PDP: I always knew you had it in you, kid

Robin Brownlee
October 23 2009 09:03AM

Hands up everybody who thought PDP would stand for Prolific Dustin Penner during the term of his contract with the Edmonton Oilers after watching him screw the pooch in the first two years of his deal. Me neither.

And how many astute hockey fans here at OilersNation had Penner listed as their goat this season after watching him hit the buffet table and the skids under Craig MacTavish last season, then get offered to the Ottawa Senators in the Dany Heatley trade that went sideways? For shame.

One thing's for sure, if anybody out there can say with a straight face they saw Thursday's five-point performance in a 6-4 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets coming and that PDP would have seven goals and 14 points in his first nine games to jolt the Oilers to a 6-2-1 start, you are smarter than I.

From out-of-shape under-achiever in his two years under MacTavish to leader of the band under Pat Quinn, Penner is fashioning a turnaround the likes of which I can't honestly remember in 117 years of covering hockey.  Have you witnessed a 180 by a player like this?

Pluck out my eyes. I've seen everything.

A changed man

Mix conditioning with the kind of confidence that comes with being thrown over the boards in every important situation by Quinn, then put Penner together with Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky, and you get what we've got.

Penner's five points, two goals and three assists, was a career high. He pumped 11 shots at former Oiler Mathieu Garon.

With that No. 27 on his back, PDP looked like a bulked up version of Frank Mahovlich -- yes, I'm a fossil -- when he busted to the net. And he busted to the net a lot.

Penner, who seemed to live down to every expectation MacTavish set for him, made Quinn look like a genius with his decision to split up Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff after forever and trot out that new line against the Jackets. I'm guessing the old coach will appreciate that and give Penner even more opportunities to succeed.

"His confidence was shot a little bit," understated Quinn, talking about what he saw in Penner when he got to Edmonton.

The line was goofy good, combining for 13 points and 16 shots, and looked better than any Oiler threesome I can remember since Doug Weight and Bill Guerin were ripping it up with whoever rotated through on the left side.

Credit where it's due

Whatever Quinn saw when he put Penner, Gagner and Hemsky together in his mind before uniting them on the ice, he was right. But he can't and won't take credit for what we're seeing here.

That goes to Penner, who showed up at training camp in shape for the first time as an Oiler and gave Quinn more to work with than MacTavish ever had. By getting serious about getting in shape, deciding that he'd earn his $4.25-million pay cheque and maybe shove it up the backsides of those of us who have been on him like a bad haircut, Penner gave himself a chance.

I never, for a second, thought Penner had the brass to get off his ass and prove the doubters wrong. Anybody who read me regularly here last season knows that.

I thought PDP would take the money and continue to shrug his way through the rest of the contract. I thought he'd stiff the Oilers and eventually go down in the books as the worst signing Kevin Lowe ever put pen to paper on. Wrong. Wrong. And wrong.

Last night at Rexall Place after leading the Oilers back from a 4-1 deficit, Penner got a standing ovation. People in a capacity crowd yelled his name and waved, using all their fingers.

What's next, a playoff spot?

This and that

  • Fun with numbers and mangle-speak: Sportsnet studio host Jim Lang treated fans to a couple of gems in the Oilers post-game show. He pointed out that Penner is on pace for 62 goals and described Derek Dorsett's high-stick on Denis Grebeshkov as, "He torqued him in the grille." Back to you, Gene.
  • To put Penner's start this season in perspective, it took him until Dec. 6, in his 24th game, to score his seventh goal last season. Penner hit 14 points in his 28th game.
  • I hate needles with a passion, but I'd personally take a flu shot in the ass if it would help any of the Oilers struggling with the bug get well and make Robert Nilsson go away.

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 Chris.
October 23 2009, 09:08AM
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MacT didn't tell Penner to spend his summer learning how to juggle last offseason... he wanted him to lay off the wobbley pops and come to camp in shape... I like what Quinn has been doing but, he has been the benefactor of a couple of pleasant surprises; not just Penner either: Smid, Brule, JFJ... Looks like some guys have really elevated their game. Bodes well moving forward.

