Pittsburgh Penguins Season Grades: Brooks Orpik

For part three of Penguins Puck’s Pittsburgh Penguins 2011 Season Grades, we’ll examine the season of team badass and defenseman Brooks Orpik.

Grading scale: The grading scale will range from A+ down through F, with half grades (+/-) included.

The players will be graded on their overall season performance, as well as how they performed compared to their potential, talent level and expectations.

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Brooks Orpik is signed through the 2013-14 season at a $3.75 million cap hit, and thank the lord he is.

He is the symbol of consistency. Year in and year out, the 30-year-old brings the Penguins one of the best defensive games in the National Hockey League. He is perennially near the top of the leaderboard in hits, and, almost as importantly, he is never near the top of the board in penalty minutes.

In the past four years, Orpik has never ranked lower than sixth in the league in hits when he has played more than 63 games, and also has not amassed more than 73 penalty minutes in a season.

Orpik is arguably the best skating defensive defenseman in the entire league. He is one of this team’s leaders, and generally steps his game up in clutch situations (see this hit on Steven Stamkos not two minutes into this year’s playoffs).

Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik – Kris Letang pairing is absolutely perfect. Orpik is the physical defensive presence while Letang is the smooth-skating attacker, but both players can take on each other’s role if need be. We’ll be seeing this defensive pairing for at least a few more years, and I couldn’t be happier.

One of Orpik’s more underrated skills is his ability to move players from in front of Pittsburgh’s net. No other skater on the team’s blueline is capable – or seemingly willing – to box out a Ryan Malone-type player. This hurt the Penguins in the 2011 post season.

All in all, it was the type of season the Penguins have come to expect from Orpik. Unfortunately, he was sidelined for about a quarter of the season with a broken finger, but still led the team in hits (194) and ranked fourth in blocked shots (94).

The most consistent player Pittsburgh has in the back, Orpik’s stellar defensive play earned himself a B+ in 2011.

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photo: http://flic.kr/p/9ggNo3

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