It’s been a long time since Pittsburgh Penguins fans have seen top defenseman Kris Letang on the ice. On January 29, the blue-liner suffered a stroke, and has been sidelined ever since. Last week, though, Letang returned to team practices once his blood-thinner treatment wrapped up. After getting a few practices in, he was reevaluated by team doctors and was officially given the green light to return to action.
However, his official return date is still up in the air. Even though he’s received all the permission he needs to get back into the Penguins lineup, Letang is holding off on lacing up until he feels he’s ready to do so.
“It’s going to be my call,” he said. “It’s all about when I feel ready. It’s not a case of your shoulder or something like that. When I’m ready, I’m ready.”
It’s great to see that, despite being told he’s good to go, Letang is proceeding with caution. As he said, this is not your typical injury. Suffering a stroke is a scary thing for anyone, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Letang was still a bit shaken up almost two months later. He could be physically fine and not suffering any ill-effects, but this is a mental issue, too.
It’d be understandable if Letang felt pressured to speed up his return. The Penguins have been just so-so since returning from the Olympic break. The team is 6-6-2 since play resumed, and watching something like this from the sidelines has to be eating at the recovering defenseman. We’ve seen plenty examples of players returning a little earlier than they should from an injury in attempts to boost their club, and Letang could easily have chosen to be one of them.
Instead, Letang is making the smart choice of waiting until he personally knows for sure he’s ready to go. Whatever struggles Pittsburgh may be going through, they’ll never reach the level of urgency where it would be OK for Letang to risk his health in attempts to help out. I highly doubt there’s a member of the Penguins organization, on the roster or in the front office, who would disagree with that.
At the moment, Pittsburgh is sitting pretty at the second seed overall in the Eastern Conference standings. Barring any significant slumps in the final games, this will likely be where they end up come postseason. With that in mind, Letang is should take as much time as he needs to get himself mentally ready to play again. This is one condition you certainly don’t want to see any setbacks with.