By MARK MADDEN
Penguins coaches are reportedly considering a move of Mark Letestu to wing once Jordan Staal returns, the idea apparently being that Letestu could thus keep a spot on one of the top two lines if his current production continues.
It’s a leap of faith betting Letestu can continue his scoring pace – this is a 25-year-old undrafted rookie – but there’s no denying he’s playing well.
But even if Letestu does keep averaging a point per game, keep him at center.
Penguins coaches believe the forward positions are interchangeable. For some, that’s true. For Letestu, it’s not. Letestu is a very systematic player, a coach on the rink. His best qualities naturally shine brightest at the most systematic position on the rink.
That position is center.
Move Letestu to wing, you play away from his strengths. That’s the last thing an unheralded player who’s suddenly making unexpected impact should want.
You need put in a position to succeed. Playing wing – even with Sid or Geno – would hurt Letestu.
I understand why it’s being considered. When Staal comes back, where do you put everybody?
Staal skates with Malkin, as planned.
Have Letestu center the third line. That’s a great spot for Letestu. Lots of opportunity, and a good fit for his talents. Consider the impact Staal made as third-line center.
All these points – that’s just a hot streak. Letestu is a solid NHL center with outstanding systematic capabilities. The best spot for THAT – is on the third line.
While discussing this issue on radio, a few idiots suggested having Letestu center the second line while Staal centers the third, because Staal has been such a good third-line center.
How would Staal feel about THAT? Malkin moved to wing, with Staal ultimately serving as his center, because Staal didn’t want to be a third-line center FOREVER.
Nor should he. Staal’s talents merit far better. He would have been centering one of the top two lines a LONG TIME AGO – on any team besides Pittsburgh.
Letestu had a handful of good games. Nice. But not enough to jump ahead of Staal on the depth chart.
Let’s see what Letestu is playing like when Staal returns. If he’s still excelling, maybe try him at wing.
But don’t expect much. Letestu is a center, period.
Brooks Orpik may return Saturday. Aaron Asham may return Wednesday. Staal and Zbynek Michalek are just a few weeks away.
Who gets sent down when everybody’s healthy?
Andrew Hutchinson is the easy call on defense. He didn’t make the team in training camp. He’s played OK since arriving in Pittsburgh, but certainly has not distinguished himself above and beyond Deryk Engelland or Ben Lovejoy.
Eric Tangradi is the easy call up front. That’s not a big knock on the Big Dog. He just needs a little more polish. He’s also on a two-way deal and doesn’t have to clear waivers.
After that, the decisions get tougher.
I would trade Tyler Kennedy. He’s just not getting back to his game. The Penguins might try to trade Max Talbot. Letestu’s success creates a bit of a glut at center, and Talbot has never been a Coach Disco favorite. I don’t see ditching Eric Godard unless Engelland cements himself into the top six on defense. I don’t see that, either.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).