Kris Letang only played 41 games last season before he had to miss the rest of the season due to a herniated disk in his neck. At first, the injury seemed like it was healing but when Letang ramped up his rehab, he suffered a setback and had to have surgery on his neck. He’s already 100% as he’s been training hard in Montreal over the summer and is all ready for training camp. Here’s a couple reasons as to why he’s ready to have a big year for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Penguins Kris Letang Healthy and Ready To Rebound
This is the most obvious reason, but it’s also the most important. Letang has battled through numerous injuries and a career-threatening event throughout his career such as a stroke, concussions, knee problems, and now a herniated disk in his neck. Throughout his injuries, he’s come back stronger than ever and that seems likely with this injury as well, considering how hard he’s trained throughout the summer. He’s trained with Terrell Owens of all people up in Montreal and also trained with Jakub Voracek of the Flyers.
He produces his most points when he’s fully healthy, obviously, and that was evident during the Penguins 2016 Stanley Cup season when Letang went on a rampage when Mike Sullivan got hired to replace Mike Johnston. Letang was paired up with Ian Cole and then Sullivan came in and put him with Brian Dumoulin and it worked to perfection all the way to the Stanley Cup. Letang finished in the top five for points among defenseman during the 2015-16 season with 67 points in 71 games. That was third behind Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns who were both Norris finalists last season. He was on pace for 94 points in a full season under Sullivan, which is extraordinary.
When Kris Letang’s healthy, he can also have shifts like this:
This was the shift of Letang’s career as it was the game-winner in Game Six and showed just how dominant he can be when he’s firing on all cylinders.
Playing in Sullivan’s system
Other then being healthy, Letang has shown that he can excel at playing in Sullivan’s system. This was shown when he finished fourth in the Norris Trophy voting in 2016 and also put up some good numbers this past season in 41 games. He had five goals and 34 points in half a season and if he would’ve played all 82 games, he would’ve been on pace to have 68 points.
He had 14 points on the powerplay last season, 12 of them being assists. His possession numbers were also not bad last season in 41 games as he had a CF% of 52.9. The season before under Sullivan, he had a CF% of 54.9.
Letang has also been great defensively when the Pengins are in their 1-2-2 neutral zone trap that Mike Sullivan loves to run, regardless of what the score is. He shut down the Sharks top players in the Stanley Cup Final in 2016 when he held Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton to a combined one goal in the series. His ability to get back into the defensive zone to shut down scoring chances is top notch due to him being one of the fastest skaters on the Penguins roster, and arguably in the NHL.
If this all comes together for Letang this upcoming season, there’s no reason to think that he won’t be a Norris Trophy contender.