A Quick Dustin Penner Question

Jonathan Willis
March 09 2009 01:46PM

Dustin Penner

There are a lot of people out there who don’t like Dustin Penner. “Lazy” is a word that gets tossed around a lot, although “inconsistent” “unmotivated” and even “fat” get used sometimes too. I decided I’d take a quick look at how the first line of Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff have performed this season with and without Dustin Penner.

I decided to use Vic Ferrari’s Time On Ice tool, which scans NHL shift charts, to compile the results for the first line with and without Dustin Penner.

With Dustin Penner

  • 21 goals for, 5 goals against (+16)
  • 173 shots for, 109 shots against (+64)

Without Dustin Penner

  • 9 goals for, 10 goals against (-1)
  • 281 shots for, 250 shots against (+31)

I really didn’t like the Dustin Penner offer sheet; I place great value on draft picks, and felt that Penner was too much of a question mark for such a big offer. That said, I do think that Penner’s a useful NHL player who has been made the scapegoat far too much on a team with multiple problems.

My question for those of you who don’t like Dustin Penner: Why is the first line so much better with Penner than without him?

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#151 Jonathan Willis
March 10 2009, 11:28AM
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MattL wrote:

Have you ever worked in an office where someone was dogging it day in day out? It makes you want to do less work yourself.

Have you ever worked in an office where somebody far less skilled/qualified was promoted over your head. That's Liam Reddox on the first line. Or Ethan Moreau. It makes you not want to put in the effort.

See how easily that argument can be flipped?

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#152 Jonathan Willis
March 10 2009, 11:29AM
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The Towel Boy wrote:

Zack Attack seems to get noticed pulling down roughly the same minutes. Maybe if Penner played with a bee in his bonnet more often he’d be less invisible.

If Penner fought Boogaard, he'd be more noticed for sure. On the other hand, that isn't his job either.

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#153 swany
March 10 2009, 11:30AM
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When Penner is on his game he makes the first line better. 1 Because he drives the net and creates space for Hemmer to operate. 2 He can pass very well for a big man. I would take a look at those #'s again and see if all those points came on games where DP was playing good, I bet most of them came in a 10 game strtch after Mact laid down a verbal beating. He makes the 1st line better, but when he's off he is really bad. I think you will find Kotalik a much better option starting tonight.

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#154 Jonathan Willis
March 10 2009, 11:31AM
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MattL wrote:

Don’t you think having the poster boy for apathy on your first line all the time might have a psychological effect on the team?

Is that any different than applauding your captain for taking undisciplined penalties while punishing other players for the same?

If we're going to get into the psychological problems caused to this team by having Penner on the first line, then we're opening a can of (IMO irrelevant) worms.

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#155 swany
March 10 2009, 11:35AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

The Towel Boy wrote: Zack Attack seems to get noticed pulling down roughly the same minutes. Maybe if Penner played with a bee in his bonnet more often he’d be less invisible. If Penner fought Boogaard, he’d be more noticed for sure. On the other hand, that isn’t his job either.

I don't think that was his intention, when Penner is off he looks slow, disintrested, and like he doesn't give a shit. That's what bothers us fans we know what he can do we have seen it, it's his laid back don't give a flying Fu** attitude we dislike it's not Penner himself. And maybe if Penner was scoring Zack could stick to fighting

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#156 Rick
March 10 2009, 11:35AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I’ll bet the reason Penner is getting scratched so often is that he wasn’t effusive enough in his praise for MacTavish running him as the RW of a third line featuring Moreau at left wing and Pisani at centre. Good lord, no wonder Penner looks so great statistically. Who wouldn’t on that line?

Really? You ask the question to generate discussion and that is the level you take it to?

Poor Dustin, such a misunderstood young man. If only he was treated like the superstar he is all would be right in the universe.

Better?

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#157 Jonathan Willis
March 10 2009, 11:42AM
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@ Rick:

You argued that MacTavish has been very in tune with Penner's performance.

