Brian Dumoulin and Kris Letang are in their eighth season as the Pittsburgh Penguins’ top defensive pairing. They have become some of the most reliable players on the roster, but so far this season they have not looked their best. It is clear that something has to change. The duo has been a staple in Pittsburgh for almost a decade, but could the Dumoulin/Letang chapter be coming to a close?
Off to a Slow Start
There is no doubt that Dumoulin is off to a slow start so far this season. He has played in all 10 games and had three assists for a total of three points. The Penguins have given up 41 total goals this season and he has been on the ice for half of them. He is also currently tied with Dimitry Kulikov, who plays for the Anaheim Ducks, for the most goals against in the NHL. The truth is he has not been himself for a long time. He has been plagued with injuries including a torn MCL in Game 1 of the playoff series with the New York Rangers last season. He has also dealt with countless ankle injuries over the past three seasons, and it is becoming more and more clear that he will probably never return to his former self.
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One of the biggest issues with Dumoulin’s game is his lack of speed. This is something he was struggling with last season, and it seems to still be an issue. Unfortunately, it looks like all the injuries are catching up to him, and he needs to find a way to change up his style of play.
Dumoulin has also been having trouble clearing the crease in front of goalie Tristan Jarry. It has been clear on several occasions that he has simply been overpowered in the blue paint. This could turn into a bigger issue if it hinders Jarry from doing his job, so it needs to be addressed rather quickly.
Possible Switch up on Defense
There have also been some inconsistencies in Letang’s game, and it is hard not to wonder if Dumoulin is partly to blame. On Tuesday, Oct. 25, in the game against the Calgary Flames, he made some costly turnovers on the penalty kill and simply did not look his best. The Penguins were outshot two to six in the first period. The Flames had 46 percent of the shot attempts at even strength and 47 percent of the scoring chances in that game.
The Penguins have a long season ahead, but they can’t ignore their defensive issues any longer. They have now lost six games in a row, and cannot afford to continue that streak. Marcus Pettersson and P.O. Joseph might be two players the Penguins should consider as a possible Dumoulin replacement on the top pairing. Through the first 11 games, they have proven they deserve a chance at some top minutes.
Related: 3 Players the Penguins Should Call Up From the AHL This Season
A good solution for Dumoulin might be to move him down to the second pairing with Jeff Petry. It would be a bit more of a sheltered role with less ice time and less competition. The pair played together on Nov. 1 in the 6-5 loss to the Boston Bruins and did well. Petry is a veteran defenseman whose playing style will complement Dumoulin.
At 31 years old, it is time for both Dumoulin and the Penguins to start thinking seriously about how much time he has left on the ice. He is in the final year of his contract, and there is currently no rush to extend it beyond this year. In order for the team to justify an extension, he would have to drastically change the way he has been playing. It might be time to accept that his best years are behind him.
My name is Sylvie McCarthy and I am a graduate of the University of North Florida. I have spent time as a sports writer for the Casper Star Tribune in Casper, Wyoming and the Picayune Item in Picayune, Mississippi. Sports is my passion, and I am so excited to be writing for The Hockey Writers where I will be covering the Pittsburgh Penguins.
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