One area the Pittsburgh Penguins aren’t lacking in is on defense.
That may sound surprising to some who watched the Islanders and Bruins score plenty of goals against Pittsburgh in the postseason, but when you look at the organizational depth on the blue line this is a team that doesn’t need much help. Take a look at what they’ve got headed into this season on the back line.
Kris Letang was a Norris Trophy finalist last season thanks to his offensive production. His defensive play has picked up in recent seasons and if he can cut out his penchant for taking retaliatory penalties, he could be even better. Paul Martin’s play last year showed that his first season in Pittsburgh was just one big slump as he was one of the Penguins’ most consistent players.
Matt Niskanen’s play improved to a point that helps make the James Neal-Alex Goligoski deal look even more lopsided. Brooks Orpik… Could’ve been better, but Rob Scuderi will jump in to help him carry the defensive load. The talent doesn’t stop there though.
Young guys like Robert Bortuzzo and Simon Despres will push for more ice time in Pittsburgh on their third pairing and Deryk Engelland showed he’s more than a fist-thrower. He has to do that because the skill coming up is strong.
Derrick Pouliot (2012 1st round) was part of Team Canada’s World Junior camp and was excellent last season in the WHL for Portland.
Brian Dumoulin (acquired in Jordan Staal deal), Olli Maatta (2012 first-round), Scott Harrington (2011 2nd round), and Philip Samuelsson (2009 2nd round) round out an exceptional group of kids, some of which will be knocking on the door in the AHL this year.
With this kind of depth, Pens GM Ray Shero was comfortable in moving Joe Morrow in the deal to get Brenden Morrow last season. It’s also this kind of depth that led to rumors of Kris Letang possibly being moved before he agreed to a monster extension with the Pens.
Say what you will about Pittsburgh’s defense, but they’re not lacking in talent or options. That’s the kind of thing that should make Marc-Andre Fleury a happy guy.