Who is Dustin Penner? What does he bring? How will he help? Why does he fit?

If you are as hockey obsessed as Surly & I, you may have read every article you could get your hands on from proclaimed (self and otherwise) experts, media, and bloggers about the Dustin Penner trade that sent Colten Popcorn Teubert, a 2011 1st round pick and a conditional 3rd to the Edmonton Oilers.

But how much do you really know about Dustin Penner? If you have been paying attention, you know this much thanks to our blogging friends at Putting on the Foil…I think Racki over there may still be in shock over the trade. I have offered my condolences and any information he seeks about our former 1st round pick, Colten Teubert.

As for you, want to know more about Penner? What kind of obsessive fellow LA Kings‘ fan would I be if I didn’t offer such.

WHO IS DUSTIN PENNER?

A 28 year old, 6’4″, 245 pound left wing that was undrafted and started his rookie season with the Anaheim Ducks in 2005-2006.

A few borrowed facts I have learned.

Penner became only the second man in Oilers’ history to lead the team in Goals, Assists, Points, and +/- in a single season

Only twenty wingers have scored more goals than Penner in the last four seasons and only eleven wingers have scored more goals than Penner in the last two seasons.

WHAT DOES DUSTIN PENNER BRING?

First, ask yourself this question. What does Anze Kopitar?

Size – 6’3″, 219 pounds. Soft hands – a wicked wrist shot and an accurate slapper.

Style – Strong with the puck and without. Willingness to play both ends of the ice.

Durability – rarely injured, has played nearly each game since he came into the league in 2006-2007 (one season after Penner).

Aggravating factor – tendency to stop skating (coasting), not enough drive to the middle of the offensive zone and net, inconsistent offensively and tendency to go on cold streaks.

Let’s look at Dustin Penner.

Size – bigger than Kopitar.

Style – Has soft hands. A great wrist and slap shot that finds the back of the net. 137 shots on goal with a .153 (over 15%) shooting percentage. Kopitar, by comparison, is 206 shots and .097 (over 9%) shooting percentage. The last time Anze Kopitar reached the 15% mark was his second season where he put up 32 goals and 77 points.  Plays both ends of the ice though arguably not as effectively as Anze. A puck possession King (pun intended), very difficult to knock off the puck and uses size well.

Durability – Just like Anze, he has played nearly every game of every season of the past five.

X-factor – He has developed an edge he lacked 2 + season ago. He defends teammates, engages in scrums, fights (he has fought Jack Johnson and recall he jumped Doughty after the Taylor Hall hit early in the season) and is a character guy in the locker room.

Aggravating factors – inconsistent offensively, has a tendency to go on cold streaks.

What does Dustin Penner offer that Kopitar does not? A drive to the hashmarks, between the circles and net. A willingness to park in front of the goalie and pick up rebounds at will.

HOW WILL DUSTIN PENNER HELP?

Ryan Smyth made Anze Kopitar better because of Smyth’s willingness to go to the net, draw traffic to him and give Kopitar time and space to shoot the puck. When Anze did not score on his own, Ryan Smyth picked up the rebounds and wreaked havoc. Enter Dustin Penner, just as capable as Smyth to the net and screening the goalie but with a dimension Ryan doesn’t bring. Size and strength. The last two qualities translate to the LA Kings finally getting what this team has sorely lacked for the better part of three seasons. Depth at net crashers. Before, the only consistent offensive force with his ass in the goalie’s face 5 on 5 was Ryan Smyth and, when duty called, Michal Handzus on the powerplay. We no longer have to rely on number 94 to do all the work or our defensively minded center to be the only other to chip in. Penner becomes a third or, in this case, the net presence we have lacked on the first line.

Dustin Penner’s puck handling and possession skills will also take a great burden off Anze Kopitar along the boards. If Kopitar has the puck along the boards and has a lane, he can shoot knowing Penner is in front of the net. If Penner has the puck at the half boards and cycling, Kopitar can find himself open because Dustin Penner will have drawn one to two of the opposing team’s defenders to him. That means Anze can and must get to where he hasn’t been for most of the season – the hash marks, between the circles and inside it.

On the powerplay? Two lines with front of the net presence to pick up rebounds resulting from point shots (that “finish” we have so lacked) but more importantly two players (Kopitar and Penner) who bring the identical skill set with the puck. It won’t be enough for opposing teams to double team Anze anymore and shut him down. Put pressure on Kopitar and Dustin Penner gets the puck, Kopitar gets open. Pressure Penner with the puck, he cycles to Kopitar and Penner goes to the net. Getting excited yet? There is more.

