Bow Wow

Poor Dustin Penner. Beset upon again.

This time a year ago, PDP was being unfairly criticized for being fat and satisfied as he slogged through the Edmonton Oilers first 20 games of the season with about as much gusto as a honey wagon worker thrusting his pipe down the last hole of the day.

You remember. PDP, his pay cheque multiplied 10-fold by the $21.25 million offer sheet GM Kevin Lowe used to pluck him from Anaheim, was being singled out without any consideration for this Stanley Cup hangover. Without regard for a short summer of celebrating. Had PDP’s critics even considered he was being asked to play more? With all that, how could he look anything but fat, lazy and slow?

Zip ahead to now, and PDP is unfairly suffering the indignity of being publicly pooped on by coach Craig MacTavish, who unbuckled his trousers and dumped a load on the three-toed forward with the Oilers getting ready to face the Detroit Red Wings tonight.

That movement has caused PDP apologists to rise up with a big wad of excuse-scented bum wipe at the ready.

NOT PDP’S FAULT

How could MacT do this? Isn’t it MacT’s fault PDP is struggling mightily again? It’s MacT, after all, who has mis-cast him, who has asked him to play out of position, who has given him the wrong linemates, the wrong situations in which to perform. It’s clearly, some surmise, a desperate act by a coach trying to save himself, a coach whose team is tuning him out.

And besides, if you look hard enough, which some people have, you can find numbers that show PDP, still lugging that $4.25 million annual salary and all those unreasonable expectations like a millstone around his neck, isn’t really THAT bad.

Well, yes he is. PDP is in MacTavish’s doghouse again because, well, he’s a dog. He’s a big player who plays small and who plays only when he feels like it. PDP is a player, it’s obvious, incapable of consistent commitment, be it to an off-season training regimen or the pursuit of pucks, opponents and excellence on the ice.

PDP is in the doghouse because he’s not really interested in being the best he can be and because he doesn’t play with the fire in his gut that many players, most of whom would give their left gonad to have his physical tools, do.

PDP is playing in the NHL. He’s wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. What? There’s more?

SEEN ENOUGH

Here’s what MacTavish said:

“When we signed Dustin we thought he’d be a top-two-line player,” said MacTavish. “We thought the contract was a starting point for him but he views it as a finish line. I can’t watch it, certainly not for another two-and-a-half years.”

The bad news, as PDP continues to show-up Lowe and the Oilers organization for thinking he was worth a stack of cash and draft picks by shrugging his shoulders and paying lip service to commitment, is the contract is for three-and-half more seasons.

In 2007-08, with the short summer and greater expectations and ice time excuses at the ready after winning a Cup with the Ducks, PDP showed up in abysmal shape. His fitness testing proved that beyond any doubt.

After scoring 29 goals in Anaheim, it took almost one-third of the season for Penner to get going. Through 26 games, Penner scored four goals and added eight assists for 12 points. He finished the season, most of it spent with Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky on the first line, with 23-24-47 and a minus-12 rating.

Through 15 games this season before MacTavish kicked his big backside up to the press box against Colorado, Penner had 3-1-4 and was a plus-6 in 16 games.

“You can’t throw gratuitous ice-time at a player that’s inconsistent,” said MacTavish. “It’s his competitiveness.

“The frustrating thing for me is he has the game but he can’t find it and you have to put the work in. He has a great set of tools but his legs are inconsistent. He needs more horsepower.”

WHAT HE IS

Has MacTavish played a part in Penner’s struggles? Sure he has. I didn’t like seeing Penner moved off the left wing on the first line with Horcoff and Hemsky any more than I liked seeing Fernando Pisani force-fed into the middle from right wing, or having Eric Cole shifted to the left wing from the right side. I didn’t get the thinking there.

But what I like even less is the lack of piss and vinegar in Penner’s game, his reluctance to use the God-given tools — size and strength — he has. It’s frustrating to see a big, strong man play so small. And no, I’m not talking about wanting Penner to become a tough guy or a board-busting plug who neglects the offensive end of the game.

That would be a waste, too, because Penner is one of those rare big men with great hands. I’d just like to see him knock more people on their asses, create more room for himself. Stick a glove in somebody’s face.

And I don’t care if he’s put in less than optimal situations in which to perform — ill-matched linemates or situations be damned, force the issue, show some fire, kick some ass.

WHAT IF?

What would you have if you could take Penner’s body and physical tools and graft Ethan Moreau’s heart, grit, character and competitiveness into the package? An all-star, that’s what. But you can’t, so you get what we have here. PDP is a player who’ll score 25 goals without a truckload of commitment when, based on physical tools and talent, he should score 30-40 goals and have an impact on the game even when the puck won’t go in for him.

You get a player who could be so much better, so much more than what he is — the kind of player so many less talented plugs can only dream of being. And you get excuses for why he’s not remotely close to being that player, and the disappointment and frustration that comes with his obvious lack of passion for the game.

Worse, it’s not likely to change. Penner is what he is. Like I said, he’s in the NHL. He’s wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. There’s more?

What a waste.

— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.

  • Ender the Dragon

    Gord Says:
    If they were concerned about giving guys some motivation, the Oilers should have called up Schremp or Brule – someone who is a legitimate threat to permanently take over Penner’s position.

    DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA writes:
    A fifth-round pick of the Oilers – 112th overall – in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Reddox had five goals and four assists in 12 games with the Falcons prior to his callup.

    Reddox finished plus-one on the night with over 15 minutes of ice time, which included some penalty-killing duty. He'll be back in the lineup tonight when the Oilers take on the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.

