Back By Popular Demand
First off, thanks to Matt and Jesse for the kind words earlier this week. They are right, I lost the passion to do game grades. I wanted to get back to enjoying hockey rather than nitpicking every little thing that happened. And that still stands.
But providing commentary every now and again is something I am still happy to do. And today, I have decided it’s time for someone to speak out about the horrifying bad play of the team’s supposed franchise defenseman, Kristopher Letang.
Letang missed the first nine games of the season, during which the Pens went 7-2 and allowed a minuscule 2.11 goals per game (including the 6-goal debacle in Florida). Since Letang’s return, they are a pedestrian 8-6 and the goals-against has risen to 2.27. To be sure, Letang’s return is not the only factor at play here. The schedule has toughened. Rob Scuderi went down.
However, one can also not argue that Letang has been good so far this year. He is an ungodly -8 in those 15 games. he’s been yanked from the top power play, leaving them with five lefthanded shooters on that top unit. That’s a franchise defenseman???
Um, no, it isn’t, and that’s my point. My argument is not whether Kris Letang is good. He is. My argument is that he’s not great. He isn’t. Rarely in the NHL has a player been granted so much god-given talent and so little gray matter to take advantage of it. Night after night, year after year, we see him make the same mystifying decisions out there, be it the ill-advised pinch, the point shot right into a guy’s feet, or the exasperating failure to shoot when in perfect position. It just never ends, never gets any better. In fact, if you were an alien who just landed on earth, you would probably think his current partner (Ollie Maatta) was the 6-year veteran and Letang was the unbridled rookie.
In addition, Letang routinely loses his cool under pressure. He will always be goaded into taking retaliatory penalties. He will always be the one taking the extra shot at someone in a scrum.
And yet my biggest complaint isn’t about Letang himself. The huge problem is the monster 8-year, $58 million contract that Ray Shero signed him to last summer. I said at the time they would choke on that contract. It hasn’t even started yet, but it’s sure looking more and more likely that this will be the case. You will be paying $7.25 million a year for a guy who isn’t a shutdown defenseman and isn’t even capable of quarterbacking a power play. We can only hope that whatever no-movement clause Shero agreed to isn’t too restrictive.
Otherwise, it’s going to be a long 8 years. Oh, and Letang’s hair is hideous, too.