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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


  • Travis Dakin

    I'm assuming that it is now a two game benching because of the way Penner responded off the ice in the room. We didn't see it but it's obvious to me he aggravated MacT more.

  • Haha Brutha, it's true. We called made fun of Kyle Wellwood and he started playing sweet hockey. We called that Melrose would get fired early, there he went. I made fun of Steve Stamkos he scored 4 points his next two games. (although I'm still hoping he's the next Alexander Daigle)

  • I have to wonder about making him sit out two in a row.

    What's the point of sitting a dude, ripping him and then not letting him respond by playing. Unless there's more to the story than we know…it just seems a little odd.

  • Rick

    baggedmilk Says: Even Lowetide is predicting the end for MacT.

    Every coaching tenure comes to an end at some point so who knows.

    This may very well end up being a pinnacle moment as what finally sinks him, but if it does I am thinking this is the start of his demise and not the finishing touches on it, which is how I took Lowetide's comments.

  • Travis Dakin

    jeanshorts Says:
    November 17th, 2008 at 1:21 pm
    We also motivated both the Leafs and Pens to wins against the oilers.
    Single most influential blog on the internet!

    Yeah about that…. Quit it! as Awesomely hilarious as the battles are, I am starting to think you two weild way too much power for your own good. You must learn to apply your magic for good.

  • TD, You're right. That's why next time we're going to tell the other team how much better they are, how great their arena is, and how much better looking their fans are.

    We will be guaranteed the win that way.

  • shakey

    jeanshorts Says:
    'I don’t know if it’s a pot shot at management, as much as him saying, no matter how much you get paid, everyone is on the same level. If you play like ass then you are going to sit.' If thats the case then why did he bring up Penner's contract when ripping him for his play? If what you're paid means nothing then why as a coach bring it up?

  • Ender the Dragon

    The Towel Boy Says:
    I have to wonder about making him sit out two in a row.
    What’s the point of sitting a dude, ripping him and then not letting him respond by playing. Unless there’s more to the story than we know…

    Bruthah Says:
    This has gone from a motivating tactic to a disciplinary action.

    Both good points, and I bet if you got the straight goods from MacT as well as some of the other people in the dressing room, you would indeed find that this has gone beyond motivation. I would bet that what we're seeing is the visible reaction to something specific that Penner did lately to push MacT over the boiling point. I don't think this is all just about lack of production. That's just what MacT could get away with stating publicly.

  • Rick

    Ender the Dragon Says:
    .. to something specific that Penner did lately to push MacT over the boiling point.

    That's impossible, Penner doesn't push ANYONE over…

  • RobinB

    Shakey:
    "If thats the case then why did he bring up Penner’s contract when ripping him for his play? If what you’re paid means nothing then why as a coach bring it up?"

    Who said what you're paid means nothing? Did MacTavish? Where did he say that? Or are you going by jeanshorts interpretation? I wouldn't hang my argument on that one.

    It bloody well does make a difference what a player makes, especially in the world of the salary cap and especially in the case of a player who had his pay increased 10-FOLD by the Oilers.

    And I'd be mighty twisted as a coach, a GM and an organization if a player I'd invested that much money, not to mention draft picks, in repaid me by playing the way Penner has.

    How many times do think Penner has been told to shape up and get his backside in gear behind closed doors before MacT went public?

    Penner had all of last season to show something. Do you think the Oilers go out and get Erik Cole this summer if Penner shows them any REAL drive and desire in his first season?

  • Robin Brownlee,

    You've been avoiding me, and I'm going to pull your mantastic facial hair until you answer me. With MacT screaming for accountability when does he become accountable for the performance of team? Craig MacTavish represents job security like little black babies with flies on their face represent world vision. They go hand in hand.

    You are right, he probably told Penner to move his butt as many times as the days are long, but does that make mentioning his contract appropriate? As mentioned, that not only makes Penner look like the floater he is, but also questions K-Lowe's decision to toss him the offer sheet.

    It seems hypocritical to point the finger at everyone but himself.

  • RobinB

    Baggedmilk: Yes, mentioning the contract is appropriate in these special circumstances.
    If a player doesn't respond and try to perform to a level that somewhat justifies hitting the jackpot after one full season in the league the way Penner has, he never will.

