Over the last two-plus seasons, the Penguins' power play has been the team's most confusing, yet predictable, feature. It's confusing because it has hall-of-fame talent but feels wildly underachieving. And it's predictable because Dan Bylsma will always try ridiculous configurations in practice, Paul Coffey will always volunteer to consult even though no one is asking him to, and the Pittsburgh media will always say that either Crosby or Malkin would be upset if they were put on different units despite no evidence that their egos couldn't handle it.
The one constant on the power play during this span has been Kris Letang. So we thought it was worth asking: is Kris Letang even good on the power play?
The surprising numbers, after the jump...
We wrote on Friday about the holes in Letang's skill-set and suggested that he's not a very good point man. The numbers suggest we're right: Kris Letang is not good on the power-play. (Sort of).
(NOTE: The peer group in the comparisons below consists of any defenseman who finished in the top-30 in power-play points or goals in either 2010-11 or 2011-12. And Chris Pronger. It's a universe of 53 defensemen).
For the sake of this analysis, we're only going to look at Letang's 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons -- "The Post-Gonchar Era" -- because his power-play opportunities changed drastically after Gonchar left. Here's Letang's average power-play ice time per game over his career. (He played only 7 games in 2006-07).
The first chart looks at Letang's power-play goal scoring productivity over the past two seasons only, during which he led all defensemen in average power-play ice time per game (2010-11, 2011-12). He's 19th among his peer group, averaging one power-play goal every 16.63 games over the past two seasons.
If you change the numbers to capture points instead of just goals, Letang jumps to 6th in his peer group, averaging one power-play point every 3.41 games over the past two seasons. That's more like it.
But it doesn't end there. As I said, Letang led the league in average power-play ice time over the last 2 years so his raw totals are at least somewhat inflated. When ice time is factored in, things look a lot bleaker.
Over the past 2 seasons, Letang averages one power-play goal for every 71.94 minutes of power-play ice time, which is 36th in his peer group.
Takeaway: Yikes. Not a goal scorer.
When it comes to points, he averages one power-play point every 14.76 minutes of power-play ice time, good for 26th in his peer group
Takeaway: It's not terrible, but far from elite.
Even if you interpret his numbers as favorably as possible, there's still that feeling you get watching him on the power play that something's missing. And that is due, in large part, to our perception of the man who preceded him: Sergei Gonchar.
The next chart compares Gonchar's averages over his 5 years with the Pens to Letang's averages over the last two years (2010-11, 2011-12). It's fairly stunning -- Gonchar was almost twice as productive on the power-play on a per-game basis. Gonchar averaged one power-play goal every 8.7 games, which is 91% better than Letang. He also averaged one power-play point every 1.84 games, 85% better than Letang.
(In fact, Gonchar was such a beast that if you compare his numbers during his 5 years with the Pens against anyone's production over the past 2 seasons, Gonchar would be first in power-play goal and point productivity on a per game basis).
Letang looks a little better compared to Gonchar when you factor in ice time but he's still inferior. Gonchar was 29% more efficient at scoring goals, and 25% more efficient at scoring points.
Some closing thoughts:
1) Considering the ice time he gets on the power play, and the talent he's surrounded with, Letang's numbers suggest that we are right: he's not very good on the power-play (26th most efficient power-play defenseman in his peer group). Admittedly, however, when it comes to his overall game, there probably aren't more than 10-15 guys you'd rather have. Still ... 26th? Yuck.
2) He's no Sergei Gonchar.
3) Of course, whether Letang is getting points on the power play is less important than whether the power play is getting goals. Through 8 games this season, it's at 19.4% (Letang has two power-play assists). Last year the Pens finished at 19.7%, good for fifth in the league. So maybe we shouldn't be complaining too much.
And besides, our only better alternative isn't going to be available until next year.
|Unrestricted free agent.|