Breaking down Kris Letang

( Letang flirting with disaster, get it? ruff ruff ruff rfff)

There comes a point in time where an NHL players goes from " Wow, he is going to be really good," to, "Wow, that guy is really good."

Every player is different. With Sidney Crosby it was right away. He scored 100 points his first NHL season. MVP nods and nominations came flowing in after that.

Same with Evgeni Malkin. He won the Calder, an MVP, etc.  Despite Malkin's recent struggles, his pedigree is established. He is a top ten NHL player on his worst day.

Now, on to Kris Letang. He is the definition of the "Wow, this guy is going to be really good," guy. He isn't the "Wow, this guy is at the top of his game," guy yet. And the question we have: when is that going to take place?

Hard truth: Not until the Penguin coaching staff, and Letang himself change some things.

And here is why…

Over the summer, the daily Letang convo was polarizing. There is no middle ground with him. He got a huge contract for two reasons.

A.) He wanted to be in Pittsburgh.

B.) He HAS the ability to pour in 60 plus points a season.


Where does he rank?

For some, a Norris Trophy nomination and decent stats in a lockout-shortened year are good enough to say he is a top five NHL D-man.
So let's do a test. Off the top of your head, name the five best D-men in the NHL right now.
Here is who we came up with:
Duncan Keith
Erik Karlsson
P.K Subban
Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Ryan Suter
Comparing Letang stat-wise this season is tough because he missed a bunch of games.
But let's do it anyway. Let's start at Hockey Reference.
Hockey Reference has an excellent tool called Similarity scores. 
It is important to note that this method does not attempt to find players who were similar in style of play. Rather, it attempts to find players whose careers were similar in terms of quality and shape. By shape, I mean things like: How many years did he play? How good were his best years compared to his worst years? Did he have a few great years and then several mediocre years, or did he have many good-but-not-great years?
Hope you are sitting down for Letang's:

Boris Mironov and Rozsival. Our feeling toward Letang is starting to make sense. But that is just the last 7 years.  

Some solid NHL citzens on there, but no real top level guys.

So let's get a little deeper and compare Letang with P.K. Subban using Dobber Hockey's tools:

– Never realized Letang is two years older than Subban.
– Note the assists for Subban and note Letang really only producing during the power play.
– Subban clicking at .92 points a game. Wow.

It is a bit early to freak out about this, but this is going to be an ongoing comparison.

What about Duncan Keith and Letang?

– Similar to Subban, with less giveaways than Letang, even though they have played more games.
– Take a look at those 2013-2014 cap hit numbers. Great job by the Hawks GM. Bad timing for Keith.
– 12 assists for Keith.
What is the difference?
Last season, Letang dominated Keith and Subban. What has changed?
These are the top five combos last season:
This year:
What ever is causing the 20% jump is probably what's causing Letang to struggle at even strength.

Composure and Coaching

Kris Letang has to be the easiest player to play against in the NHL. You just jam him up and he unravels.
And we get it; Bylsma is a player's coach. He does't yell or scream at players. But is that ALWAYS the right approach? Why not hold Letang accountable? The Letang in that gif basically happens every game.




No one hates Kris Letang. And no one wants to be wrong more than we do. And this isn't about one game. Let's say Letang scored against the Flyers. All we'll see is:


This isn't about one game. This is about Letang putting together a string of games where he dominates, something that hasn't happened.