The Dustin Penner Paradox

There are so many things at play when you look at Dustin Penner’s lack of offensive production. In no particular order, you have:

1. A player who has historically been streaky;
2. Fitness issues that followed him from Edmonton to here;
3. A reputation for a lack of compete level;
4. Being relegated to third line duties; and
5. His coach being Terry Murray (look at his goal and point totals before coming here).

You then factor in a contract year and $4.25 million per season as the “bar”, and you would hope external and internal motivation would be a non-issue. Nobody likes a pay cut.

Yet, here we are. He has played 9 games. He has no goals, one assist and is a -1. He has 10 shots on goal, 4 of which came in the 3-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils.

I think Howard nailed it when he wrote this is Dustin’s last season with the Kings, almost regardless of how he performs. Now that he is underwhelming on the offensive stat sheet, I am starting to question if he will be here by the trade deadline. I also question if Dean Lombardi looks at Dustin Penner and regrets the trade.

Let’s talk about numbers 4 and 5. Remember Teddy Purcell? Pretty damn impressive last season, eh? 17 goals, 34 assists and a +5. “It was a fluke!” Was it? This season, 10 games played, 3 goals, 6 assists, 9 points. I know talking about such things may make beat writers shutter because the question, “coach, do you find it odd that players who struggle offensively here go on to have nice seasons elsewhere?” would never make the list (unless Surly is going undercover), but how many examples does one need? There have been a few, some would say more than a few. Does that mean Terry Murray is to blame for Dustin Penner’s lack of production? Of course not. It’s just a factor, but it brings me back to the Penner Paradox. Why the hell can’t this 6’4″, alleged 245 pound bear score goals?

I don’t have an answer for it. It may be all 5 create barriers that Penner simply cannot break through. Is he done, washed up, nice knowing you Dustin but, next stop, Europe or some team trying to reach the Salary Cap floor? Perhaps he is about to go on a tear and we and he just don’t know it yet. Wouldn’t it be nice if that starts against his former team, the Oilers, this Thursday? It may be none of the above and there is a 6, 7, 8 or other reasons I haven’t even considered.

Regardless, it’s a paradox and I would like to solve it.

Categories: L.A. Kings News

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14 replies

  1. No. 3, which leads to No. 2. (No. 1 is no big deal – a career-long known. No. 4 is consequence before it is cause (see: last night)).

    No. 5 seems relevent – we have been discussing/trying to understand and quantify this at your site for the past few weeks. Purcell is a legitimate example. Wonder if Ponikarovski will rebound this season – why not?

    How can trade deadline help here? Even if TM is/becomes known as a contributor to DP’s offensive impotence (he probably is), we would have to eat most/all salary balance to move DP, no? Well, it would open a spot – again, why not?

  2. I’m of the opinion that the game has passed players like Penner by. He is big – YES. He is strong – YES. He can skate – NO. He is fast – NO. He has great hands – NO. For quite a few years being big and standing in front of the net was enough. I grew up watching Kevin Stevens, Rick Tocchet, Jason Arnott, and others stand around the net play “power forward” and score lots and lots of goals. Even guys like Todd Bertuzzi and Bill Guerin (although a smarter player than the others) had a couple years where they dominated by playing this style. Its is my opinion that the era of the “power forward” is over in the NHL and has been for a while. If you cannot skate in this league…you are in trouble.

    Penner is a dinosaur. Expecting him to magically turn into a smart, skilled, fast skater with great hockey sense over the summer was way too much to ask, but even I thought it could possibly happen like that time when they put old sap in a magic machine, that one time, and then a bunch of T-Rex’s ate kids…that was awesome. Anyway, its just not the case, this guy has played somewhat better as far as positioning but MY GOD this guy looks F’N HORRIBLE at times. Case in point, the New Jersey game. the guy looked like one of those goofs in between periods trying to win a Toyota. The fact is, it hasn’t worked. he’s not the right guy. And for Kings fans to believe this guy will blossom into some sort of offensive contributor, after all the evidence to the contrary, at this point seems really foolish…

    • Penner was on pace for 30 goals last season with Edmonton. Dinosaur? That would be Murray.
      Smyth already has 8 ES points in Edmonton. 5 goals already in 11 games with a team that is scoring less than the Kings. Smyth always starts hot, but I’m sure he will still get his 20 goals.
      Moulson, didn’t get a fair shake in LA, but he still struggled with Murray.
      Boyle had a strong season with NY last year, but has been pushed down the depth chart with the Richards signing.

