Olli Maatta. Many of you are probably thinking of him as a slow moving turnover machine. Well don’t.
Maatta has been the target of many bad comments and fans haven’t treated him fairly. He set his expectations high after a superb rookie season where he scored nine goals and 20 assists. After that, Maatta was plagued with multiple long term injuries including a battle with cancer and missed a significant amount of games over the course of a few seasons.
Also, consider the fact that the Penguins were being coached by either Dan Bylsma or Mike Johnston. Once Mike Sullivan took over, everyone on the Penguins seemed to be transformed by his speed philosophy. One of the lone exceptions to that was Maatta who seemed to struggle a lot due to his lack of speed.
So what is different from 2012 and now?
Consider Maatta’s defensive partners back in 2012, Rob Scuderi and Matt Niskanen. Both Scuderi and Niskanen could stay back and cover while Maatta joined the rush. Since his rookie year he’s been paired up with Kris Letang quite often and spent a long time with Trevor Daley.
Being along side offensive defensemen like Letang and Daley gave Maatta very little opportunities to get up the ice to get some points.
Some of you might be thinking “hold on Justin Schultz does all the things offensive defensemen do, so how is he different then Letang or Daley?” Well, as we all know, Schultz and Maatta spent a significant amount of time together at the Penguins Stanley Cup parade and seem to have developed a friendship.
Why is that important? It develops chemistry on the ice together. That’s very important for defensemen to have that chemistry because you know your partners tendencies and when to join the rush and when to cover for your partner.
That’s not the only thing that’s changed, though.
Maatta has improved his defensive game and has shown much more poise and consistency throughout all areas of the ice. Everyone seems to forget the fact that he’s only 23 years old and he is still maturing as a defensemen. Most defensemen don’t fully develop until their late 20’s.
Next time you want to criticize Maatta’s contract, consider the fact that his best years are yet to come and so far the season looks bright for the young Finn.