WHY DOES DUSTIN PENNER FIT?

Our top three lines (assuming Penner, Smyth and Handzus don’t play on the same line) now have a complimentary style. Let’s break it down.

Our three centers are Anze Kopitar, Jarret Stoll and Michael Handzus. Each are two way centers. Kopitar and Stoll bring a skill set designed to bury the puck in the net while opening lanes through time and space for their wingers. Michael Handzus offers a shut down role and the ability to play against the opposing team’s top line thereby giving Kopitar and Stoll a greater offensive role. Michal Handzus no longer has to fit into a role that isn’t designed for him. Zeus does not belong at left wing and does not fit on the first line. He has always been his best when suffocating opposing forwards. All three are good in the faceoff circle, Stoll being nothing short of excellent.

Our right wings comprise of power and speed. Dustin Brown and Justin Williams can skate. Williams is the most skilled and adept at taking the puck over the blue line while drawing bodies to him and dishing it off to a streaking center or trailing defenseman. Brownie has a simpler game when he excels. Head up, skate in, go to the net, dish it off to an open left wing or center – without the puck, hit hard and draw penalties. Wayne Simmonds is the hybrid between Justin Williams and Dustin Brown. Less speed but a nose for the net. Strong with the puck and the ability to take a hit without losing the biscuit. Wanna fight? He will kick your ass from here to the ice bath after the game.

At left wing? We already discussed Penner and Smyth. I promise you the similarities of what they bring with Dustin Penner adding elements Ryan Smyth lacks will jump out at you in the first 5-10 games. Whether Kyle Clifford or Alexei Ponikarovsky take the third line left wing is really irrelevant. Both bring size, speed and, though not an offensive prowess, a power game that focuses on hitting and strong boards play. Kyle Clifford also likes to fight from time to time…

Each line balances size, speed and the “heavy” game Terry Murray covets without sacrificing defense.

And the fourth line? If it becomes Trevor Lewis centering Brad Richardson and Kyle Clifford, ask yourself what NHL team has a faster and better no quit energy line than that?

The next question we haven’t yet asked, is WWTMD – what will Terry Murray do?

We all know how he loves to shuffle lines. It has been a constant source of my aggravation. It is my sincere hope that Dustin Penner’s acquisition tempers Murray’s approach. Kopitar and Penner will need time to develop chemistry. When they do, goodness help opposing teams. If he can keep those two intact, either Williams or Brown can nicely fill the first line right wing spot. Smyth and Stoll belong together. Fortunately, Terry has kept them as a duo for most of the season. I don’t expect that will change. Wayne Simmonds excels on the third line with Handzus and Ponikarovsky. That is the shut down line. It has succeeded before when kept as one. It shall again.

Add our depth and strength on defense and solid goaltending from Jonathan Quick and, when needed, Jonathan Bernier and it is no stretch to state Dustin Penner’s arrival to the LA Kings marks the first time in many seasons the Kings have a round peg in a round hole in each of their top three lines without the need to juggle or fit players in roles that don’t play to their strengths. It is amazing that one player in one position can bring such balance but it highlights how critical the LA Kings’ need at left wing has been for the past several seasons…Dwight King…for the love of the hockey gods, Dwight King.

WHERE WE GO FROM HERE?

There are those that don’t share my enthusiasm of Dustin Penner’s arrival. One of them is a fellow blogger, one whom I respect and like. He’s wrong. I am right. It may not happen overnight. While Penner’s strengths play to the LA Kings’ system (assuming Terry Murray doesn’t strangle his creative offense skill set), he will have to adjust to his linemates and each of their tendencies. I foresee this to take the 5 to 10 games mentioned earlier. I also expect our powerplay will be the fastest beneficiary.

I saved a final fact for last. The Kings now have four former Edmonton Oilers on their team – Ryan Smyth, Jarret Stoll, Matt Greene and Dustin Penner. Someone correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t the last time the Kings had this many prominent former Oilers wearing a Kings’ jersey the 1993 Cup run with Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Marty McSorley, Charlie Huddy, et al?

Let history repeat itself, less one illegal stick and far more to offer from the back end out until one day soon the other Dustin, our captain, is the first to lift the Stanley Cup at center ice. GO KINGS!