      A lot of players have quick starts when they first join the Kings and then go cold. Gagne started strong, but has zero points in 4 straight. Will he turn it around? Past results suggest not. Penner started hot with the Kings too.
      Poni already has 2 goals in Carolina. How many games did he take with LA?

      It’s an epidemic with Murray. I’m afraid that the Kings will be the new Sharks of 5 years ago. Good regular seasons with no championships. Post-lockout, no team has won the cup without a top 10 5-on-5 offense. I think Anaheim was the lowest at 8th the year they won.
      Kings were 17th last year. And are currently near the bottom of the NHL.

      What was the question again? :)

      • Comparing Penner to Smyth is foolish. Smyth has great hands and great puck sense. the guy is tough along the boards and rarely gets beat off the puck which helps since he’s not a great skater. Smyth is a consistent scorer who has performed well wherever he has played. Penner has only scored 30 goals once so lets stop pretending he’s some sort of goal-scoring machine. Moulson and Boyle are also totally different players from Penner, so I don’t get your comparison. And anyone that thinks Poni is a legitimate NHL player is smoking dust.

  3. Hasn’t be been on every line with every player. Even Smyth, as slow as he was, managed to screen, be a presence down low, and bang in the trash. He can’t get 15 of those? Maybe, he’s won his cup and doesn’t care? Maybe the rumors about his personal life are true and have been too much to bare? Maybe he just wants out LA (this would be the dumbest way I know to do it)?

    • Penner is this year’s Smyth, bringing his line down. Except for he doesn’t get much power play time (right?) so doesn’t get the ezpz PP goals like Smyth did.

      • Smyth is 21% of edmonton’s offense through 11 games. 8 ES points already (tied for 10th in the NHL), including 4 ES goals and 1 PP goal. It will be interesting watching him in Thursday. He still drives the net and is showing their young forwards the ropes.

        Kopitar has 9 ES points.

  4. The guy is an enigma. One would think money is important to him so he would get his ass in gear during a contract year. Seems to be one of those athletes who is incapable or unwilling to achieve his potential.

    The Kings, to their credit, have been patient with him. I am not sure how much longer he deserves. As a fan, it is awfully difficult to be optimistic…

  5. While almost everything that has said could be valid..
    I disagree with one point…Tim says he does not have good hands..
    Yes he does.. that is the one thing that has caught my eye and that I have
    keyed in on when Penner is on the ice.. he has an amazingly soft touch with
    the puck.. he has made some nice passes that unfortuatley have not connected..
    maybe with more talking and staying with the same linemates we would see a
    different outcome..
    GO KINGS GO!!!

  6. I think Terry Murray’s system just strangles some players. It can’t be a fluke that players like moulson, Purcell, and boyle go on to to better things. The question is wether TM system is better long term(playoffs) then some of the more free wheeling systems in the east. I for one think the cost of production from players we have acquired(penner, sturm) is a acceptable cost.

  7. … Well, I’m going to get into a few things here, and let the naysayers and the disbelievers go ahead and do their thing in response. When it comes to Dustin Penner, I’m obviously disappointed in his basic statistics, and I was very critical of his shift when Colorado scored the first goal of the game the other night – but. I think there’s a lot more to this Penner situation than meets the eye.

    Now – just to get this out of the way, I watch the games just as often and as closely as any of you knuckleheads do, so don’t bother playing that tired-ass card. I don’t believe Penner is loafing out there, or that he doesn’t care, or that he’s lost his desire to play the game. I don’t believe in that garbage anyway, and I don’t see it in his play. People want to talk about him needing to get in front of the net, and I’m wondering what games those people are seeing because I see him in front of the net ALL THE TIME. I see a guy who has a low shot total because he’s in front of the net and the players on his line aren’t getting the puck to him or near him, or because he’s being double-teamed in front and the players on his line can’t get the puck to him.