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#2 G unit
October 23 2009, 09:10AM
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I was at the game last night, and man Penner looked awesome. Every shift out there he created something. Actually that whole line looked impressive.

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#3 Rogue
October 23 2009, 09:11AM
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Finally, do we have a first line?? Only 1 game,but Alex finally looked like he was having fun. Penner driving the net is crucial for his success. 3 thumbs up. Horcoff must be feeling ill today.

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#4 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
October 23 2009, 09:12AM
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I thought Penner would do well this year, just not this well. I had him pegged as roughly a 25 or 30 goal guy with about the same in assists.

Smid has been another big suprise for me. He seems to be stepping up in the absence of Souray and Staios.

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#5 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
October 23 2009, 09:19AM
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Rogue wrote:

Finally, do we have a first line?? Only 1 game,but Alex finally looked like he was having fun. Penner driving the net is crucial for his success. 3 thumbs up. Horcoff must be feeling ill today.

I think the having fun part hold true for a few guys. The guys seemed all pretty happy after Nilsson's goal and were all having a good laugh.

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#6 DK0
October 23 2009, 09:22AM
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@Rogue

Who is Alex?

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#7 Dodd
October 23 2009, 09:25AM
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@Rogue: Who's "Alex"?

:)

@Brownlee Nilsson didn't look terrible last night - we have bigger fish to fry when auditioning for a new "goat"... Horcoff's long slow expensive trip to the 4th line comes to mind.

Nilsson could very well be on the receiving end of one of these type of articles from you in the near future.

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#8 Lofty
October 23 2009, 09:29AM
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During the third period Hemsky played like the Oil need him to. He back-checked, didn’t turn the puck over much, found the open spots on the ice and put the puck on net.

Its nice not relying on the defense for most of the points. If the forwards can keep it up and Souray and Staios can get healthy it could be a fun year. Gilbert and Strudwick are BIG liabilities for this team right now.

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#9 tommy boy
October 23 2009, 09:31AM
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i like what penner has been doing this year, is this the player that got scouted but failed to show up the last 2 years, just shows that pro hockey is 70% mental, now how many are wanting to trade horc out of town?

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#10 sofapimp
October 23 2009, 09:33AM
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nice game. gagner looked good in faceoffs but we will see. if everyone plays center how they have started we might see a shut down line. gagner1c brule2c horc 3c shutdown new peca anyone 4c leaves gogs as tradebait?

sorry for nicknames my spelling sucks

oh yea mc t must be beside himself

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#11 swany
October 23 2009, 09:35AM
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RB do we have that LW to play with Hemmer finally? I keep expecting for them to cough up a game or get blown out but I'm starting to see that maybe that won't happen this year. Someone pointed out that every team Quinn has came to in his first year they increase the point totals by 20, now I'm not saying that the Oil get 108 points but it sure looks like they are well on there way. Do you think PDP can keep it up and get 40-45, Whats Gagner going to want next year if he gets 65-70 points? Lots of positives for this team I can't wait to play the wings or SJ to see how well he do there.

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#12 Jeff
October 23 2009, 09:36AM
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So far I can honestly say I'd rather have Smid, Penner and Cogs rather than Heatley. Smid and Penner especially have been amazing. Cogs needs better linemates.

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#13 I'm a Scientist!
October 23 2009, 09:36AM
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How sick IS Comrie? He was slow and terrible last night. Not the Comrie i had seen earlier in the season.

*re-reads this article*

Oh, Penner...ya, he is OK i guess...

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#14 jayoilfan
October 23 2009, 09:37AM
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I think Rrogue meant 'Ales'.

I sincerely hope this line is a feature from now on and they gel nicely. They looked crazy good together.

Bring on the Calgary Flames!

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#15 Waldorf
October 23 2009, 09:38AM
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Dear Robin,

I think we should trade Horcoff.

Sincerely, All those idiots that wanted to trade Hemsky

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#16 Dan the Man
October 23 2009, 09:40AM
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I think I saw Nilsson throw a hit last night...

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#17 Statler
October 23 2009, 09:43AM
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Hey Waldorf, Horcoff played a great game! Well...he wasn't too bad. In fact, he may have been average at best...

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#18 Ogden Brother
October 23 2009, 09:44AM
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Waldorf wrote:

Dear Robin,

I think we should trade Horcoff.

