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

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.

  • Dyckster

    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"?

  • smiliegirl15

    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.

  • To Nilsson's credit, at least he scored on the empty net. That's something a few other Oilers have failed to do this year (costing us at least 1 win!).

    As far as the concern that all our scoring came on 1 line last night goes, if that continues after we get a little healthier, I'll get worried about that then.

    Kevin Lowe must be feeling pretty good today, after all the heat he's taken over the PDP signing. Drink it in, Kevin.

  • Dan the Man

    The best thing about this team so far has been the scoring depth, I think this is the way we expected this team to play the last few years but they obviously didn't live up to that potential…until now.

    Once they learn to defend a lead, they have the potential to be VERY good.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      The way this team is playing is what we were told the last few years. Run and gun, but expect lots of shots against as well.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    I'm tired of hearing people talk about how much better shape Penner is in this year. That is not the difference you are seeing. I have a friend who is part of the fitness testing crew from the UofA that conducted the testing the last several years and I have personally been in the oilers fitness room where they had the top performers posted from last year (yes, they keep them up all year as a motivator). Penner's name was in the top 5 on roughly 5 out of 8 fitness indicators LAST YEAR! He showed up this year 5 lbs lighter than last year. If I hear one more person reference a buffet, a donair, or a donut I'm gonna snap. The difference is motivation and coaching, PERIOD.

    • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

      I feel like one of the next articles needs to have a split-screen photo of PDP last year and DP this year. Even if he weighed exactly the same, you can tell by the photo he's in better shape.

      • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

        A weight lifter can lose five pounds of pudge and look more in shape, but actually his fitness level probably hasn't changed much at all. I prefer to stick to measurable fitness statistics than "he looks fitter".

        • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

          Muscle weighs more than 'pudge'. The other side of that coin is that a pudgy person can step up their conditioning, lose 4 inches off their waist and only end up losing 5lbs over a summer.

    • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

      Be tired of it all you want. It's a big reason why Penner is better this year. That's him, not me, talking.
      Aside from his comments on the record in recent weeks, I talked to him specifically about his conditioning this morning and he credits it with being significant.
      I'll take his word over that of your friend, if it's all the same.

      • If we're weighing in here (*chuckle*), I'll also take RB's conversation with Penner over some fitness metric posted in a gym by one of that guy's friends.

        Oh, and I like hearing Penner joke about wheat-based drinks too.

      • For sure his conditioning has helped, but how do you interpret these words, by Penner? "The main catalyst in all of this is confidence". In addition, and more obvious: "I guess it's just the way Pat and Tom just let me play. They don't get too critical. They just let me play my game." His conditioning is only one part of it… I'd say having the monkey off his back is the biggest factor.

        I'd also like to add that Kevin Lowe also mentioned a year ago that Penner showed up at camp in great shape (not the exact words, but that was the sentiment of it). It could be possible though that he's just out of touch with reality with players though, or just trying to make Penner sound better than he was so people wouldn't harp on it. Not saying he isn't in better shape this year though.. I think that is obvious. And he also obviously has more drive this year, but I think that has a lot to do with his coaches making him feel more comfortable out there.

        • FFS, why do some of you insist on splitting hairs? What part of the combination of confidence and conditioning didn't I cover with this sentence in the story?

          "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."

          I never said it was one or the other, but both. And when somebody pipes up and says conditoning has nothing to do with it, PERIOD, they're talking through their asses.

          I don't need to interpet words by Penner or by Lowe or whoever you can pick out from this story or that clip. I'm there.

    • I'm a Scientist!

      *Suits up in his protective bear proof suit and slowly makes his way into the room*

      Oooooooooo, could you imagine a buffet of donairs and donuts? I bet when Penner retires, he is going to open up a chain… He will call it 'Big Dusty's Donair and Donut Trough'

      *ducks…albeit awkwardly because the bear suit is thick and bunchy*

  • Dan the Man

    I wasn't so sure about Dustins body language before yesterday, he still appeared at times to be impatient with the fans and the media. I hope with his new level of confidence he can continue to be the player we've so desperately needed here in Edmonton. It was refreshing to see him walk the green mile last night with the fans responding in a different fashion compared to what he's experienced at times during the last couple seasons.

    Sometimes the best trades made are the ones you don't make. Dustin's making us all think Dany who?

  • I have defended Dustin Penner on forums for a couple of years now.

    I have pointed out how good his hands are and how he was (well, is) the best shooter from the slot.

    I pointed out before the season started some myths about him about how guys on the Oil play better with him than with out him.