    Now this is not to say that the people who are out there with him are sabotaging him, or anything like that. Like I said, there’s more to this than meets the eye. I DO know this – when Penner is out there, the Kings spend a lot of time in the offensive zone and pucks are getting to the net. Look, I have a great deal of confidence in advanced metrics, particularly Corsi ratings; they’re not perfect – no stat is – but they’ve been right on the money too many times when judging and forecasting player performance for me to not believe in them. Penner’s Corsi numbers are very solid; third best among the team’s regular forwards. The two regulars ahead of him are Kopitar – right, no surprise there – and Richardson, who has played exceptionally well this season in my opinion, despite the fact that his point numbers are identical to Penner’s.

    I’ve mentioned that, so far this season, the Kings (and their opponents) have posted abnormally low shooting percentages at 5-on-5 this season, which is the main reason why their goals for and against have been so low. When it comes to the Kings’ forwards, no player has been a bigger casualty of this abnormally low shooting percentage than Dustin Penner. When Penner’s on the ice, the Kings have a shooting percentage as a team of just 3.7%, about half of the team’s regular 5-on-5 percentage (7.0%). Say what you will about this – I’m sure I’ll hear the litany of how Penner and the Kings take “throwaway” shots when Dustin’s on the ice – but I don’t see this happening and I don’t think it’s much more than poor luck.

    I’ve said this not long ago, and I still believe it – the Kings are going to score more goals, and they are going to give up more goals. We’re already seeing this happen, in fact. I think Penner is going to come around. He’s played just nine games this season, and he’s had an injury not long ago to boot. To make a judgment on this player after such a short time and under these circumstances is incredibly premature.

    • Agree with you that
      I think he is trying… he does care.. and no duh he is constantly putting hiimself in
      front of the net.. I see it the most with him and Brownie.. we could call it
      “net mentality”.
      I do think it is about how the play develops weather you take the shot or not..
      I have seen some pretty passes by Penner when the shot was not available, which unfortunately have not connected.
      I do not think he has the speed to be able to take the puck all the way up the ice and get the shot.. we saw that the last game? when the opposition was able to
      box him out and force him into the board.. he had puck position and eventualy was able to pass off.
      I guess this group always has to have someone to be a scapgoat and Penner is the one right now.
      GO KINGS GO!!!

    • I sincerely hope that you are right and myself and the rest of the pessimists are wrong, for the sake of the team and Penner’s career.

  8. Hey look, Terry Murray agrees with me:

    But Murray said that it will take more than just shots and traffic in front.

    “The other part of it, that, if you remember, we go back to the end of [last] year, and in the off-season, we talked about the power play, and what is it you want to see,” Murray explained. “My comment was to just get some movement going. That’s no different with the five-on-five.”

    “I think we’re a little stagnant at times,” Murray elaborated. “We’re looking to pass the puck into the net from stationary situations, and that’s a really hard thing to do in today’s game.”

    Movement away from the puck gives defenses a lot more to think about.

    “You’ve got to break the teams down—their structure on the defensive part of the game,” Murray stressed. “That comes from movement from the forwards, and it means more involvement from our defensemen. Doughty, [Jack] Johnson, and [Alec] Martinez are three guys in particular, who are comfortable with getting involved in the offensive part of it, and I don’t mean joining the attack off the rush. I’m talking about when the play is in the offensive zone, and there’s a cycle, jumping through and getting to the net. Just become a decoy sometimes. To be a distraction for the defending team is a good thing.

    “We show it, at times,” Murray added. “But it needs to happen on a consistent basis so that there’s more instinctive offensive zone play.”

    …we can only hope he sticks with this for more than 5 or 6 games. And hopefully he won’t change once the Kings start giving up a few more goals in transition.


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