It's not unheard-of or unthinkable or idiotic or not that bad of a idea, but the notion of the Pittsburgh Penguins playing defenseman Kris Letang at forward is pretty unpopular. No one from the front office or coaching staff has made any allusion to it, and there's the first clue that they haven't thought about it. And if a professional sports team isn't thinking about something, than odds are they're not talking about it. However, playing Letang at winger makes a ton of sense. Especially down the road because, you know, the Pens have Letang locked up until 2022. So before you roll your eyes and scoff at the very mention of moving Letang, here's three really good reasons why a move like this would work.
1. Defenders becoming forwards isn't new and you don't have to hitch a ride with Peabody and Sherman to see a example. Last season, the San Jose Sharks had depth problems up front and experimented with 6'5" defenseman Brent Burns at right wing. The move not only allowed stout rookie defenseman Matt Irwin to stay with the big club, but Burns gave the Sharks a physical presence around the net and added grit to the top two lines. Burns played twenty-three games at right wing and scored twenty points (nine goals and 11 assists). Now Brent Burns is good, but Kris Letang is better (offensively at least . . . but that's Point Two). A guy with Letang's vision, soft hands, and speed would fit beautifully on a line with Sidney Crosby or James Neal or any one of the Penguins top six forwards.
2. Kris Letang had thirty-eight points (five goals and 33 assists) in thirty-five games last season. These stats made him a finalist for the Norris Trophy, an award based on offensive production from the blue-line. Defensively, however, Letang is hit or miss. It's a dirty little secret no Penguins fan wants to admit but it's there and it's true. Just watch his performance against Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals. Heck, he's often paired with Brooks Orpik because Orpik will pick up the defensive slack. Oh, and the organization brought back Rob Scuderi to be Letang's partner next year for the same reason. If Letang was a forward, than his inconsistence defensively would not be a issue. Maybe the move opens Letang's mind to crazy levels of creativity and his numbers explode. Boy howdy, would his numbers explode.
3. The Pittsburgh Penguins are lousy with defensive prospects. As in, they're loaded with young defensemen. Absolutely loaded. There's Derrick Pouliet and Scott Harrington and Robert Bortuzzo and Simon Despres and Olli Maatta and Brain Dumoulin. These guys are getting better by the skate-stride and some are NHL ready now. A changing of the guard is eminent (insert a 'brace yourselves' meme here). Orpik's gearing up for retirement and Deryk Engelland's going to be a healthy scratch more and more. Point is, these young guns are coming and there's not enough rosters places for everyone. It is by no means saying the Penguins should part ways with Letang. That's just crazy talk. But, there is a lack of outstanding wingers and centers in the farm system. Moving Letang to forward will soften that blow and get these into the NHL easier.
The Penguins starts their preseason in two weeks. It'll be interesting to see if they dip their toes in the waters of winger Letang, just to see how it feels. What's to lose? You'll never know if you don't try. Just a thought.
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