    "He played great (Saturday) night," said MacTavish. "I was excited by what I saw. He made plays on the wall, he made the right play with the puck and he really added something.

    "Hopefully he can continue that. Bucky (assistant coach Kelly Buchberger) seems to think – knowing him better than I do – that he can."

    "When the puck came around the wall, he didn't need three chances to get it out," MacTavish said. "He made the right play, whether he chipped it out under pressure, whether he controlled it and made a pass.

    "It's just those little things positionally, he supported the puck well on the cycle. The play didn't die with him in the offensive zone, he took it to the net when he needed to. He's got good habits and he played a pretty good game."

    I have to think the guys whose jobs are on the line to get this right and have been involved in pro hockey their whole lives might see something in this Reddox kid. Who's to say that he doesn't stick? After all, this whole section is about rewarding the players who put in the effort, something we haven't seen a lot of from Schremp or Brule. (OK, Schremp worked out a bit this summer for the first time. Is he still doing it now that he got sent down, and is the whole thing too little, too late?) For all we know, Liam Reddox is the last guy off the ice every day and the first guy into the weight room on days off. And maybe that's an attitude that wouldn't hurt being spread around a bit in this dressing room. Have a little faith.

  • Amber McCormick

    What would you have if you could take Penner’s body and physical tools and graft Ethan Moreau’s heart, grit, character and competitiveness into the package?"

    Sounds to me like I'd have a date for my Christmas party!!!!

  • Jerry MacWire

    I want Stauffer back on CFRN where he can really tell us how he feels about MacT's coaching abilities.

    CHED has mellowed him down plenty. Bob, pleeeeeaaaase go back to 1260, Gregor is a nice guy but he doesn't have your piss and vinegar.

    Gregor on air = Penner on ice? LOL

  • Mark

    Jerry,

    You are an idiot. Gregor rips on guys, he just doesn't repeat the same idea day after day after day. We all knew Bob didn't like MacT, but telling us every day got boring.

    I like the fact that Gregor holds the players and the coaches accountable. He has ripped MacT this year, but unlike Bob he calls out every player.

    Bob ripped on the same guys a lot, and many of them were 3rd and 4th liners who really didn't affect the game.

    I like how Gregor says that Hemsky needs to be a top-end player, and that this team isn't that good. Stauffer was a closet fan of the team. He liked the players too much and always blamed the coach.

    The fact is Gregor actually calls out the team, and many fans like you don't like that. You want to blame the coach for everything, and since Gregor has a different approach you think he is soft.

    Typical because you think a new coach means automatically that this team would be better. I guarantee a new coach won't make this team that much better. They are too soft and not as skilled as many fans think. I like that Gregor is realistic about that.

  • David S

    "I don’t think some people have any sense of proportion. The Oilers are sitting at around .500 with 17 games played. That hardly seems like the end of our playoff hopes to me."

    This is what I don't get. We get waxed by (probably) the best team in the NHL and everybody is screaming for the coach to resign.

    Seriously. High expectations are good but a dose of reality seems to be missing along the way here.

  • Gord

    "This is what I don’t get. We get waxed by (probably) the best team in the NHL and everybody is screaming for the coach to resign.

    Seriously. High expectations are good but a dose of reality seems to be missing along the way here."

    Maybe because the team came out flat and provided no real effort, despite MacT benching guys for their poor performance? I don't expect the Oilers to win every game, but I do expect that they play with some emotion. That hasn't been the case yet this year as I can count very easily on my thumbs how many games they have played a whole 60 minutes.

  • Jason

    Gregor's show sucks compared to Bob's IMO. He annoys me. Bob had his opinion and agreed or disagreed with you based on that. Gregor obviously disagrees with you to make radio, whether his opinion is agreeable or not. He disagrees just for the sake of disagreeing, and is cocky as fcuk too. Stauff at least had the self depreciating sense of humour to go with his strong opinions. Gregor drives me nuts. Can't listen to it anymore….

    And listening to a trivia show on drive time is beyond brutal. Trivia shows on an Oiler game night is even worse. I don't know how Bryn allows it…

    The Team 1260 has to be hurting since the Oil paid Bob to shuddap.

  • David S

    Gord – I'll give you that we haven't seen too many 60 minute games yet, and I'm at a loss to explain why. But I'm not gonna go all couch quarterback because there's alot we don't know about what's really going on inside the team right now.

    As far as the Detroit game goes, I thought we were only down 1-0 after the first. That seems to indicate that we played a pretty fair period. Not to mention that teams like Detroit make just about anybody look like they're standing around.

  • Kevin

    Robin

    Great display of leadership on the part of Souray during last night's game. He made a point of almost over congratulating Penner for his efforts at the end of each goal, probably something Penner needed for his confidence.

  • RobinB

    Kevin: Absolutely right. That's the kind of game Penner is capable of and the kind of game that should be expected.
    He's been called out and now it's only fair — not to mention smart — that he be put in a position to succeed and encouraged when he puts in the effort.

  • Death Metal Burn Out

    "force the issue, show some fire, kick some ass." that sums it all up.

    if he cant find any guts, he shouldnt even be playing sports. who plays sports with no fire? or is this part of the whole Nintendo Generation where their Nintendo Mother sucked the guts out of them back in the 90s? Sam Gagner might start weeping soon too when the game gets too hard for his lack of size and speed.

    the fatal mistake is no one figuring this lack of competitive fire out before they threw the house at the Elephant who seen a Mouse (relatively speaking cause this is the max hes EVER going to get).

    the prankster pulled off the best prank ever on Lowe.