When it comes to the best defensemen in the NHL, the usual suspects always get talked about.
Guys like Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty, P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Alex Pietrangelo,Victor Hedman, John Carlson, Mark Giordano, Morgan Rielly, Cam Fowler, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, an etc. You get the idea.
One defenseman that has never got the attention he deserves is Pittsburgh Penguins’ dman Kris Letang. Year in and year out, this guy performs at a high level and yet, no one seems to talk about him.
It’s easy to see why this is the case. When it comes to the Penguins, Letang, 31, is not the guy people think or talk about first.
Both Penguins and hockey fans in general bring up guys like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Jake Guentzel, Patric Hornqvist, and even goaltender Matt Murray. As a result, Letang gets put on the back burner.
This really should not be the case. Letang is an all-world defenseman and has been for many years.
For starters, Letang is coming up on 500 points in his career. He currently had 479 points (108 goals and 371 assists) and is easily the franchise’s best defenseman.
Since joining the league full-time in 2007-08, Letang has averaged about 40 points per season. For a defenseman, that is more than just an above average player.
In his 11-and-a-half seasons, Letang has cracked the 50-point mark four times and should easily put up more than 50 this year as he currently has 42 points (12 goals and 30 assists) in 48 games.
He should be looked at as one of the game’s best offensive-defenseman. He has a great shot, can rush the puck up the ice, is not afraid to jump into scoring areas in the offensive zone and he is a player that is always dangerous when the puck on his stick.
Secondly, he is extremely underrated when it comes to his defensive game. Remember, this is a team that because of their high-octane offense, they end up giving up a lot of quality scoring chances against.
When that happens, Letang is always there to help breakup plays. He is a very active stick, is not afraid to block shots, is usually very calm with the puck in his own zone, and he does what he can to keep his game simple in what is sometimes a very frantic Penguins’ defensive zone.
For most of his career, Letang has been a guy that has been on ice for more of his team’s goals rather than their opponents. He is a +10 and is a +58 for his career.
This goes back to Letang being a responsible player. Yes, it is easy to see that he can put up points, but people need to start talking about his defensive game because that is an area that Letang works on every season.
What’s also remarkable about Letang is the amount of ice time he gets. In his last five games alone, he has averaged just over 26 minutes of ice time.
Letang is someone that plays in every situation for this hockey club. He is one of the main guys on the power play, he helps kill penalties, and he usually faces the other team’s top players on a nightly basis and he more than gets the job done.
Lastly, Letang is a winner. He has helped this franchise to three Stanley Cups and when it comes to the postseason in general, he has been outstanding as he has 79 points (21 goals and 58 assists) in 128 games.
Letang needs to be given more attention folks. He is one of the game’s best defensemen and deserves to be talked about as such.
*Photo: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette