The sounds of silence


If Dustin Penner has decided he’d rather walk the walk instead of talk the talk, then his silence after the Edmonton Oilers skated at Millennium Place today is a good thing.

Then again, if Penner’s decision not to talk to assembled reporters waiting on his every word for the better part of 30 minutes — only to discover they’d get not one grunt or syllable from him after camping out — was orchestrated by the team, then not so much.

Either way, Penner didn’t speak to reporters after practice today in the wake of being pulled off the first line for the second game in a row in Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Nashville. The reasoning is that Penner will let his actions against the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday speak for him.

Penner, along with Marc Pouliot and Kyle Brodziak, instead put in some extra work after most of the rest of the team had left the ice as coaches extracted the sweat from the trio they didn’t get against Nashville.

In Penner’s place, coach Craig MacTavish faced the notepads and gave his take on the slump the big winger is mired in and his reasons for clipping his minutes alongside Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky.

MacT says…

“The message to the players is the time for dialogue is over and they can let their game do the talking tomorrow and they can answer the questions after the game,” MacTavish said of Penner, Pouliot and Brodziak. “It’s time to see it on the ice — a more committed, consistent level.”

With just two goals in his last 19 games, it doesn’t take a vast intellect to see that Penner is struggling mightily after playing a decent stretch of hockey — after MacTavish called him out and put him in the press box.

MacTavish wasn’t nearly as pointed in his criticism of Penner today as he was the first time around. Reasoned and even was the coach, at least for public consumption, after spending more than a few minutes having a heart-to-heart chat with No. 27 out on the ice.

“We haven’t had an answer on that left side for awhile,” MacTavish said. “We’ve tried a lot of players there on the left side. Over the course of the year, virtually everybody has had an opportunity there.

“The bottom line for Dustin is that he’s the best fit there when he’s playing. It might not be an ideal fit for him or those other two guys long-term, but, when he’s playing, he really adds an element to that line and we’ve seen it before.”

Not the answer

Penner got yanked away from Horcoff and Hemsky in Friday’s 3-1 win over Minnesota and ended up playing just 10:25. He finished with 13:26 in ice time against Nashville.

“Given his skill-set, it might be a stretch long-term,” reiterated MacTavish, talking about playing Penner with Horcoff and Hemsky. “But we need him to play better.

“At times, it’s an issue for him that he lacks the focus. He needs to be more focused on a consistent level. I know that’ll have a benefit to his overall game. I don’t have unrealistic expectations for them to go out there and be offensive contributors every night, but you have to find a way to help the overall product, find a way to be a contributor.

“You can always display intensity and physical play. There are a lot of things you can’t control. Your confidence level comes and goes. That’s tough to control. But, it’s the intensity…”

With just 11-12-23, it’s blatantly obvious Penner’s numbers aren’t nearly good enough for a player being paid $4.25 million and getting first-line minutes. And he hasn’t done enough to find those other ways to contribute, at least in MacTavish’s estimation.

Find a way

“It’s also the recognition and the personal responsibility to do everything to do everything away from the game itself to get yourself into a position where you’re more productive and playing up to your level of capability,” MacTavish said.

“A lot of players, they have trouble critiquing their own play. It’s a sense where you have to know you’re not playing at the top of your level. It’s got to be reflected in the way you conduct yourself between games — what you’re working on, how hard you’re working, how early you’re at the rink.

“I’ve been around the game long enough to know, that games fluctuate. Your confidence level fluctuates. If you’re recognizing that, whether you’re not as productive, and it’s exhibited and reflected in the way you conduct yourself, you have an ally in the coaching staff… I’ll work with a player as longer as he’ll work to help himself. That’s just the way it’s always been. If that’s not the case at the level we need him to be at, then it’s going to be uncomfortable.”

Penner gets his say tomorrow.


Sam Gagner skated with the Oilers today and his ankle has improved to the point where you can expect to see him in the line-up against Chicago Tuesday.

— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6pm on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.

  • Rick

    @ CurtisS:

    Not every player gives you the same thing as the next guy so you have to judge them based on their individual skill sets.

