By: Melissa Esing (Off_thepost)
Throughout the 2013-2014 NHL season, I’ll be posting player features each Friday. This week, we’re going to take a look at Kris Letang.
Regardless of his curse of a frequent “lower body injury”, Kris Letang is one of the best two-way defenseman in the NHL, even though he hasn’t lived up to his full potential this season. Along with his elite defensive skills, he possesses the slap shot to match. Unfortunately, though, with the good comes the bad.
He’s known to make mistakes that he shouldn’t be making at this point in his career. We frequently see him turning the puck over, out of position and other simple errors that you just don’t want to see a player like that doing.
Regardless, I’m sure there are still some faithful fans that can agree that his value is still strong.
During the offseason, Ray Shero had a heavy decision to make, but decided it was best to give an eight-year contract extension to the 6′ 0″ defenseman. Whether it was smart or not to make locking up Letang a priority will depend on his performance and what he can show for himself in the playoffs. Many fans thought that the price to pay for Letang, $58 million, was too high.
In past seasons, Letang’s career-high was in the 2010-2011 campaign with 50 points. Last season, he tied for the lead in scoring among NHL defenseman with his 38 points in 35 games. So far in the 2013-2014 season, Letang has nine goals in 29 games, which is arguably a decent amount considering he’s been injured a good majority of the season. He also has 15 points and a minus-six, but there’s plenty of time to change that.
He’s been getting a lot of criticism since his return this season, but not all of it can be justified. Angry fans have been saying that it’s best to trade Letang, and the team is just better off without him. Even when something isn’t his fault, angry “tweeters” decide that it’s his fault anyways.
When you look at the stats from earlier this month, though, you’ll see that within three of their road games (Winnipeg, Vancouver, Edmonton), Letang was on the ice for just three of the goals scored against. In comparison, Rob Scuderi and Brooks Orpik were both on the ice for seven of those goals against. The finger isn’t always pointed at the right person. The mistakes that he is held responsible for aren’t always harmful in the end, but they do add up.
Some of the criticism is necessary. He definitely needs to play smarter and up to his full potential. As of recent, we’ve seen Letang somewhere in the middle in his game play. We see a lot of positives coming from him, but also a lot of negatives.
For example, in Saturday’s game against Calgary, he was held completely responsible for Calgary’s goal against. Aside from making himself look bad there, the rest of his game was on point as he displayed immense effort. Among the positives were blocked passes, intercepting passes and he registered multiple shots on net.
His “just decent” playing habit has landed him in a position where some fans don’t see a place for him anymore, but his funk won’t last for the remainder of the season. Wait until the playoffs when he has more than just 29 games under the belt for the season. Letang will yet again be considered a top two-way defenseman.