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.