Fiedler: Kris Letang is the defensive leader the Penguins desperately need

Now standing alone atop the defensemen franchise points leaders, Kris Letang is no doubt the greatest defensemen the Penguins have had in the past twenty years and possibly ever. It would take an entire novel to list his achievements since breaking into the show full time in 2007-08.

Letang, like many of the young players on that roster, got their first bitter taste of defeat in the Stanley Cup Final but returned the following year and instead tasted sweet victory. Two more Stanley Cups later and a few brutal years defensively, it is up to him solely to lead this team.

Injuries are nothing new to any Penguins’ player, especially Letang. But last year, his 79 games played is the closest he has come to a full season since his 82 game campaign in 2010-11. While leading all Penguins’ defensemen in points, his 51 were nowhere near his career high, and he failed entirely to attain any votes for the Norris Trophy, awarded to the league’s top defensemen. Letang finished the 2017-18 year with a -9 plus/minus rating. He may not have set a career high in points, but he did in fact set a career high and not one to be proud of.

Letang finished the year with 89 giveaways in total, while not the worst in the league and with the amount of ice time he gets you would expect a few turnovers here and there but he is the top defenseman and simply has to be better than that.

In 2015-16, arguably the greatest year of Letang’s career, he finished fourth in Norris Trophy voting. While only playing 71 games that season, he scored a total of 67 points, finished with a +9 plus/minus rating, and only had 69 giveaways on the highest average ice time per game of his career with just short of 27 minutes.

If Letang can return to this form, like 2016 the season can end with the raising of the Stanley Cup instead of shaking hands with the Washington Capitals. Through the first three games of this campaign, Letang has two goals and two assists for four points, three on even strength, and an even plus/minus. He is currently tied with his career high even strength CF% of 56, and with the season still young, it is important for Letang to keep up with this pace.

The Penguins defensive core surrounding Letang is noticeably not as strong as it has been in recent years in which the team blocked shots on the way to two straight Stanley Cups. A lot of the pressure will fall on one man and at 31 years old with, sadly, a short amount of time left in his prime, the front office, his teammates, and the fans will look up to Letang to lead the team to the promised land one more time.

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