He trails the first-place Mark Giordano by only 3 points, despite playing 7 less games than the Calgary Flames’ captain.

When the games discrepancy is removed from the equation, Letang’s dominance becomes more evident. The longtime Pens’ blue-liner is currently sitting at a point-per-game ratio of .89 – ranking him first overall among all defenceman by a fair margin.

His dominant play extends beyond the boundaries of this season, however. As Adam Gretz, of CBS Sports, astutely pointed out, Letang has led all defencemen in points-per-game since the 2012-13 season (with .85).

Letang has always been an elite talent. His smooth skating, All-Star calibre stickhandling ability, and beast-like physique have always set him apart in terms of his potential.

But there was always room to grow, especially on the defensive side of the puck.

This season, however, Letang has seemed to put it all together en route to a career year in Pittsburgh.

With the season only two-thirds through, Letang is already only 10 points shy of his career best when it comes to points. His 50 in 2010-11 were the highest of his first seven seasons in the league, but with 40 points already (and 22 games left in the regular season), it would be quite a feat if Letang dropped off enough to not surpass 50 this time around.

His recent play certainly doesn’t suggest any such drop-off is coming, as prior to tonight’s game against Edmonton, Letang had assisted on 7 consecutive goals for Pittsburgh (just a few shy of Wayne Gretzky‘s record of 10).

The NHL’s Norris trophy (a.k.a. the James Norris Memorial Trophy) has come to be known as the award for the league’s top-scoring defenceman, with the recent history of the award almost exclusively going to high-scoring blue-liners.

Letang was a finalist for the award once before, getting the nod after the conclusion of the 2012-13 season (wherein he scored 38 points in 35 games) before losing out to Montreal’s P.K. Subban.

Right now the award is still Giordano’s to lose, as the Flames’ veteran has been an absolute force on the back-end this season.

More from Penguins News

But with the Pens seemingly on the verge of rounding into shape (having just played their first game in a long time that featured all of their top guns together in the lineup), Letang will have an excellent chance to ramp up his production even more as the season reaches the home stretch, and could easily take a decisive lead in the Norris race.

Letang’s elite level of play should be no surprise to the hockey community. At age 27, he’s just coming into his prime, and should see his production rise even further as he continues to mature.

Though Letang has been a known commodity in the NHL, the still-young defender has always been somewhat of an underrated figure due to his streaky play and lacklustre defensive ability.

He’s certainly not an all-around defensive juggernaut yet, as he still comes up with the occasional decision-making lapse resulting from trying to do too much with the puck, but Letang has definitely stepped up his game in his own zone as well this season, ranking near the top among his teammates when it comes to blocks, hits, and takeaways.

The Pittsburgh faithful have long known they had a gem in Letang, but the slick defender is continuing to defy expectations this season as he emerges as the Pens’ MVP and one of the league’s absolute best.

That being the case, 2015 could very well be the year Letang gets the call for the Norris – and perhaps the year he wins the first of many.