The term “fresh start” is being used a lot when it comes to this Penguins team with all of the changes made this offseason, but it has a particularly special meaning for Kris Letang.
That’s because he’s healthy and ready to go after a season that saw him deal with an incredible scare, as he suffered a stroke on Jan. 29 at just 26 years old. And while Letang eventually returned to the ice on April 9 after a 10-week absence, overall it was a season filled with more lows than highs for the defenseman as he played just 37 games because of the stroke and various other injuries.
This summer was critical for Letang, as he was able to regroup and reset both mentally and physically. Heading into training camp, the two-time NHL All-Star and Norris Trophy finalist is looking to put everything that happened last season behind him and get back to the top of his game.
“I want to make sure nobody’s going to doubt me (and) the job I’m going to be doing on the ice,” Letang said. “I think basically I just want to prove myself to everyone, that it’s part of the past and we’re looking ahead.”
He put in the work over the past couple of months to ensure that he’ll be ready to do that. Letang is known for being a physically conditioned specimen who makes his exceptional skating look effortless, thanks in large part to the intense offseason training regimen he undergoes with Jonathan Chaimberg at Adrenaline Performance Centre in Montreal.
Letang didn’t change anything about his routine this summer despite what he went through last year. If anything, he ramped it up even higher.
“Actually, I think I did even better than the previous summer,” he said. “Everything was under control. Any time I had questions, I had doctors down there and here. I was good all summer. … I think I even pushed it a little harder just to see how my body was going to react and it went really well.”
The Penguins’ blue line saw a few notable departures this offseason in veterans Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen. And while Letang, now 27 and entering his eighth NHL season, isn’t necessarily looking to replace what they did on the ice, he is, however, ready to step up and handle a bigger leadership role off of it.
“I‘m not going to change the way I am or the way I play, I’m just going to do what I do best,” Letang said. “I’m not going to try to replace ‘Brooksy’ with the hits he can give or anything like that. I’m just going to try to do my job and take a bigger role in the room.”
He discussed that situation with Penguins head coach Mike Johnston, who visited Letang in Montreal earlier this summer.
“It was great, we had dinner for maybe four or five hours,” Letang said. “It was just talking hockey. He was getting to know me and what kind of person I am and what kind of role I wanted to be in the room. It went really well.”
He’s looking forward to seeing how things will go under Johnston and the rest of the new staff.
“Every time you have something new in life, you’re pretty excited,” he said. “You want to get going, you want to try to see what it’s like to have some change. I think it’s going to be a fresh start and everybody’s excited.”