The word for the past month surrounding our LA Kings has been “murmurs”. We have heard murmurs of friction within the Kings’ locker room, though that scuttlebutt, to date, has been little scuttle and mostly butt. We have also heard murmurs of Dean Lombardi inquiring about certain players, including Dustin Penner and Mike Fisher (about whom we have an insider’s view article in the works). Surly & I knew it would be easy to give you our take on each of these players and their value to LA but what fun is that when we can get an insider’s viewpoint? Thus, I reached out to fellow passionate bloggers from Edmonton’s Putting On the Foil and asked specific questions about this undrafted 28 year old, 6’4″, 245 pound left wing. For the stat freaks, Penner has 14 goals and 15 assists this season. He is a -10. He eclipsed 30 goals and 60 points last season and finished with a +6 on a struggling Oilers team. A special thanks to Oilers’ maniac Racki for the answers.
SCRIBE: What is Penner’s greatest on ice attribute?
RACKI: “This is a tough question to answer because Penner actually does quite a bit well now. Rather than pick one, I’ll talk about all the things he does do well. He’s got great hands from in close which gives him quite an accurate and hard shot. Much to my surprise, the guy can stickhandle in a phone booth. It isn’t going to be as pretty as a European star, but he is good at playing in tight on defensemen and controlling the puck.”
SCRIBE: What is Penner’s greatest weakness?
RACKI: “His greatest weakness is that oftentimes he appears to lack heart. It is tough for us fans to know if there is truth to that, but there are some nights where he looks like he doesn’t care. This can lead to inconsistency in his game. He also does not use his size often enough. He’s a huge specimen of a hockey player, but he doesn’t often hit, and it takes a lot for him to be aggressive. If he could bring the size and work ethic to his game nightly, he would be a dominant player. There have been rumors of poor conditioning being the cause for an apparent lack of heart and use of his size.”
SCRIBE: What area of Penner’s game has improved and regressed the most over the past 3 seasons, if any?
RACKI: “I don’t think I can think of anything with Penner that’s regressed. He’s improved all around, from what I can see. His biggest improvement has probably been confidence. I think last year was great for him and he saw that he is a really good player. He struggled with confidence because of problems with the fans here and our old coach (Craig MacTavish). He was signed as an RFA and the expectations were extremely high on him. Fans were unruly to him in public and at games (it makes me sick to even say it, to be honest). His first two years here, he struggled, but there was signs of improvement. When we got new coaches (at the time Pat Quinn was head coach), it was like we had gotten a whole new player – the player we thought we had. His confidence was a lot higher and you could see it in how he played.
He’s also using his size a bit better now. Namely, we see him sticking up for teammates more often. Our team often gets pushed around a lot, and Penner is starting to stand up for the smaller players on the team when that happens. Still has some work to do in that area, considering he’s 6’4, 240 lbs.”
SCRIBE: Which linemates has Penner had the most amount of success this season and last? We ask this question because a player’s success with certain types of players is a good indicator of with whom he shares chemistry and allows us to gauge whether we have that type within our own team.
RACKI: “This might actually be another one of Penner’s attributes that makes him a great player for the Oilers – he fits in well with almost any linemates. It’s been a while since I did this, but a couple years ago I researched Penner’s impact on teammates. The vast majority of players saw an increase in goals for as a line and a decrease in goals against as a line, when he was on the ice. An underrated factor of Penner’s game is that he makes linemates better by opening ice for them. He also brings a solid two-way game that makes him a good defender as well too. You are definitely going to get the most out of him if you put him with your most talented players, however he can also put up respectable numbers playing with the grinder types. That said though, he really should be in the top-six on any team.
The two players he’s played best with though, to answer your question, are Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner (as well as Shawn Horcoff in Gagner’s place).”
SCRIBE: What is Penner’s value to the Oilers? Do you see him as a moveable asset, is he untouchable and what would you believe the Oilers would want in return?
RACKI: “He is on my personal untouchable list. The Oilers are severely lacking in skill players with size. I’ve shown interest in Brayden Schenn, but I worry that his good tournament at the World Junior Championships might exaggerate his abilities a bit. Ideally, I’d only trade Penner if we were moving him for a centerman with size and skill (i.e., say a team needed to strengthen their wingers a bit and could afford to sacrifice a center to do so). Dustin Brown is also a player I’ve always had interest in, but I would assume he would be an untouchable asset for the Kings. At the very least, I believe the Oilers would have to add more to their end of the deal given that Brown brings such a strong physical game and can put up similar offensive numbers. I realize he’s a winger, but the upgrade in physical presence would help the Oilers a lot. Anyways, probably a moot point since I would guess he isn’t going anywhere!”
SCRIBE: What is his off the ice demeanor? Is he a leader? Quiet? Vocal? Troublemaker?
RACKI: “He is known for his dry but incredibly funny sense of humor. He jokes around with interviewers all the time. He’s one of the alternate captains on the team, and I know he is very well liked by the team. He jokes around a lot with people, which is very good to see given what I mentioned above about him being criticized to the point of demoralization by fans/coaches here when he first came here. We fans here don’t get to see much of what goes on in the dressing room, so it’s hard to know what kind of leader he is. But I can say he for sure is not a troublemaker (except for perhaps in the playful sense). Vocal? I would have a tough time believing he is vocal. But he seems more of a quiet type that usually has people listening closely when he talks. His interviews are some of the best you’ll hear.”
RACKI’S CLOSING THOUGHTS: “I hope Penner doesn’t get moved. Let’s put it this way, before the start of the year when there was a rumor of Heatley for Penner, Cogliano and Smid, I was hoping that it wouldn’t happen. I might be overrating Penner a bit (and I know he definitely is no Dany Heatley), but he is incredibly valuable to the Oilers. A couple of years ago, the city would have been chasing him out of town, but he’s now living up to his contract quite well and I’m happy for his success. There is a lot of talk about him being moved though to make room for the young players and to free up salary down the road. The big needs for this team (1) a big centerman for the top line and (2) an all-around d-man who can play a strong shutdown game. We also need a faceoff / PKer type (a la Jarret Stoll), but that type of player certainly wouldn’t be a central piece coming back.”
I encourage our readers to browse Putting on the Foil. It’s a good read and gives insight into a young, exciting, up and coming Oilers’ team.
Coming shortly…Mike Fisher of the Ottawa Senators.