Pittsburgh Penguins: Ranking Kris Letang Among the Top 25 Penguins Defensemen

Alison Myers@AlisonM_110Correspondent IJanuary 31, 2012

Pittsburgh Penguins: Ranking Kris Letang Among the Top 25 Penguins Defensemen

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    Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang recently competed in his second NHL All-Star Game, having been named a starter at the 2011 event in Raleigh, N.C.

    Despite missing time this year with a concussion, Letang continues to be one of the best defensemen on the Penguins (if not the best), and is starting to earn some recognition across the league. It is possible he could end up in Norris Trophy conversation as the awards season draws near.

    So with this in mind, where does Letang, currently in his fourth full NHL season, rank among some of the greatest players to man the blue line for the Penguins?

    Here is a look at the Top 25 defensemen in Pittsburgh Penguins history.

25. Alex Goligoski, 2008-2011

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    Goligoski had two assists in three games in Pittsburgh in 2007-08 while spending the majority of the season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL. There, he had 38 points and a plus-15 over 70 games.

    He earned a roster spot to start the 2008-09 season and had 20 points and a plus-five in 45 regular-season games. However, he was sent back down for 26 games upon Sergei Gonchar's return from a shoulder injury. He impressed in his brief time back in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, posting 18 points. He then returned for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and had an assist in two games as Pittsburgh won their third Stanley Cup.

    He went on to have two 30-point campaigns with the big club, including posting 31 points and a plus-20 in 2010-11 before being traded to the Dallas Stars.

    During his time as a Penguin, Goligoski was a contributor on the power play, as he had four power-play goals in 2009 and in 2011 before he was moved.

    He remains a part of the Stars' defensive corps and recently signed a four-year contract extension.

24. Rob Scuderi, 2005-2009

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    Scuderi first played in Pittsburgh during the 2003-04 season, where he had three points and a plus-two in a 13-game call-up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. After playing out the 2004-05 season in the AHL, he went to Pittsburgh for good in 2005-06 and finished his rookie year with four assists in 57 games. 

    His career high in points came in the 2008-09 season when he had 16 points and a plus-23. He finished with five points in 24 playoff games and earned the nickname "The Piece" after making a mistake speaking in an interview. He meant to refer to himself as a missing piece to the puzzle, but said he was the piece.

    Scuderi notably blocked two shots near the end of Game 6 in the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals against the Detroit Red Wings. This helped give the Penguins the win to force Game 7, where they claimed their third Stanley Cup.

    During his time on the Penguins, he was in the top five in blocked shots in each of his four full seasons. He led the team in the category in 2009 with 164 and was third in 2006 with 103.

    He currently plays for the Los Angeles Kings, where he has six points in 50 games.

23. Russ Anderson, 1976-1981

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    Anderson spent four seasons in Pittsburgh. In his first season in 1976-77, he had 13 points and a plus-five over 66 games and added an assist in three playoff games.

    His best year was 1979-80, where he had 27 points and had two helpers in five postseason contests. In the 1980-81 campaign, he had a plus-12 rating.

22. Paul Stanton, 1990-1993

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    A member of the Penguins' back-to-back Stanley Cup teams in 1991 and 1992, Stanton had 23 points and a plus-11 rating in the 1990-91 season. These numbers gave him his best year in Pittsburgh and were NHL career highs.

    He had three points in the 1991 playoffs, giving him a Cup in his rookie year. The next season, he had 10 points in 54 regular-season games and followed that up with eight points in the playoffs as the Penguins repeated as Cup champs.

    In 1992-93, he had 16 points and a plus-seven rating before tallying an assist in one playoff game.

21. Fredrik Olausson, 1996-1998

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    Olausson hit the 30-point mark during both of his seasons in Pittsburgh, including posting 27 points in 51 games after being traded from the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. He had 11 points in 20 games before the trade, giving him 38 points as well as a plus-16 rating to finish the 1996-97 season.

    In 1997-98, he had 33 points and a plus-13 during the regular season and had three assists in six playoff games.

    Olausson returned to Anaheim prior to the 1998-99 season and spent the rest of his career going between the NHL and Europe. He won a Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 2002.

20. Gordie Roberts, 1990-1992

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    Roberts had 15 points and a plus-18 in the 1990-91 season and three points in 24 playoff games as the Penguins won their first Cup in team history. He led the team in plus/minus rating and was the only Pens defenseman to play in every playoff game.

