Season Review: Kris Letang
Some people fold under pressure. Others thrive.
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang certainly falls into the latter category, as he knew going into the 2010-11 season that much would be expected from him with the departure of fellow blueliner Sergei Gonchar.
And Letang seized the opportunity given to him, displaying just what he was capable of in an expanded role.
He proved that he was a bonafide No. 1 NHL defenseman, finishing the year ranked in the top 10 in points (50, seventh – tied) and assists (42, sixth – tied) among league blueliners, both totals new career highs for the 23 year old. He also posted new career highs in plus-minus rating (+15) and shots (236).
Not only did Letang garner buzz as a Norris Trophy candidate, but he was voted to his first NHL All-Star Game, picking up 477,960 fan votes as a write-in candidate – tops among defensemen.
And in a season where the Penguins had to battle through a multitude of injuries, Letang displayed his dependability and durability by being just one of two Penguins to play in all 82 games – a career first for him. Oh yeah, and he led Pittsburgh in ice time (24:02) as well.
Letang’s confidence grew playing alongside Brooks Orpik. Because while Letang is a fluid, fast skater who likes to chip in offensively, Orpik is a shutdown, stay-at-home defenseman – and their complementary styles helped Letang develop.
“I think my game got, in my mind, a lot better defensively, offensively,” Letang said.” I got a chance to play with ‘Brooksie’ all year, and we learned to play together. … I think I gained some confidence out there.”
While Letang has posted some impressive statistics, what’s truly special about him is the young defenseman’s work ethic.
He is the first to admit that he still has a lot of growing to do, spending countless hours watching video, talking with the coaching staff and putting in the work on and off the ice to become a better hockey player.
“I learned a lot of things and I think there are a lot of things still to be learned, too,” he said. “I’m looking forward to another season.”
And so are Penguins fans.
2011 PLAYOFFS: Paced team with four assists and finished tied for team lead in points (4) … Second on squad with 26:32 minutes per game and 28 shots on goal … Recorded two assists and five shots in Game 3 at Tampa Bay … Logged 38:21 minutes in Game 4, a 3-2 double-overtime victory for Pittsburgh.
2010-11: Produced his best NHL campaign, setting new career highs in games played (82), assists (42), points (50), plus-minus rating (+15) and shots (236), while garnering buzz as a Norris Trophy candidate … Ranked in the top 10 in points (50, seventh – tied) and assists (42, sixth – tied) among all NHL defensemen … Logged a team-best 24:02 minutes per game while seeing action on both the top power-play unit and penalty kill … Went 3-for-11 in shootouts … Skated a career-high 32:47 minutes Feb. 26 at Toronto … Posted 100th career point (assist) vs. Calgary Nov. 27.
Get Away Day: Kris Letang
Below is a transcript of Kris Letang’s chat with the media on the Penguins’ locker cleanout day on April 29.
On if he’ll think about the power play all summer:
That’s a great question (laughs). No, I’m going to think about how we had to deal with injuries, how we had to deal with a lot of stuff this year. But next year is going to be a new season, new guys and no, I’m not going to think about it.
On how he would sum up this season:
I mean, yeah, of course when you work that hard to get up in the standings with all of the injuries that we had, we had a great season. We finished with 106 points. But obviously it’s disappointing to finish in the first round. But at the same time, it’s just a question of learning and just maybe not doing the same mistake over.
On how encouraging it was to do what they did without Crosby and Malkin:
I think we’re a team that relies a lot on our system. I think every single guy in this dressing room believes in it and that’s what makes us successful over the years. I think every guy that comes up from Wilkes-Barre, they know the system, they play the same way that we do and that allowed them to have success.
On if he felt he grew in certain aspects of his game this season:
Yeah. I think my game got, in my mind, a lot better defensively, offensively. I got a chance to play with ‘Brooksie’ all year, and we learned to play together. I think yeah, I learned a lot of things and I think there are a lot of things still to be learned, too. I’m looking forward to another season, but I think I gained some confidence out there.
On how he is health-wise:
I’m good. Just a few things that have to be fixed, but no surgery.