Friday, January 7, 2011

Letang earning every cent of extension

By Jeff

When Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang was given a 4-year, $14 million contract extension last season, it was met with mixed reviews.

Some fans called in and said it was a great deal, and the 23-year-old would look like a bargain after a few years into the deal. Then there were those who saw it as a sign the team wouldn't attempt to resign Sergei Gonchar and thought it was a bad deal.

Anyone that has watched even just a few games this season knows that the former idea was the correct one.

Don't believe me? That's fine. Just read what Hall of Famer Paul Coffey has to say about Letang. He knows more about this kind of thing than just about any person on the planet.
Pens fans can look forward to this
scene for the next four seasons.

Letang is playing at an incredible level at both ends of the ice this season. His 36 points is third in the league for defensemen, and he is everyone's conversation for the Norris Trophy as the league's best all-around defenseman. Well, maybe Detroit fans aren't putting him in that conversation. But they don't think anyone but Nicklas Lidstrom is deserving of the award.

The offense is great, but Letang has also been a force in his own zone. He's not a big guy, but he's so strong on his feet that he is rarely overpowered. It also seems like he's delivering more hits this year than in previous ones. The plus-23 rating is pretty nice too.

Pens fans and coaches have seen Letang's potential for years, but this is the first time they're seeing it on a consistent basis. There were times last season, where I would get a little anxious every time Letang touched the puck. You just didn't know what was going to happen. He could have made a great play, or he could have tripped over his own two feet and allowed a two on none break.

I've yet to get that anxious feeling this year watching Letang.

The big difference is not so much that his skills have improved, but the confidence that Letang's playing with. In the past, Letang would get indecisive with the puck and on defense. He wasn't sure of himself and what he was doing. That small delay would usually lead to bad things. That has changed this season. Every time Letang has the puck, he knows what he's doing. The game has slowed down for him and he can make decisions while moving at full speed.

Just watch him closely every time he touches the puck Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild (Ladies, this will probably be easier for you.). When he's bringing the puck up, he's thinking "Should I skate by three people and take the puck into the zone myself, or should I make a nice outlet pass to start the rush?" Last year in these situations, Letang would take an extra second to make that decision. This season he is doing it on the fly. The result is a more complete player that has been instrumental in the Pens sitting atop the Eastern Conference.

For those of you still missing Gonchar, he has 18 points and a minus-20 rating. Still questioning that Letang contract?

Queen - Don't Stop Me Now

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