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Enough with the Kris Letang lunacy

May 9, 2018, 10:22 AM ET [136 Comments]
Ryan Wilson
Pittsburgh Penguins Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Kris Letang made some bad mistakes because it is something that happens when you have the puck more than others and try to push the play like he does. You live with those mistakes because overall he is creating way more than he’s giving up. You live with those mistakes because you can’t find players like Letang. There are plenty of the boring players who are unable to improve the people who play with them. They make crappy mistakes too. The uproar over Letang’s play is overstated. He didn’t have a bad year. He actually had another very good year when compared to his larger sample.

Since 2008 when Letang started playing a regular shift he has the fourth best xGF% among defenders in the NHL (min. 7,500 minutes). His ten year average is 53.99%. This year he was at 55.39%. So why do I see a lot of bad takes about trading Kris Letang?

Ohhhhhhhhh, right. The goalies didn’t stop a single thing when he was on the ice this year.

“It’s tough to stop the puck with those kinds of mistakes”

Let’s not pretend that Letang committing gross turnovers is a 2017-18 issue. People have been pissed at him for that his entire career. Yet his on-ice save percentage was a complete anomaly this year. For some they’ll want to provide meaning to this. I can’t. Here’s your top ten defensemen in 5v5 on-ice save percentage

Aaaaaand your bottom ten.

I mean, am I supposed to believe the top ten have a special talent and those bottom ten guys don’t have a damn clue? I don’t find analysis value in the on-ice save percentage stat. It’s only a descriptor and it’s one that can totally cause a general manager to make horrendous decisions. We see this all the time with individual players’ shooting percentages. Jordan Eberle was one of the “problems” for Edmonton. He had no heart in 2016-17. I wonder what happened…

Wouldn’t you know it, Jordan Eberle bounced back to 13.7% this year and was given praise. His career average is 13.4%.

Remember when Matt Beleskey got paid by the Bruins? His 2014-15 shooting percentage was 15.2% while his career average was 8.9%. Who could have seen his “struggles” coming? Crazy!

The first thing they teach you at GM school is that you should wildly overreact to shooting percentage and on-ice save percentage. It must be.

Some people even think Letang’s contract is bad. His 7.25M is going to look pretty great when you start seeing guys like Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and John Carlson get the next few years. Not that Letang is better than the first two, but is he 4M worse?

You don’t get better when you trade away the best player and that is truer when you don’t have a replacement. Justin Schultz has been a nice addition for the Penguins, but he is not a number one top pairing defenseman.

I haven't even mentioned that Letang had 50 points this season while the next best Penguins defender had 28.

The blame game on Kris Letang is lunacy. He’s not perfect, but he is a great player and is still the Penguins best defenseman.

Thanks for reading!
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