I rather sarcastically replied with the comment above.

I don't think MacTavish has been particularly interested in making Penner succeed this season - he dropped him off the first line and first powerplay right out of training camp, despite fine results to close out last season. He's bounced all over the lineup, frequently getting sent to the third or fourth lines.

I'll apologize for being snarky, but the point remains: I don't think it's fair to say that Penner's statistical results are a product of MacTavish using him in favorable situations.

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#158 topshelf
March 10 2009, 11:45AM
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Kevin Lowe is to partly to blame for the Penner fiasco because he overpaid to get this player, which he needed to do, but he also increased expectations exponentially. Penners play did not increase in the same rate as his paycheck and that is the major problem here. A 5 million dollar player is expected to produce. He is not. You can't realisticly fault him for accepting the money that was offered, whether his play warrants it or not. I am not trying to defend Penners unwillingness to compete or work hard but I am saying the blame needs to fall on Kevin Lowe's lap as well Dustin's.

oh and FMNF. GAME DAY B*TCHES

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#159 The Towel Boy
March 10 2009, 11:45AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

If Penner fought Boogaard, he’d be more noticed for sure. On the other hand, that isn’t his job either.

Zachery doesn't always need to drop'em to be noticeable though. He goes hard to the net and actually gets involved in the game. The effort level is seemingly there more often than not. Not sure I see the same commitment from BDP. I realize BDP isn't a grinder or a fighter...but something other than a 250lb teddy bear would be nice sometimes.

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#160 Rick
March 10 2009, 11:54AM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

Don't mistake MacT wanting the team to succeed with MacT wanting Penner (as an individual) to succeed .

My point was only that MacT has been quick to pull Penner from the ice when he sees that Penner is doing sweet eff all.

It has nothing to do with punishing Penner or preserving Penner's stats. It has everything to do with MacT making the call on what gives his team the best chance to win on any given night.

But there is an unintended spin off and that is when Penner has his ice time cut back because he is playing like crap in any given day it helps preserve the positives his stats show from the games he is playing well.

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#161 The Menace
March 10 2009, 12:05PM
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Peter Pan wrote:

Yes he is a lazy MOFO, but his size is an asset.

Is that what she said?

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#162 Colin
March 10 2009, 12:32PM
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I don't give a flying F**k if he's the laziest pile of cowsh*t there ever was as long as he puts the numbers on the score sheet. Effort is overF-ing rated, results are what matters, and he's still on pace for 20ish goals this season. I think he's coming along just fine, Hemsky didn't have monster seasons for a long time after he broke into the league and look at him now.

Penner is not why this team sucks, No forwards with a PPG average and one forward with 20 goals thus far are why the oilers suck.

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#163 topshelf
March 10 2009, 12:34PM
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Results come from effort. Sorry.

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#164 Jonathan Willis
March 10 2009, 12:39PM
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@ topshelf:

Case in point - a documentary I'm helping to produce - "How I Broke Wayne Gretzky's Scoring Records With Effort: the Liam Reddox Story"

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#165 topshelf
March 10 2009, 12:44PM
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I should clarify. Players with skill that work hard get results. Better? I wish that Penner worked half as hard as Reddox but if he did, we wouldn't be debating this would we.

My statement was purely a rebuttal to the prior statement by Colin: Colin wrote:

Effort is overF-ing rated, results are what matters

Effort does matter. Ask any coach in the NHL.

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#166 Jonathan Willis
March 10 2009, 12:53PM
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@ topshelf:

In fairness to Colin, I took his comment as something like this:

Results > Effort

That is to say, all other things being equal, I'd much rather have a team that wins over a team that tries hard but loses.

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#167 StubbornOil
March 10 2009, 12:56PM
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I just wanted to clarify one common misconception that I keep hearing repeatedly.

According to my friend, who was part of the team from the UofA administering the training camp fitness tests, Penner was is as good of shape as just about anyone this year.