Sincerely, All those idiots that wanted to trade Hemsky

Dear Robin,

I think we should trade Horcoff.

Sincerely, all those idiots that wanted to waive Penner.

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#19 Alan
October 23 2009, 09:45AM
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Lofty wrote:

During the third period Hemsky played like the Oil need him to. He back-checked, didn’t turn the puck over much, found the open spots on the ice and put the puck on net.

Its nice not relying on the defense for most of the points. If the forwards can keep it up and Souray and Staios can get healthy it could be a fun year. Gilbert and Strudwick are BIG liabilities for this team right now.

I think Grebeshkov is the worst by far. Strudwick hasn't been that bad. I don't recall many boneheaded giveaways like Grebs has done so far. Although I don't care right now, because they score a ton of goals...this is fun to watch...back and forth..awesmoe

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#20 Robin Brownlee
October 23 2009, 09:47AM
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Dan the Man wrote:

I think I saw Nilsson throw a hit last night...

I'm not saying Nilsson was terrible last night, but, contrasted by the way Penner has made the most of a new season and a new start under Quinn, I'd have thought he'd do way more to do likewise. I just don't think he has the motivation or jam, whatever you want to call it, to do it. After Penner, who needed to prove the critics wrong with a gangbusters start this season?

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#21 The Towel Boy
October 23 2009, 09:47AM
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People in a capacity crowd yelled his name and waved, using all their fingers.

Hahahaha. Awesome.

I've never been more pumped watching an Oiler game over the past three seasons. The last time I witnessed this level of awesomeness was when I was at the game when Ryan Smyth got his 2 minute hat trick against the Sharks. Pure awesome.

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#22 LBH
October 23 2009, 09:48AM
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Penner won quite a few draws, wonder if he'll slowly be converted to the big Centre/PWF that we've been waiting for?

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#23 Ender
October 23 2009, 09:48AM
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Well, if the Brown-man can be wrong, I guess I can be too. Yes, I selected PDP as my goat. Yes, as recently as Amber's post a few days ago I was still predicting it was flash-in-the-pan.

I am sorry, Dustin. You have earned my forgiveness last night. (For awhile, at least. Don't let it go to your head; you can't afford that.)

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#24 Librarian Mike
October 23 2009, 09:48AM
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I wonder if Penner went to a hypnotist over the summer, so now every opposing player he sees has MacT's head, yelling "SHOOT IT AROUND THE BOARDS!"

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#25 Waldorf
October 23 2009, 09:48AM
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Hey Statler,

You're right...he was average at best...actually he was terrible...

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#26 Marsha
October 23 2009, 09:49AM
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I knew he had potential to use his big body like that, but did we think he'd ever do it? Damn, about freakin' time. He's had a nice season so far, not just last night's game. He's been aggressive, driving the net and skates hard. Yes, about time!

Ales was actually smiling last night. I can't remember the last time we've seen that kind of joy out of him.

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#27 Moony
October 23 2009, 09:52AM
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Penner as my star pick is looking pretty good.

Hey Brownlee, any idea who will get the call in net on Saturday night?

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#28 IvyEyezPK
October 23 2009, 09:52AM
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Predicting a 5-point game for any player is pretty rare. With that said, I am one of the few - or more - that believe Penner had it in him to be the Oilers' top-line LW and prove everyone wrong. Yes, it's only 9 games, but even the most bullheaded of fans can realize this is a changed player. To see one of my favorite players being happy with his play, and having the fans show their appreciation, it makes you feel good.

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#29 Robin Brownlee
October 23 2009, 09:53AM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

Dear Robin,

I think we should trade Horcoff.

Sincerely, all those idiots that wanted to waive Penner.

While a lot of people are lining up now to say they believed in Penner all along -- which is a big load -- he is orchestrating a turnaround few people saw coming.

Let's be honest here. Dustin wasn't good enough the past two seasons, even allowing for some crappy treatment he got from MacTavish.

Penner took it upon himself to turn things around and he deserves credit for it. In the end, good coach or bad, it comes down to the player. I respect somebody who shows that kind of backbone.

