It’s been developing for a while. It may still be developing.
No matter, because an injury to Paul Martin (broken tibia, out 4-6 weeks) could give Kris Letang the opportunity he needs to get himself in the right place.
The latest on Martin’s injury: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5139532-74/letang-penguins-martin#axzz2lmT0ecIp
Now, about Letang…
He is not a pleased Penguins, hasn’t been for a while. Some points of his frustration:
*** Before Martin’s injury, Letang had been replaced on the top power play unit. He believed that hurt his chances to impress Team Canada management for an Olympic roster spot.
*** He has not had a regular defense partner since the 2010-11 season. Rob Scuderi was supposed to be that guy this season, but Letang (right knee) began the season injured, and Scuderi (broken ankle) was hurt in their second game together.
*** The right knee is not feeling great, thought it is healthy enough for him to play. (He plays a lot, though; almost 25 minutes.)
*** He does not believe he is carrying the puck this season as in previous campaigns. The Penguins’ previously used a defensive system that favored quick puck movement between defensemen, one that often allowed Letang to lead rushes; but they have switched to a neutral-zone system that keeps three skaters – and both defensemen – behind the puck.
*** Lingering disappointment over public criticism of his style and big contract (eight years, $58 million). Also, Letang feels he took a majority of the heat for the Penguins’ sweep from the 2013 Eastern Conference final, in which he joined centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in not producing a point.
*** Carryover from a tough contract negotiation last summer, not getting a full no-trade clause, and the revelation that Martin was rated by some within the organization as the best defenseman last season, even though Letang was a first-time Norris Trophy nominee.
Most of these issues can and should resolve themselves.
Letang, a very introspective player, probably would benefit most from a stretch of strong play that was supplemented by individual results. He is not unlike Malkin in that regard.
However, the stuff about Letang’s disappointment with public criticism and the carryover from the contract negotiations – that is something that likely will stick around.
It’s not ever as simple as the player getting over it, as some will undoubtedly suggest.
That is especially true with a player such as Letang, who pays particular attention to the perception of him.
>> DESPRES DOING IT
Simon Despres has spent the past two months doing everything the Penguins have asked. He has produced three goals, 11 points and a plus-13 rating.
All of that has happened with AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
All of that has happened in a fifth season after the Penguins selected him 30th overall at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
All of that has happened after another former first-round pick, Olli Maatta, taken 22nd overall in 2012, has played in every game for the Penguins this season.
Maatta is 19. Despres is 22.
A few weeks back, Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald emphatically spoke of Despres as still having a bright future with the Penguins. Fitzgerald said he was impressed with Despres’ approach to and play in AHL even though beginning the season there was a disappointment.
The Penguins wanted to see a lot from Despres in the AHL’s first couple of months. Mostly, they wanted to see from him maturity on and off the ice. They wanted from him assertiveness, leadership and dependability.
By all accounts, that is what Despres provided many of the days.
His focuse was on defense, more than at any time in his career. He played with Philip Samuelsson, finding chemistry with a more stay-at-home partner.
Though he did not play on the top power play unit Game 13, Despres said he “liked being a go-to guy” as the top penalty killer.
If not making the Penguins out of training camp was
Despres was recalled to the NHL on Wednesday morning.
If his future remains bright – and as a big defenseman with puck-moving skills whom the Penguins ultimately see as being a potential shutdown-pairing partner for somebody, his future should remain bright – his first couple of months from this season may have signaled the flipping of a switch.
Despres is back in the NHL because of Martin’s injury.
>> Martin and winger Tanner Glass are now on injured reserve.
>> Forwards Jayson Megna and Chris Conner each received their second recalls from the AHL, also on Wednesday.
>> Winger Matt D’Agostini was claimed by the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday. He finished without a goal and only a point in eight games with the Penguins, who signed him to a one-year (one-way) deal over the summer.
Again, if the key for successful management of a hockey club is having your mistakes be made on short-term deals, Ray Shero may be the very best general manager in the NHL.
Think of one long-term deal he has done that is hurting the Penguins.
>> The Penguins play the Maple Leafs at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday night. It is a great time for the organization to give thanks to its true foundation – all of you.
A look at the Trib’s celebration of 300 straight home sellouts in Pittsburgh: http://triblive.com/sports/-topstories/5138375-74/streak-penguins-season#axzz2lmT0ecIp
>> Great design work here from the Trib’s Matt Rosenberg:
>> A bunch of Radio/TV hits today: TV – Root Sports Pregame (7:15 p.m.); That’s Hockey (TSN, tbd). RADIO – The Mark Madden Show (3:30 p.m.); Penguins Live with Brian Metzer (5:40 p.m.).
Be EXCELLENT to each other,