LAST YEAR, however, well that's another story.

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#168 topshelf
March 10 2009, 12:58PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: Yes but I think you'd agree that favourable results are much more likey with hard work and effort as opposed to none. They go hand in hand.

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#169 Deep Oil
March 10 2009, 01:03PM
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Peter Pan wrote:

Deep Oil wrote: In Edmonton, Hockey is a social outlet and if we make the playoffs that is great, if not there is always next year. Actually, to the bloggers, hockey is life. But honestly, for the guys blaming the Oilers woes on MacT is wrong. He does not have the guns; plain and simple! Is he a great coach? No. But he isn’t an idiot either. Its like trying to win a war without any guns. He does not have the artillery to take this team to the next level. Over the years, he has always had a big hole in his line up. Either no scoring, no goaltending, no offensive D-men, no muscle, no veterans, no 1st line centre, etc. And this year is no different. I’m not a MacT fan, but to blame him for everything is wrong. As for Penner… disappointing.

So why don't you come out and say it - we have a roster problem with a former GM now DOHO that has created this negative situation while slinging mud and calling his associate a MORON. With coaches dropping like the DOW, isn't it time that a good solid house cleaning occur and let Tambo start on his own - giving both MACT and LOWE and parachute goodbye - maybe keep Lowe on as President, one step closer to his dream job of league commissioner.

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#170 Deep Oil
March 10 2009, 01:06PM
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topshelf wrote:

Kevin Lowe is to partly to blame for the Penner fiasco because he overpaid to get this player, which he needed to do, but he also increased expectations exponentially. Penners play did not increase in the same rate as his paycheck and that is the major problem here. A 5 million dollar player is expected to produce. He is not. You can’t realisticly fault him for accepting the money that was offered, whether his play warrants it or not. I am not trying to defend Penners unwillingness to compete or work hard but I am saying the blame needs to fall on Kevin Lowe’s lap as well Dustin’s. oh and FMNF. GAME DAY B*TCHES

Not only did LOWE overpay, he surrendered the future when a UFA maybe was a better option.... giving up three picks to Anaheim after the fact is a kick in the groin.

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#171 topshelf
March 10 2009, 01:06PM
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What the hell is DOHO? Pardon my ignorance...

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#172 SquidRx
March 10 2009, 01:07PM
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Jack "FMNF" Bauer wrote:

http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=270498&lid=sublink03&lpos=headlines_main “Mike Van Ryn’s injury riddled first season in Toronto has come to an end. Maple Leafs’ head coach Ron Wilson told reporters Monday that the blue liner had suffered a torn medial collateral ligament and would miss the remainder of the season. The London, Ontario native suffered the injury early in the first period of Saturday’s victory over the Oilers when his knee appeared to buckle underneath him. He was helped off the ice and did not return.”

Wow, I guess when you are the center of the universe, even when you lose you are victorious. I wish I was Toronto.

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#173 Deep Oil
March 10 2009, 01:08PM
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Peter Pan wrote:

Penner Haters… Relax. This is a perimeter team. Penner’s size allows him to play the inside and front of the net. Yes he is a lazy MOFO, but his size is an asset. The size of his heart though is a different story.

Should we be recruiting WWE wrestlers and put them on skates based on your size comment, I think we can start calling Penner the grinch based on heart size.

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#174 The Menace
March 10 2009, 01:09PM
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topshelf wrote:

What the hell is DOHO? Pardon my ignorance…

I'm going to guess that Harold is abbreviating "Director Of Hockey Operations".

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#175 Deep Oil
March 10 2009, 01:13PM
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Harlie Chuddy wrote:

wow…just watched the Penner (oiler.com) interview from today..he looks like he wants OUT. Has anyone heard if he has asked for a trade?

Does it really matter when your market value is zero, at least when Pronger asked for a trade.... Lowe convinced himself that the house was on fire and he had to move quickly for some reason..... I am thinking that Penner to Toronto plus some draft picks, schremp (throw in) for Blake - seems the Burke - Lowe love affair could be cooled with Tambo.

