ShareThis Page

Penguins' Letang a finalist for Norris Trophy

| Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 10:36 a.m.
In this file photo, Kris Letang argues a penalty call with referee Dan O'Halloran during a game against the Islanders on Tuesday, May 7, 2013, in Uniondale, N.Y.
Getty Images
In this file photo, Kris Letang argues a penalty call with referee Dan O'Halloran during a game against the Islanders on Tuesday, May 7, 2013, in Uniondale, N.Y.

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The plan worked for Kris Letang.

Three years after he and Penguins assistant coach Todd Reirden devised a strategy to become an elite defensemen, Letang has put together a season worthy of recognition.

He is a finalist for the James Norris Memorial Trophy, annually awarded to the top defenseman, along with Montreal's P.K. Subban and Minnesota's Ryan Suter.

Randy Carlyle is the only Penguin to win the Norris, in 1981. No Penguin has been a finalist since Larry Murphy in 1993.

Letang on Tuesday credited teammates, coaches and the Penguins' organization, specifically Reirden, who upon being hired in August 2009 said he believed Letang could become “the best defenseman in hockey.”

“We worked on my defensive game after practices, the little details and obviously the videos. Every day I'm watching videos, either of the games, other players or the habits I have,” Letang said.

Letang sought a level of two-way excellence such as that displayed by future Hall of Famers Nicklas Lidstrom and Scott Niedermayer, the only defensemen to win the Norris from 2001-08.

Letang's 38 points were tied for most at his position in the regular season, even though he missed 13 games because of injury. His plus-16 rating and 25 minutes of average ice time were first and second, respectively, among Norris finalists.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Letang's value was most obvious when he returned from injuries. In wins against Montreal (March 26) and at Tampa Bay (April 11), Letang — coming off lengthy absences because of lower-body injures — played about 24 minutes in each contest.

Letang was seventh overall among defensemen in ice time and produced 13 points on the power play, a particular focus for him this season, he said.

The Norris nomination caps quite a year for Letang, whose first child, Alexander, was born during the lockout.

Letang, 26, is eligible for a contract extension this summer, and general manager Ray Shero said keeping him is a priority. Letang stands to possibly double his $3.5 million annual salary.

Ottawa's Erik Karlsson, the eventual winner, was a Norris finalist before signing a seven-year contract worth $6.5 million annually last June.

The Professional Hockey Writers' Association votes on several NHL awards, including the Norris. A record 178 members cast ballots. There are 285 PHWA members, but not all are eligible to vote.

Six members of the Pittsburgh chapter received voting privileges, including three reporters for the Tribune-Review.

Letang, Subban and Sutter are first-time finalists. The winner will be announced during the Stanley Cup Final.

The NHL Awards Show, recently held regularly in Las Vegas, is not being held this year. The Stanley Cup playoffs are running later into June because of the lockout, which left no extra time for the awards show.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.