Pittsburgh Penguins Offseason Grades: Kris Letang and His Norris-Worthy Season


The Pittsburgh Penguins, in what seems to be the norm these days, found themselves battling through major injuries throughout the second half of the 2014-15 season. Those injuries included Kris Letang after he hit the boards awkwardly on March 28 following a hit by Shane Doan.

While the hit sparked a lot of debate and controversy, one thing that’s impossible to argue is the impact Letang had leading up to the season-ending injury. He was simply phenomenal, and exactly what the Pittsburgh Penguins envisioned when they signed him to his current eight-year, $58 million contract.

From a numbers standpoint, he rivaled those that warranted a Norris Trophy nomination. I touched on that previously, as I believe that despite his injury, he should have been in that conversation. Especially considering that Drew Doughty received a nomination with his good, but not great season in L.A.

Letang’s impact on the Pittsburgh Penguins became more evident after his injury, as we witnessed the fall of this defensive corps. When combined with Olli Maatta‘s season-ending shoulder surgery, we watched as player’s like Rob Scuderi and Ben Lovejoy were launched into roles that they simply couldn’t handle. It largely impacted the Pens’ ability to run their usual puck possession offense and forced Mike Johnston to resort to dump-and-chase hockey.

While the offense was clearly part of the issue over the last few months of the season, the defense’s inability to start a rush from their own end was severely underestimated. The Pittsburgh Penguins breakout suffered in a major way, leading to multiple neutral zone turnovers and odd-man breaks.

Let’s look at how Letang finished the season in 69 games played.

Goals – 11
Assists – 43
Points – 54
Power Play Points – 24
PPG – .78
Average TOI – 25:29

He trumped all Pittsburgh Penguins defensemen in every category listed, despite playing less games. I found it very intriguing that although he is criticized constantly for not contributing on the power play, he was tied for fourth most points among NHL defensemen with a man-advantage.

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So, when it comes to grading Kris Letang’s 2014-15 campaign, do you knock him for games missed considering his injury-prone reputation? Personally, I don’t think you can fault a guy that takes an unnecessary hit which results in a concussion.

My final grade for Letang this past season is an A. The only thing stopping me from giving him an A+ is that Marc-Andre Fleury deserves to be the only Penguin that receives that grade.

There are many questions marks for Letang heading into the 2015-16 season. It’s expected that we’ll know more about his condition over the next few weeks as he and Maatta are both getting retested soon. All we can do is hope that he is healthy and can return to his normal dominant form.

His recent post on Instagram is a good indication that things are looking up…

Next: Offseason Game Plan: Building With Youth

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