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#176 topshelf
March 10 2009, 01:23PM
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ohhh.. my bad. Thank you.

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#177 Deep Oil
March 10 2009, 01:29PM
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yo wrote:

By benching Penner and allowing so much of the organization’s dirty laundry to air publicly I wonder if MacT isn’t forcing everything to a head and he may be the first in the line of fire. Sitting a guy with Penner’s contract is alot more impactful on the organization than sitting a fourth-liner. I’m no NHL coach but even I know Penner and Nilsson are going to score zero goals from where he has them sitting. Good, bad or indifferent I think they need to play all their best horses until the end ‘o the season and make adjustments in the off-season. MacT is so focused on embarrassing these guys he has lost sight of what is best for the team. He’s trying to make it look like it’s Penner and Nilsson’s fault the team is a mess. Taking all of his fights with players public has got to be embarrassing to ownership and management. It pulls the Oiler organization down to the level of the Leafs for the last 40 yrs. and that’s not good.

If you roll the tape, read the quotes from a few days ago (Sunday).... MACT was questioned on Penner missing an optional practise (deja vous ala Nilsson), MACT then retorted that he just wants performance on the ice and that is was not an issue.

Then one day prior to game day, it is announced that Penner is sitting - seems to me that MACT is showing his hand way too early.... why is important or anyone's right to know that PENNER is sitting.... of course, the plan is to have PENNER sulk for 24 extra hours, but this is a rerun - groundhog day all over again, getting old, getting stale.

Lowe has to man up - this is becoming a mockery of the quality of people in the organization on and off the ice.

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#178 Jack "FMNF" Bauer
March 10 2009, 01:32PM
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Is it true we offered Colorado, Penner for Smyth straight up?

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#179 topshelf
March 10 2009, 01:36PM
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@ Jack "FMNF" Bauer: Where did you hear this?

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#180 Colin
March 10 2009, 01:53PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ topshelf: In fairness to Colin, I took his comment as something like this: Results > Effort That is to say, all other things being equal, I’d much rather have a team that wins over a team that tries hard but loses.

Yes.

Of course if the team loses anyway then some effort would be nice to see. And it would be nice to have both the wins and effort.

I think that's just how Penner plays, he doesn't look like he's putting in a ton of effort (even if he is). Of course sometimes it's very clear he's not in the game. In any event if he becomes a 25+ goal man he won't be terribly overpaid, just somewhat. In any event he is by far not the biggest issue with the team:

1)Management-what's the long term plan? Is there one? 2)Coaching - Too many examples to count. 3)Drafting - Consistantly poor, too rare are the gems 4)Overpayment of Players/Cap mismanagement 5)Players performing below expectations: half+ forwards

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#181 esa tikkanen
March 10 2009, 03:00PM
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Hi Jonathan

Could you please do a blog article on the stats for who is on the ice for the most goals against while on the PK? In particular I am wondering if Grebeshkov is as bad on the PK statistically as he is to my eye. Take care

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#182 Ender
March 10 2009, 04:44PM
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Sorry if this has already been said.

I'm not sure it's so much an issue of him being a good or a bad player. He doesn't seem to care. Now while you can argue that results > effort, I really, really doubt that results without effort will ever win you a cup.

I mean, if your goal is to make the playoffs, fine. That said, I think it's reasonable to think that maybe MacT is hitting him hard now, hoping that he'll bring both effort AND results in the playoffs for a run. Maybe I'd be a bad coach, but for me, if you don't think your team is capable of winning the Cup, then why the hell would you care about making the playoffs?

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#183 Hocknee Fann
March 10 2009, 05:49PM
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@ MikeP: My views had nothing to do with implying that Burke is an ideal “league executive.” Rather, it was simply a dumb move on Lowe's part to make such an inflated offer to a young guy who hadn't yet proven he was worth that type of money. Burke's comments to this offer were dead-on, that's all I was saying.