    I pointed out too that he was the guy who would most likely benefit from the coaching change.

    However, I never would have seen it coming where we'd be at game 9 and he'd have 14 points.

    The guy deserves it. Yes, I understand that he wasn't giving his all at points of the season last year, but I think also the direction from the coach wasn't always the most well thought out either.

    I also want to collectively slap all the fans that put him down and seriously called him fat and lazy. Especially the ones that did it publicly to him (I hope it wasn't often, but apparently it did happen).

    Anyways, congrats to Penner.. standing ovation well deserved last night.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    It was a big concern, admittedly, but the main problem with Penner was always the contract; the guy was an outchancer and outscorer last year, most certainly.

    So, I'm shocked he's been so consistent but it's not like the guy was throwing up minuses every night and taking penalties 180 feet from his own end or anything.

    And it was just one game but the last time I can remember an Oilers line tearing it up like that was when Smyth was playing with Weight-Guerin for the first part of the '01 season before Guerin was dealt to the B's for Carter.

    They were on a pretty good rip before he got moved.

    Along the way, the old Weight-Guerin combo played with a lot of guys; I even remember a stretch where Rem Murray had a nice little run with them back in '99 or '00.

  • Dustin Terpstra

    The Predators are also in the mix, but they are also popping up in rumors with Edmonton involving Penner or Cogliano. Yes, Penner's contract is a major obstacle and feels completely out of character with Nashville, but this year the Preds are in real need to make an impact move sooner than later. Penner has been picking up his game as of late and is believed to be the kind of player who could have a re-birth in a new city

    Haha eklund is always good for a laugh. I do think his re-birth has already happened and who the hell do you trade for from nashville anyways if penner is on the table šŸ˜› hahahaha brightened my morning errr evening (damn night shifts got me all screwed up)

  • Misunderstanding, no need to get so bent out of shape. I wasn't trying to rub your nose in it, just misinterpreted your previous post's focus on conditioning as deflecting away from the obvious benefit from the coaching change. However, needless to say, I should have skimmed your article a little less.

    I'm sure you're tired of smacking people around on here, but breathe deeply.. woo sa.

    • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

      That's not bent out of shape.
      And, yes, I do get tired of it because it would happen a helluva lot less if people actually read what was written before bashing off comments. Seems too much ask, though.

      • Eric Johnson

        "it would happen a helluva lot less if people actually read what was written before bashing off comments. "

        See the problem here is you write in coherent sentences. If you broke it down into text talk and emoticons with some hip fresh verbage, the internet instant everything generation would get what you're saying. Something like this.

        "OMG! Pens is Totes on fire šŸ™‚ LOLZ. 4get the buffet line, he's 180'ed his sweat time and rolled out his MAD SKILLZ yo. I's fricken ain't eva seen dis, in like 4 ev's yo. Quinn's got the boyee playin large. Str8 from da source, the PDP be representin' E-town proud…"

        See, what's not to get right?

        Piece out RB, 4 realz. LOL ;p!!!

        • Librarian Mike

          Thanks, but no.
          Nothing could be worse than a man my age trying to play to a generation with an attention span that basically amounts to accepted ADD.
          It would be kind of creepy, really, like that friend's mom we all knew growing up who was 50 but tried to dress 18.
          I'll stick to whole words and sentences, as bizarre a concept as that seems.

  • Note to you Pennerfan Poseurs, believe me, EVERYONE thought Penner had some good hockey in him, you'd have to be blind NOT to have seen it. The reason everyone was down on him the last couple of years, is because he never SHOWED it more than 3 or 4 games/year. It's not that he was ever a bad hockey player, he just couldn't keep up/stay focussed/motivated/didn't have the wind to play a consistent game.

    So quit acting like the vindicated martyr here.

    "I've always backed Penner on boards and the radio…"

    pffftt…. big deal, you'll disappear faster than pumpkins on nov.1 if PDP reverts back to his old self at some point, and start railing on whoever the popular whipping boy is.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    What gets me is the people who act like I should regret ragging on Penner for the past couple years. I don't regret it because he was a lazy pile. Don't get me wrong, I'm ecstatic that he's playing the way he is, but even if he keeps it up after the way he's played up to this point… doesn't that mean we've only broken even on his contract?

    • Chris.

      If this sudden turnaround happened during the last year of his contract… I'd be hiding right now in his bushes with a sniper rifle… and I promised my wife I'd stop doing that!

  • Librarian Mike

    I`m not sure if it`s been mentioned, but it is interesting that that while people are going on about Calgary`s amazing start, the fact is that the Oilers have the exact same record.