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#30 Statler
October 23 2009, 09:54AM
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Well, he's been horrible value...Boo!...Boo!

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#31 IvyEyezPK
October 23 2009, 09:56AM
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@Marsha

Marsha, Marsha, Marsha.

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

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#32 shawnj
October 23 2009, 09:57AM
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I just want to note that Penner's shooting percentage is still pretty high at 25.93% (down from 32%'sh before the game). Hopefully he'll be able to keep getting shots and keep playing well.

Poor Horcoff is still at a low 5.88% shooting percentage. If he was shooting at the same percent as Penner he would have 4 or 5 goals by now. It'll be great once things start to click for him.

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#33 mjsh
October 23 2009, 09:57AM
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I am starting to believe in this group. Columbus is a decent team and the come back last night speaks volumes. A number of times over the last year, I commented on how it took Bertuzzi a while to get it and hoped that the same thing would happen to Penner. Looks like a star is born.

My somewhat connected co-worker told me all summer that PDP was going to be in shape this year. Guess he was right.

The Oil do need Souray and Staios back. Maybe splitting up Grebs and Gilbert will settle them down.

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#34 Ogden Brother
October 23 2009, 09:59AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

While a lot of people are lining up now to say they believed in Penner all along -- which is a big load -- he is orchestrating a turnaround few people saw coming.

Let's be honest here. Dustin wasn't good enough the past two seasons, even allowing for some crappy treatment he got from MacTavish.

Penner took it upon himself to turn things around and he deserves credit for it. In the end, good coach or bad, it comes down to the player. I respect somebody who shows that kind of backbone.

Agreed 100%.

I always had faith in the guy to bounce back, it's been clear since day one that he had elite hands around the net.... that should be good enough for 25g/50p with PP time and a fresh start. Out of no where he seems to have found high level legs to go along with those hands....who knows where he'll end up #'s wise now.

I honestly do have to give a little credit for his resurgence to MacT, alot of people will turn that negative energy into motivation to prove them wrong. It might have sucked going through it, but it seems to have paid off.... For now.

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#35 shawnj
October 23 2009, 10:00AM
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And that's not me trying to bring down Penner's excellent start of the season. I just like looking at the stats when evaluating a player :)

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#36 Chris.
October 23 2009, 10:02AM
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Dodd wrote:

@Rogue: Who's "Alex"?

:)

@Brownlee Nilsson didn't look terrible last night - we have bigger fish to fry when auditioning for a new "goat"... Horcoff's long slow expensive trip to the 4th line comes to mind.

Nilsson could very well be on the receiving end of one of these type of articles from you in the near future.

Horcoff hasn't produced to his full potential offensively since his injury... or, more accutately, since he has been forced to compensate for the departure of Stoll and Reasoner. Last season Horcoff put up a disappointing fifty-three points; but he ate up huge minutes against the toughest opposition, and took the lions share of draws. IMO, by developing Gagner and Cogliano on the fly, Mact was forced to overwork Horcoff plain and simple... and it was number 10's offensive production that suffered

Now this season, with the departure of Brodziak, Horcoff has taken even more draws for Quinn through the first half dozen games or so... In fact, nobody in the NHL has taken more draws than Horcoff. If last night was actually the true emergence of a new Oiler first line and not a one off: it bodes well not only for the team, but for Horcoff also. Penner, Hemsky and Gagner outplayed the Nash line in a power vs power role and took thier own draws. I'm cautiously optimistic that with the improved play of our other young centers, and the corresponding lighter workload, Horcoff's offense will gradually return. I know it's been a while, and the clock is ticking... What I don't understand is why so many Oiler fans want to see this hard working and honest player fail.

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#37 Ducey
October 23 2009, 10:12AM
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As Willis pointed out a few times, Penner actually was one of the Oilers best statistical players last year. I can't say I am surprised at an improved year so far, but noone could say they thought he would be this good.

Brownlee, your headshot on Nilsson was unwarranted. He actaully was decent last night. He threw an open ice hit and backchecked like a demon right into his own corner. They have enough depth that he knows he will be back in the pressbox unless he produces and cuts down on the turnovers. This should help his compete level significantly.