    It's like fans expect every player to score like a first liner, hit like a truck, fight like the boogy man, check like a Devil and skate like the wind. It's rediculous.

    There is not much to suggest that Reddox is capable of giving any more than he is so he is in effect doing his job.

    Can you say the same thing about the other guys?

    I don't think anyone would be as annoyed with Penner as they are if he hadn't already proven in stretches that he is in fact capable of playing they way that people expect him to. But he isn't, and he has been called out once again, as he should be.

  • mjsh

    @ Rick:
    Rick wrote:

    So between MacT’s comments yesterday and today it sounds like he has gone public in calling for Tambellini to go shopping for a LWer.
    Would this mean that Nilsson is probably on the block right now and would someone actually take a chance on a guy like him?

    I think a lot of teams would take a chance on Nilsson. He is still fairly young and has a huge upside. It would be interesting to compare his results right now to Hemsky's at a similar time in Hemmer's career. If I recall correctly, Hemsky had only 13 goals two years ago.

  • Elaine

    The team is lousy. Not enough production from most of the roster, not just Penner. Horcoff's totals are not that of a 1st line centre. The team is just not good enough and also too small. Also, the team needs two guys who can win faceoffs more than they lose. This is terrible that they let Stoll and Reasoner go without replacing them with a decent faceoff man. It not only hurts their powerplay but also their penalty killing. Both Lowe and Tambellini need to get some talent. I don't see any on the farm at least for a couple or more years. Even then, I doubt it.

  • Travis Dakin

    CurtisS wrote:

    @ Travis Dakin:
    So he tried but accomplished less?? Thats what matters?
    No wonder we cant win hockey games.

    No what matters is that because of the crap that has been the play of these guys, MacT has been forced to use Reddox instead of them.

  • Deep Oil

    Mike wrote:

    I don’t understand how you can let the whole team off the hook against Buffalo, and then single out guys a few days later. You suffer as a team, if necessary.

    Oilers were nieve to think Sabre management didn't remember the Vanek signing when they were vulnerable.
    Oiler management possibly did not prepare the players on what was on the line that night…. PRIDE – I am suprised that Ruff did not pull the goalie for 11 to show how ticked off they were…. I bet there was money on the board from Ruff and Galisano to motivate this team against the lazy oil….

  • What is this the second or third time Penner has been called out? We don't have anyone else to play LW, he is one the biggest guy on the team & he has only 1 dimension. Nobody would be on his case if he played more like a pissed off hockey player. Keep dreaming of trading him, we will be stuck with him for the next 2 years.

    I really think that the way every team is built in the salary cap world you can't change a team, you have to change who is leading the team. Coaches are far easier to replace than 5 passengers. If you replace 1 or 2 passengers & a coach you would have the same result as trading 4 guys I think.

    Tambo says MccT is safe, the guys in the room have to figure this lack of intensity out. No trades & no new coach. Be prepared for another run of 500 hockey.

  • Rick

    So between MacT's comments yesterday and today it sounds like he has gone public in calling for Tambellini to go shopping for a LWer.

    Would this mean that Nilsson is probably on the block right now and would someone actually take a chance on a guy like him?

  • Travis Dakin

    CurtisS wrote:

    Then you leave out players like Reddox from the bag skate?? What did he do more than Brodz or Poo?? Nothing.

    It's simple. He tries. There is effort there. He may not have the size or skillset of the other guys but he is all heart and effort. Those other guys are a giant lead anchor on this team that need a serious kick in the a*s.

    But I wonder, at 26 I can't really see a player having the light switch go on and the work ethic and drive start to show every night. Can someone show me an example of this in the past? I want to hope that Penner isn't a bust.

  • CurtisS

    I wrote this in your other blog.

    How can you skate 3 players and not the whole team. Then you leave out players like Reddox from the bag skate?? What did he do more than Brodz or Poo?? Nothing.

    This is a good way not to build a team.

    Win as a team, lose as a team.

    Just more Mact favorism here. How much longer until that clown is fired?