The Penner signing and the prior offer sheet made to Buffalo's Thomas Vanek saw Lowe lose respect amongst his peers, perhaps why Steve Tambellini was brought on board to serve in the GM role. Some GMs may not want to deal with Lowe directly anymore (or agents).

With this salary comes much higher expectations than perhaps Penner is capable of. Judging his responses and facial expressions to his most recent stint in the press box show he's still not yet ready to handle big league expectations and pressure. MacT is right - at this point in the season you can't sit and wait for a guy like Penner to round their game into shape. At his salary - it should already be there night after night.

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#184 Oilforblood
March 10 2009, 10:28PM
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Thats a really intriguing stat. I had no idea the difference with and without was so drastic with respect to points. I wonder though, why is the offensive shot production down so much with DP on the big line? The +point differential could be tipping the scales at +40 if that line could get the puck to the net... An extra 10-12 goals this year would help our Oilers alot.

Dustin's one of the whipping boys, no doubt. He apathetic play at times certainly warrants some of it. However, numbers to numbers, he seems to be better than he appears. That offer sheet was still a mistake... for the draft pics and the cap hit.

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#185 MikeP
March 11 2009, 12:28AM
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Hocknee Fan - facial expressions? Are you kidding me?

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#186 Ryan
March 11 2009, 11:09AM
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Do we have any Canucks fans that post here? If I recall correctly, they had a lot of the same problems with Bertuzzi in the beginning and he turned out to do just fine. Can someone comment on this?

Look at Penner down the stretch last year compared to Penner this year. He was a key cog in the machine back then, but is totally disinterested this season. He and MacT will not be able to reconcile their differences so one of them must go. The smart thing to do in my opinion is to bring in a new coach (especially if the rumors I have read/heard about MacT having lost key player support is true). However, mediocrity still appears to be okay with management, despite what they say to the contrary, so I am not certain this will happen.

My guess is that if MacT stays for another season of ineptitude, KLowe has to buy him out. In that case, he will sign for less with another team and score 20 - 30 goals per season, which will probably be more than the leading scorer for the Oil again,unfortunately. In addition, with the lower salary cap next year, we will be stuck with a $2M plus salary cap hit, the lost draft picks, and nothing to show for it.

On another front, how does the organization look in the eyes of other players around the league now with Cole happy to be leaving and thriving in Carolina and with the current Penner situation? My guess is that unless we draft AND DEVELOP players better, we are going to have to continue to overpay to keep (hello Horcoff and Pisani) and/or attract free agents (hello Souray).

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#187 Jonathan Willis
March 11 2009, 11:45AM
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Ryan wrote:

Do we have any Canucks fans that post here? If I recall correctly, they had a lot of the same problems with Bertuzzi in the beginning and he turned out to do just fine. Can someone comment on this?

I'm not a fan, exactly, but I grew up watching the Canucks (thanks, Dad).

Todd Bertuzzi was a floater and maddeningly inconsistent in his early days in Vancouver. Didn't break out of it until he was 26/27, IIRC.

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#188 Death Metal Nightmare
March 11 2009, 12:26PM
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My question for those of you who don’t like Dustin Penner: Why is the first line so much better with Penner than without him?

imagine how much better the top line would be if he actually tried hard using his body to cause chaos in all three zones. stats are relative and 21 goals from the top line with him on it seems pretty shady compared to the rest of the top lines in the league. especially when he's getting first line minutes and under .5 points a game.

look through more stats and tell me which top line LWer is worse stats wise in offensive production.

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#189 Why Penner Belongs in Jail « The Oilverse
March 13 2009, 03:50AM
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[...] Mere idiots would try to convince you that Penner was a worthwhile investment, the reality is that we could have done a heck of a lot better in replacing the slot left vacant by Ryan Smyth. [...]

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