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Pittsburgh’s defensive depth is staggering

Aug 29, 2013, 2:45 PM EDT

Kris Letang Getty Images

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.

  1. pitpenguinsrulez - Aug 29, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    Shero needs to dump some of depth on the blueline such as Niskanen and Engo. Engo is just slight better version of Francios Leroux (spelling might be off). Sure his story of coming from the ECHL is nice but there’s no real space for him to be on this team with all of the prospects we have in the minors

    • laxman1944 - Aug 29, 2013 at 8:07 PM

      So where was all the depth while they were getting their asses handed to them and getting swept??????

      Suck an egg d-bag

  2. pitpenguinsrulez - Aug 29, 2013 at 3:06 PM

    Now for Niskanen he’s a solid player but he’s not a top 4 defensemen on a team with the caliber of players we have. On a lousy team he’s a top 4 guy but on the Pens he’s your 5th defensemen.

    Bortuzzo I don’t really like…I never have been a huge fan of him. Age has struck into Orpik because he’s not as fast as once was. Sure he’s still a good shutdown defensemen but I don’t think he comes back after this season…yeah he’s the longest tenured player on the team but he’s replaceable with our prospects.

    Letang needs to pick up his defensive play this season. The offense is nice but you need to be able to back it up with defense. He pinches way too much and inturn it burns the team by leaving the other D all by himself if the other has two guys coming back on a 2-1. I still think we spent a bit too much on Letang but hey I’m not the one making those moves.

    Martin was our best D all of last season and as I said before he got hurt last season he was on pace for a Norris trophy consideration in my view.

    • laxman1944 - Aug 29, 2013 at 8:02 PM

      now….you do realize that you are still an amazing d-bag……..right?……….right.

  3. 19to77 - Aug 29, 2013 at 3:37 PM

    I still think Shero’s open to moving Letang. He has no trade protection until his new contract kicks in, so Shero will have his pick of anyone interested – and there will be offers at the trade deadline. If he wants to keep him, he will, but that will depend on his play, the quality of offers made, and on the assumption that the salary cap’s going back up starting in 2014-15.

    • upper90cheese - Aug 29, 2013 at 3:53 PM

      Its kicked in. See the “Jeff Carter Rule” adopted as part of new CBA

      • hockey412 - Aug 29, 2013 at 4:10 PM

        I think that clause is only applicable if the team signing the extension agrees to make it so. It’s a limited no-trade clause at that, and I don’t believe they agreed to that. I know it was a major sticking point during negotiations.

        When you look at the top D-men contracts out there being signed, I’m no longer convinved Letang’s is all that unreasonable…and at the beginning of the summer I thought it was crazy and they should trade him.

  4. endusersolutions2013 - Aug 29, 2013 at 3:51 PM

    This is a fairly surprising assessment, given the fact that they were quite “middle of the pack” defensively last year.

    If the ability is there, is this then a coaching issue? May need to be some increased accountability regarding playing both ways.

  5. modellforprez - Aug 29, 2013 at 3:56 PM

    Staggering?? It cant even get them past a Boston team it had beatin all year without all the Slug Rentals. they might have some nice pieces but that overall Notion is a Joke. they will get bounced Quick fast next year also

    • c9castine - Aug 29, 2013 at 10:39 PM

      Since when did the conference finals be one considered an early exit? How many times your team been to the finals in the past 5 years? Conference finals? I know for sure not more than the pens unless your n Detroit but I know detroit fans to be a bit smarter than this

  6. ethanmacleod1685 - Aug 29, 2013 at 4:03 PM

    Staggering, lol I don’t think so

    • ethanmacleod1685 - Aug 29, 2013 at 4:03 PM

      Their defence pucks

  7. blomfeld - Aug 29, 2013 at 4:20 PM

    “One area the Pittsburgh Penguins aren’t lacking in is on defense” …

    Really ? Not trying to be funny here, but if that’s the case, then why do the Penguins surrender so many goals ? I remember from last year where some of their games against the Flyers sounded more like NFL scores than hockey ! Perhaps one of the Penguin’s faithful would be kind enough to to elucidate ? … thanks

    ps: I thought this was Penguins Day today, but perhaps it’s really ‘Comedy Day’ or something ? …

  8. endusersolutions2013 - Aug 29, 2013 at 5:25 PM

    So, if the blue liners are that good, is Joe Y implying that the forwards are letting the team down? Pens were 12th in GAA, 16th in SOG allowed, 25th on the PK, 19th in PIM.

    Somewhere there is a big disconnect.

  9. tdrusher225 - Aug 29, 2013 at 7:25 PM

    The biggest flaw with their defensemen, and frankly the entire team, is that they do not know how to play without the puck. The signing of Rob Scuderi is an extremely helpful addition and should bring an element that this Penguins D corps sorely needs. This is the kind of move Ray Shero should’ve been looking to make last year, rather than bringing in an overflow of unneeded forwards. Not sure if this will be enough, but it’ll be interesting to see.

  10. girouxed - Aug 29, 2013 at 7:27 PM

    Thats why they got swept right?

  11. blackraven1313 - Aug 29, 2013 at 8:43 PM

    Unless your a BLACKHAWKS fan every team got “swept”
    Have to add that being swept in the ECF is better than not showing up at all in the playoffs like a certain team from Eastern Pennsylvania!!!!!!

  12. scyounger - Aug 29, 2013 at 8:44 PM

    “Pittsburg’s defensive depth is staggering”
    –signed Joe Yerdon from Bizarro World

    • therealjr - Aug 30, 2013 at 12:10 AM

      Helloooooo, Fargas.

  13. blackandyellow71 - Aug 30, 2013 at 12:24 AM

    I feel like this article is spot on. I dunno where all this hate is coming from, the Pens have 5 D prospects that would be in The League on most teams. The future is very bright at that position. Shero has been stockpiling them for some time now.

    Also, I think Engo stays our 6th D this year. You gotta have a heavy weight tough guy who can dress most games, especially with the talent on this team.

  14. malkinrulez - Aug 30, 2013 at 12:43 AM

    Yet again people not reading the whole article. The article refers to the depth the Pens have coming up( not ready for NHL yet but will be in the next couple years).

  15. tackledummy1505 - Aug 30, 2013 at 12:49 AM

    This article is funny, you know what prospects are? All prospects are maybes. Maybe they’ll be good, maybe they’ll fall on their face. Unless you’ve proven on an NHL level that you can play, you’re nothing then a highly touted maybe. As seen in one of the articles before this it reads, SHARKS 1ST ROUND SIGNS IN GERMANY. That’s a 1st round draft pick who was touted as maybe being a solid starter in the NHL if not a great player. Next you’re putting players like Scuderi and Niskanen as 2 and 3 type defensemen. lol that’s funny when neither of them have been top defensemen in points or are a force to be reckon with on the defense side. Not to mention that Letang has been even more suspect on the defensive side of the ice. Good article for a discussion, but that’s like voting the Flyers best team in the NHL due to prospective players that might be good or great.

  16. LampyB - Aug 30, 2013 at 9:49 AM

    I’m still trying to figure out if this post is a joke?

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