    Are the Oilers suckers for making Penner rich? Well, he's sure making them look like it, isn't he?

    As for accountability, MacT becomes accountable when Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini make him accountable.

  • Rick

    baggedmilk; So where is the line between the players accountability and the coaches accountability?

    If the players aren't performing in the manner the coach demands or expects, as is the case with Penner, then how do you judge whether the coach is to blame or the players are to blame?

    As someone who clearly wants MacT gone, you should welcome him calling out the players because all he is effectively trying to do is remove another obstacle bewteen distinguishing where the players are coming up short and where his game plan is coming up short.

  • Jason

    All I can say is, if this doesn't get Penner to play with some piss and vinegar when he does get back in the line up, then PDP IS the problem, because that's about as public of a tongue lashing as I've seen from MacT on anybody.

    Dustin better turn in his man card if he doesn't come out swinging the next time in there, and I don't mean by way of fighting either.

    It might be what the big softy needed.

  • shakey

    Robin,
    I was asking a question based on jeanshorts comment. Where did I say Mac T said it does or doesn't mean anything?
    Why can a coach take a pass when a player is holding out for more money with the standard "I can't control that, that's up to the GM to handle, I leave the money issues with the GM etc etc" You can't ignore it and then try to exploit it. A coach should want performance out of any player he picks to be on his team no matter what they get paid. Calling him out is one thing and in this case it's deserved but when was the last time a coach said a guy should be making more money because he's really producing? By using his salary in his reasoning he's essentially saying he's making more than he deserves and that has nothing to do with the coach.

  • Deep Oil

    This team is a trainwreck – Penner may be leading the bunch in work ethic and points – but Cole is a non scorer at 4mm – show me the money says the hockey player (yeah right) – looking at this team right now is bunch of donkeys – I am cheering against the oil so we hit rock bottom – clear the coach – psychologist and kick them in the butt – does anyone fear MacT – dont think so – I wouldn't even fear Lowe – with guaranteed contracts you hide on non contract years – nothing is positive right now – go wings. The Oil are fortunate that the Eskimos lost as the print and airwaves has are sharing the losses on Monday.

  • RobinB

    Shakey: You're splitting hairs. The money does matter in this case. Penner hit the jackpot and it seems he's satisfied with that. MacTavish is pointing that out because it's a factor in Penner's non-performance.

    With most elite players, the money doesn't matter in terms of being a motivator. Does Joe Sakic need to be at his best year after year with $50 million in the bank? Jarome Iginla? Marian Hossa? Chris Pronger? On and on you could go.

    With others, they get the big deal and then disappear. They aren't motivated from within to excel. They take the money and run.

  • Ender the Dragon

    Deep Oil Says:
    This team is a trainwreck . . .

    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. Even Ottawa, in the league's basement so far this year at 6-9-2, needs only to win 3 or 4 games to be right back in the hunt. Throwing the word trainwreck around may be a little premature. Don't hurt yourself jumping on and off the bandwagon, eh?

  • shakey

    Robin, I see what you're saying about his contract being his high point and now he thinks can relax but I just don't think it should come into play when a coach is talking. Through all of this I have heard nothing about why Brodziak was sat and there seems to be no fire or passion from either side because of that. Was he not earning his money or is there more to that? I actually was surprised because Brodziak works hard and defensively has looked solid.

  • Ender,

    Right now the Oilers are a trainwreck right now. When a player like Cole, who is a consistant and proven point getters is not doing that for the first time you have to ask yourself why?

    Up and down this lineup MacT is trying to fit square pegs in round holes and something has got to give. This is a better team than a .500 record dictates. Not to mention having to pull out a graphing calculater to figure out the advanced calculus required in determining which goalie is going to play.

    Some of these guys have little confidence right now and it's not going to help to get dumped on.

    Brownlee, you're right. It's when Tambo and Lowe decide it's time. I hope they start checking their watch.

  • Gord

    I can see Penner sitting again if what has been said and done by MacT has not improved Penner's attitude. Who knows, maybe Penner buried himself in cheeseburgers after practice? Maybe penner likes sitting in the pressbox and collecting a cheque?
    All I know is, with the option of playing Boulerice or Reddox, Penner doesn't have a lot to worry about. 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.