    He followed that up with 24 points and a plus-19 in 1991-92. In the playoffs, he contributed two assists to help the Pens repeat as Cup champions.

    Roberts was also the first American-born player to play in 1,000 NHL games. He is a member of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.

19. Jiri Slegr, 1997-2001

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    Slegr had 17 points and a plus-10 in his first season in Pittsburgh in 1997-98, and he also contributed in the playoffs, posting four assists in six games.

    He continued to improve each year after, culminating in a 31-point, plus-20 campaign in 1999-00. He added five points in 10 playoff games.

    Slegr was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2000-01 season and had 15 points and a minus-nine before the move.

18. Randy Hillier, 1984-1991

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    Hillier improved his points totals every year from 1987 through 1989. He set a career high with 24 points in 1988-89, while his best plus/minus rating came in 1986-87 with a plus-12.

    He was a member of the 1991 Stanley Cup team, posting no points and 24 penalty minutes in eight games. He had two seasons where he had at least 100 penalty minutes (1988 and 1989), as he was known for being physical in his own zone. 

    Hillier served as an assistant coach in Pittsburgh in 1998 and from 2002 through 2004. He remains in the Pittsburgh area and works for an investment company.

17. Doug Bodger, 1984-1988

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    Bodger had four 30-point seasons in Pittsburgh and hit the 40-point mark in 1987 and 1988. His 49 points in the 1986-87 season were a career high, and he had a plus-six that year as well.

    He had five points in 10 games to start the 1988-89 season before being traded to the Buffalo Sabres.

    Bodger currently owns a hockey shop in British Columbia and is a member of the British Columbia Hockey Hall of Fame.

16. Jim Johnson, 1985-1990

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    Johnson posted a positive plus/minus in three out of his four seasons in Pittsburgh while also adding at least 100 penalty minutes in those years. He was best known for being a penalty killer.

    In 1986-87, he set a career high with 30 points and had a plus-12 in 1986 while adding 29 points.

    During the 1988-89 season, after posting 16 points and a plus-seven in the regular season, he had five assists in 11 playoff games.

    He was traded to the Minnesota North Stars in 1990-91, having posted just five points and a minus-three before the deal went down.

    Johnson is currently an assistant coach with one of the Penguins' arch-rivals, the Washington Capitals.

15. Darius Kasparaitis, 1996-2002

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    Kasparaitis is one of the most-loved defensemen in Penguins history, as he was known for an aggressive and hard-hitting style of play.

    He posted at least 100 penalty minutes five times and had 23 points in the 1996-97 season in 75 games with the Penguins and New York Islanders. He also had a plus-17 rating.

    His second-best year with the Penguins came in 2000-01, when he had 19 points. That year, he scored the game-winning goal against the Sabres in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

    After posting 14 points and 123 penalty minutes in 69 games during the 2001-02 season, he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche. He spent five seasons with the New York Rangers before playing in Russia from 2007 through 2009. He officially retired in 2010.

14. Brooks Orpik, 2003-Present

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    Orpik earned a permanent roster spot during the 2003-04 season, posting 10 points and 127 penalty minutes in 79 games. Prior to that, he had two penalty minutes in six games during a call-up in the 2002-03 campaign.

    He signed a six-year contract extension in 2008 after putting up 11 points and a plus-11 rating in 78 games. He had a career-best 25 points in 2010 and a plus-12 in 2011.

    He has ranked first in hits every season, including the present time (145), and his best total was 309 in 2008-09. That same year, he was second in blocked shots with 152.

    Orpik has also ranked in the top five in blocked shots each year and is currently third on the Penguins with 63.

13. Duane Rupp, 1969-1973

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    Rupp came to Pittsburgh during the team's second season in 1968-69 and had 13 points in 30 games. However, that year, he also spent time with the Minnesota North Stars and the Cleveland Barons of the AHL.

    He earned a roster spot in 1969-70 and had 16 points in 64 games, then added four points in six playoff games. In 1970-71, he improved to 33 points in 59 games.

    He had 22 points in 34 games in 1971-72 and also played 38 games with the AHL's Hershey Bears. However, he played four playoff games with the Penguins and had six penalty minutes.

    Rupp played one more full season with the Pens in 1972-73 and had 20 points in 78 games. He is the first defenseman in team history to score a hat trick.

    He currently owns a sporting goods shop in the Pittsburgh area.