In fact, I could see Nilsson getting a start or two instead of Cogliano. Cogs looks lost out there. He is not using his speed, not hitting, shooting or checking. 2 of 12 on the dot again. Blech.

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#38 The Dougler
October 23 2009, 10:12AM
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Hey Reuben

Love the Article

I think the real reason for DP's success is his new Easton stick this year! That is the only thing that changed

the dougler

first timer on this website, very impressive

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#39 Rogue
October 23 2009, 10:16AM
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jayoilfan wrote:

I think Rrogue meant 'Ales'.

I sincerely hope this line is a feature from now on and they gel nicely. They looked crazy good together.

Bring on the Calgary Flames!

Thanx, Bjayoilfan fer qorecting mee.LOL. Tough crowd. C is beside the X on keyboard, my bad.

What was "Roberto" doing on the ice in the last minute? Can you imagine the uproar if Robert missed the net, its icing against the oil, they lose draw and Columbus scored? Just saying.

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#40 jake
October 23 2009, 10:22AM
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I live on east coast and the games are late. Last year I would have been to bed at 4-1. But this year, I feel the need to stay up and see what happens. Great decision to do so last night. What a great win that was. I hear Penner will head back to the Dagobah system to complete his training with Yoda next off season. The force is with this one. Hehe.

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#41 Dan the Man
October 23 2009, 10:36AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

I'm not saying Nilsson was terrible last night, but, contrasted by the way Penner has made the most of a new season and a new start under Quinn, I'd have thought he'd do way more to do likewise. I just don't think he has the motivation or jam, whatever you want to call it, to do it. After Penner, who needed to prove the critics wrong with a gangbusters start this season?

I agree that he hasn't done enough to be a regular so far but he's been OK. Do you think he's done enough that someone would take him off waivers if he was placed there?

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#42 Lofty
October 23 2009, 10:40AM
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@Waldorf

If the Oil could they would but nobody will take that salary

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#43 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
October 23 2009, 10:48AM
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Dan the Man wrote:

I agree that he hasn't done enough to be a regular so far but he's been OK. Do you think he's done enough that someone would take him off waivers if he was placed there?

Nilsson has 3 points in 4 games while only playing 12minutes. Now sure the goal was a fluke, but given the time he has had I think he has done what he should.

Maybe the Isles take him and then waive Schremp.

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#44 jeanshorts
October 23 2009, 10:50AM
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Seriously at one point during the night I was thinking to myself "Man either Jim Lang has some real issues at home or he took one too many zanex". Either way he was entertaining.

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#45 MrOiler
October 23 2009, 10:52AM
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Isn't this fun? All the pissing and moaning in the world doesn't compare to a fraction of the fun it was to be a Oiler fan last night.

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#46 RogerBoger
October 23 2009, 10:56AM
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I picked Penner as my star making me a genius.

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#47 offside
October 23 2009, 11:09AM
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I'm a Scientist! wrote:

How sick IS Comrie? He was slow and terrible last night. Not the Comrie i had seen earlier in the season.

*re-reads this article*

Oh, Penner...ya, he is OK i guess...

Comrie did look really sick out there last night. I'm assuming he was only playing because there was no other option.

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#48 offside
October 23 2009, 11:10AM
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oh, and I don't mean the good 'sick' like all them kids are saying these days.

Penner on the other hand looked "sick"

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#49 Dyckster
October 23 2009, 11:11AM
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Penner was a stud, pure and simple. Small bit of devil's advocacy though. I know it was only one game, and I certainly don't want to put a damper on the spectacular show Gags, Hemsky and Penner treated us to...BUT, is anyone concerned we basically got all of our scoring from that one line?

If the balance of power was shifted that much by the moves Quinn made, what's going to happen on the nights where those same 3 are a little "off"?

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#50 smiliegirl15
October 23 2009, 11:12AM
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I picked Penner as my star too. I have always had faith in Penner so I can honestly raise my hand (please reference all my facebook posts in the Oilers fan page as evidence). I think he was grossly mistreated and misused by MacTavish last season. He put up half decent numbers (along with all the rest of our underachievers)last season. I can honestly say I thought he had potential because you could see glimmers of it in his play.

MacTavish hurt this team a lot by being here at least two seasons too long.

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