I don't know the context of the comment, but if he's meant simply thus far in the season, I'm actually inclined to agree with him. I've watched 3 Pens games already and Letang is taking the toughs quite often, with at least one of him and Martin always on the ice against other teams' top lines. He's also, too often, carrying barely-NHLers like Engelland or Lovejoy on his line. He's putting up more than a PPG. He's always on their shootout and is fairly good at it (if memory serves).
He's been lights out so far. The best player by a good mark on a team that has 3 wins in 5 games and has yet to lose in regulation. If he's not the best player in the NHL thus far, he's certainly up there in the conversation.
Great, you're looking at individual players on isolated games. I'm look at Letang over a four game span. Talk about sample size...
Two years ago, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Penner were exchanging leads in the scoring race for almost 20-25 games, if memory serves me correctly. At the end of the season, neither of them finished top 15 in scoring.
IMO, there's a difference between being "the hottest player in the league" and being "the best player in the league". The best player in the game shouldn't switch from game to game or week to week. If I'm going to pick the best defenseman in the game, I might go with Stanley Cup winner and Norris finalist Zdeno Chara or 7-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom or Gold Medalist and Norris Finalist Shea Weber or Stanley Cup and Norris winner Duncan Keith.
Kris Letang could have morphed into Bobby Orr these last four games and I still would have gravitated to the more proven, consistent defensemen in the game.
I'm a Pens fan, and I think Melrose's comments are just asinine. Letang is a very good, very promising young defenseman...but he is very inconsistent. His 2nd half of last year was mediocre both from an offensive and defensive standpoint. Yes, not having Crosby and Malkin hurt, but that is no excuse for the decline in his defensive game at the end of the year. Elite d-men like Weber, Chara, Lidstrom, etc. are consistent all year round. That is what makes elite players what they are...consistency. As of now, Letang is too inconsistent to be considered a top 5 d-man in the league. Once he finds it though, look out NHL...
Letang is a great defenseman - true.
Letang is a top 10 defenseman - possible, but arguably true
Letang has been the best defenseman this season so far - likely true
Letang is the best player in the NHL or Letang is playing the best defense of anyone since Lindstrom in the early 2000's - 100% ridiculous
Thankfully, the number of people who believe either one of the last two statements is tiny.
All this tells me is Letang has been unreal to start the year, you can't become the best player in the game in 5-6 games. Can't wait to see him play soon though...he's been a good player since entering the league.
Barry Melrose is absolutely clueless.......which is why he is on a sports entertainment network like ESPN.ESPN is nothing more than the WWE of sports coverage, its really horrible to watch that whole bunch of charlatans with the exception of a few of them.