12. Dick Tarnstrom, 2002-2006

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    Tarnstrom had two 40-point seasons with the Penguins, and in 2004, he had a career-high 52 points to become the first defenseman to lead the team in scoring. He put up 41 points during his first year in Pittsburgh in 2002-03.

    He was traded to the Edmonton Oilers in 2005-06 after posting 10 points through 33 games. He was a Stanley Cup finalist with the Oilers, tallying two assists in 12 games as the Oilers lost the Cup in seven games to the Carolina Hurricanes.

    Tarnstrom was named to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Penguins team of the 2000s.

11. Zarley Zalapski, 1988-1991

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    Zalapski played 15 games in 1987-88 after playing for the Canadian National Team. In his first chance with Pittsburgh, he tallied 11 points and a plus-10 rating.

    From 1988-1991, he hit the 40-point mark three times, including posting 45 points in 1989 and nine points in 11 playoff games. That performance earned him a spot on the NHL All-Rookie Team.

    Zalapski had a down year in 1990, posting 31 points and a minus-14 in just 51 games. However, he rebounded in 1991 to put up 48 points and a plus-15. He was traded to the Hartford Whalers in a deal that saw Ulf Samuelsson and Ron Francis come to Pittsburgh and give the Penguins the momentum that carried them to their first Stanley Cup.

    Aside from his time with the Whalers, he played with the Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers before spending the majority of his remaining playing days in Europe.

10. Kevin Hatcher, 1996-1999

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    Hatcher had three 30-point seasons with the Penguins and posted 40 points twice. His best year in Pittsburgh came in 1997, when he had 54 points and posted a plus-11. That performance earned him a spot in the 1997 NHL All-Star Game.

    He also had a plus-11 in 1999 and contributed to the playoff run that season with five points in 13 games.

    Hatcher joined the Rangers for the 1999-00 season and finished his playing career with the Hurricanes in 2001. He is a member of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.

9. Kris Letang, 2007-Present

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    Letang had a brief call-up to Pittsburgh in the 2006-07 season and had two goals in seven games. But he wouldn't have to wait long to get onto the roster permanently, as he played just 10 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2007-08 before going to the NHL.

    His best season so far was last year, where he had 50 points and a plus-15 rating to rank second on the team in scoring and first among defensemen. He also earned a starting spot in the 2011 NHL All-Star Game.

    Currently, he is leading Penguins defensemen with 23 points and is tied for fifth overall on the team in scoring. Despite missing close to two months with a concussion, he is on pace for 52 points.

    Letang was a part of the Penguins' 2009 Stanley Cup run with 13 points in 23 games. He signed a four-year contract extension in 2010.

8. Phil Bourque, 1988-1992

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    Before joining Pittsburgh full-time in the 1988-89 season, Bourque played 52 games when called up from the Baltimore Skipjacks of the AHL. In those opportunities, he had 22 points.

    Bourque made an impact in his first full NHL season, posting 43 points in 80 games in 1988-89, the first of three seasons of at least 30 points. He had back-to-back 20-goal seasons in 1990 and 1991, and in 1991, he led the Pens with four shorthanded goals.

    He won two Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992, posting seven points in 21 playoff games in 1992.

    Bourque is currently the color commentator for Penguins radio broadcasts.

7. Sergei Gonchar, 2005-2010

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    Gonchar had three 50-point seasons from 2006 through 2008, and in 2007, he tied a career high with 67 points. He also reached that mark with the Washington Capitals in 2003. In 2008, he had 65 points and a plus-13 to place fourth in Norris Trophy and earn a spot in the 2008 NHL All-Star Game.

    He was on the Penguins' Stanley Cup Finals teams in 2008 and 2009, putting up 14 points in each playoff run. In 2009, his return from a shoulder injury helped the Penguins finish the season 18-3-4 and get into the playoffs after they were in 10th place in the Eastern Conference in February.

    He had 50 points in 62 games in 2010 and was again a key contributor in the playoffs with 12 points in 13 games.

    Gonchar was also a key part of the Pens' power play, finishing with 10 power-play goals in 2007 and eight in 2008. In 2009, five of his six goals came on the man advantage.

    He is currently in his second season with the Ottawa Senators, where he is leading defensemen with 26 points.

6. Ron Stackhouse, 1974-1982

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    Stackhouse came to the Penguins after being traded from the Detroit Red Wings, and he went on to have six 30-point seasons, including four years where he had at least 40 points.

    In 1974-75, he set an NHL record with six assists in a game by a defenseman and followed that up with eight points in nine playoff games, a career high.

    The next year, he had 71 points and also had a plus-21 in 1978-79. He was named to the 1980 NHL All-Star Game on his way to a 33-point, plus-16 campaign.

    Stackhouse finished his career in Pittsburgh in 1982 and is fifth on the Penguins' all-time games played list with 621. He also received an honorable mention for the Penguins All-Time Team.

5. Dave Burrows, 1971-1978, 1980-1981

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    Burrows was best known for playing a simple defensive game with no showboating, and his statistics stood out in the Penguins' early days.

    He was a two-time NHL All-Star while in Pittsburgh, representing the team in 1974, when he had 17 points in 71 games, and again in 1976, when he posted 29 points and a plus-27. That 1975-76 campaign was his best in Pittsburgh.

    He played in two postseasons for the Penguins, putting up two points in both the 1975 and 1977 playoffs.

    After playing two seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, he returned to Pittsburgh for the 1980-81 season. He had two points in 53 games and retired as a Penguin at the end of the year.

    Burrows is in the Pittsburgh Penguins Hall of Fame and is recognized as part of the Penguins All-Time Team.

4. Ulf Samuelsson, 1991-1995

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    Samuelsson came to the Penguins from the Hartford Whalers in 1991, a trade which helped the Penguins win two Stanley Cups in the 1990s.

    He contributed to his new team right away, posting five points in 14 games and adding five more points in 20 playoff games. This included the Cup-winning goal in Game 6 against the Minnesota North Stars.

    In 1992, he had 15 points while putting up 206 penalty minutes, the first of consecutive seasons where he had at least 200 penalty minutes. In 1993, he had a plus-36 rating and six points in 12 postseason games, both of which were career highs.

    Samulesson was known for being a physical player and caused contorversy with some of his hard hits.

    After leaving the Penguins, he went on to play for the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers. He is currently the head coach of Modo Hockey in Sweden.

    His son, Philip, was drafted in the second round of the 2009 NHL Draft by the Penguins and currently plays in the AHL with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

3. Larry Murphy, 1990-1995

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    Murphy came to the Penguins in 1990 after being traded by the Minnesota North Stars. He had 28 points in 44 games with Pittsburgh and added 23 points in 23 playoff games.

    In 1991-92, he had 77 points and a plus-33 rating before adding 16 points in 21 playoff games as the Pens once again won the Stanley Cup. He got even better in 1993, posting career-best totals of 85 points and a plus-45, good enough to claim second runner-up for the Norris Trophy.

    Murphy represented the Penguins at the 1994 NHL All-Star Game en route to a 73-point, plus-10 season. He finished his Pittsburgh career with 301 points in 336 career games and went on to play with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings, winning two Stanley Cups with the latter.

    He is honored in the Penguins All-Time Team exhibit in the Consol Energy Center.

2. Randy Carlyle, 1978-1984

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    Carlyle had 30 points in five of his six seasons with the Penguins, hitting the 50-point mark three times.

    His best season came in 1980-81, when he had a career-high 83 points and also had nine points in five playoff games. This made him the only Penguin to win the Norris Trophy and earned him a spot in the NHL All-Star Game.

    He made the All-Star Game again in 1982 on his way to a 75-point campaign, and he finished the year with four points in five playoff contests. He finished his time in Pittsburgh with 523 points in 397 games.

    Carlyle was also team captain from 1981-1984. He earned an honorable mention on the Penguins All-Time Team.

    He coached the Anaheim Ducks to their first Stanley Cup in 2007, but was fired in November 2011.

1. Paul Coffey, 1987-1992

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    Was there any doubt?

    Coffey was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers in 1987 and had 67 points in his first year in Pittsburgh. As if that weren't impressive enough, he had 100 points in both 1989 (113) and 1990 (103). His 1989 campaign set a record for points in a season by a defenseman, and he also had 15 points in 11 playoff games. 

    During the Penguins' Stanley Cup year in 1991, he had 93 points in 76 games before finishing the postseason with 11 points in 12 playoff games. His play in the late 1980s and early 1990s earned him NHL All-Star appearances. Four out of his nine nods to the event came with Pittsburgh. He is 10th all-time in career points in Pittsburgh with 440.

    Coffey was the second defenseman to post 1,000 points in the NHL. He is honored in the Penguins Hall of Fame, the Hockey Hall of Fame and the Penguins All-Time Team.