DUSTIN PENNER: HE’S HAPPY IN EDMONTON

We poked and prodded Dustin Penner in the Edmonton Oilers dressing room this morning to get a read on his state of mind. I’d suggest, given what Penner said, that GM Steve Tambellini do the same between now and the NHL trade deadline.

Given that his name and that of teammate Ales Hemsky are front and centre when it comes to the subject of players Tambellini can either build around or trade to acquire assets between now and Feb. 28 — any time in what remains of their contracts, for that matter — inquiring minds wanted to know what he’s thinking.

Is Penner happy in Edmonton? Does he see promise in the rebuild that is underway despite the team languishing at the bottom of the standings? Would he like to stay beyond the end of the 2011-12 season ?

The answers are yes, yes and yes. That’s something Tambellini might want to sit down and discuss formally with Penner and his agent, Gerry Johannson, don’t you think?

The sooner the better.

TIME TO TALK

"That’s something for my friends to read about," Penner said, asked by TSN’s Ryan Rishaug about his name coming up in trade rumours. "It doesn’t really bother me. It’s interesting.

"I think what usually happens is the people who get talked about the most usually don’t end up getting traded, at least in the past when I’ve seen it, so . . . I don’t know, it’s probably exciting for a lot of people, but to me, it doesn’t matter."

Penner, 28, has been a lightning rod for debate since the Oilers plucked him from the Anaheim Ducks by way of an offer sheet in the summer of 2007 after the Ducks won the Stanley Cup.

Seen by many, including the likes of former coach Craig MacTavish, as something of a satisfied player capable of being better than he is, Penner has taken more than his fair share of criticism.

He’s inconsistent. He appears disinterested at times. He’s not in shape. He’s not really a leader. On and on. Penner has heard it all during his time here, and some of the criticism has been warranted.

Warts and all, Penner leads the Oilers in scoring with 18 goals and 34 points going into tonight’s game with the Chicago Blackhawks. He led the team in scoring last season with a career-high 33 goals and 61 points.

So what to do with Penner? Trade him and continue the rebuild with assets you get for him? Keep him and build around him? A big part of what Tambellini decides is going to be based on what Penner wants because he can pick the team he wants to play for after next season.

So we asked, and asked and asked . . .

OVER TO YOU, STEVE

We asked Penner if this season feels different than last season, even if the on-ice results and the standings aren’t what he and his teammates would like them to be.

"Obviously, the culture has changed here," he said. "We’ve got a great group of young forwards and young players. I like to say we’re an up-and-coming team.

"As you’ve seen from the beginning of the year compared to where we are now, even though we’re in 30th place, there’s a stat we heard that 24 games have been either a one-goal game or an empty-net situation. If we end up winning half of those, we’re in the playoff hunt."

Gene Principe of Sportsnet asked Penner if he is enjoying his time here and if he’d like to stay.

"Yeh," Penner said. "It’s a great place. You know, I’ve been here for four years and it’s always nice to have that comfort level being with the same team, seeing the game faces, the training staff. You grow attached, even to you guys here."

Is that a conversation Penner has had with Tambellini?

"That’s more something for my agent," he said. "That’s why I pay him two per cent . . . I think we’ll have that discussion, probably. We’ve touched on it a bit, but it’s something you really don’t probably address during the season."

One more time, courtesy of the dogged and determined Dave Mitchell of CTV: So, Penner likes it here and wants to be here?

"I think I answered that," Penner said. "I like it here. I want to be here. It’s a great place to play, especially when you’re winning."

Just one more time for good measure, still with Mitchell like a hungry dog on a fresh cut of T-bone: Long-term? "Yeh."

It’s probably time to talk.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Rogue

    The last 30 games I think I have seen a different Dustin. Not the typical Power forward, but someone who will drive the net. He will never be physical, but that is not in his make-up. I think the “A” makes him a more involved player. I like what I see from him and I hope he stays and grows with the kids.

    I hope it is Hemsky that gets moved, if we do move someone. Yes, he can make things happen, but we seem to have some young talent that can do that too. My biggest fear is how injury prone he is. It is one thing to have someone on the 3rd or 4th line injury prone, but not on your top 2 lines.

  • Jamie B.

    Well, I didn’t really expect Penner to stand in front of the media and say he wants to catch the first plane out of here when he might have to play for this team for another calendar year, but I guess that’s still good.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Not sure keeping both is in the best interest of the hockey club. We still need both a #1C and a blue chip blueliner. I’d prefer they moved Hemsky++ in order to help fill one of those needs. With there being no clear No.1 draft pick this year we’re more likely to see clubs draft based on needs, and our needs leave little doubt Larsson and Couturier would put this rebuild in the rear view mirror for the most part.

    If the Oilers fall short there’s always the offer sheet route again.

    • Players can say something else without spelling it out. They can get cute with answers, avoid the question or offer “no comment.”

      When somebody repeatedly says he wants to be here — on and off the record — then it carries weight.

      Believe it or not, some of the reporters who cover the team don’t just nod in agreement and believe everything they’re told.

      • Hemmercules

        Do you think they keep Jones after this year?? I like Jones, he seems like a real team guy, he works hard and pitches in a goal here and there. Or will he be the next Glencross or Broadziak and get pitched for a 5th rounder or just cast aside.

          • Hemmercules

            Sorry, I don’t read every article and every comment on this site so I sometimes miss something. I asked Gregor on one of his threads but he was too busy fighting off trolls to answer me.

            My apologies for wasting anyones time. I don’t post often, maybe I should keep it that way.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Hang in there Scorecoff.

            Not everyone here is looking to squish you under their runner. Stuff written last week/last month may not apply today. The game of hockey is an ever moving target, teams go one direction one day and another the next. If the wind keeps pushing you this way, come on in, the waters fine.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            You have been randomly selected to be the very fist caller on LT’s Oilersnation program debuting on 1260 this Saturday at noon. Alan would be very eager to address these very concerns.

            You may claim your prize by calling 426 TEAM at 12 noon this coming Saturday.

          • Wax Man Riley

            Hahaa! Sweet! I will definitely be listening at work, and I’ll be looking to call in. I will listen instead of watching the Oilers game. Or, I’ll watch the game while listening to Nation Radio. Or watch the radio while listening to the game.

            …..on second thought that last one won’t work very well will it?

          • Hemmercules

            I didn’t realise it was dicussed in such great detail before. I looked back and read JW’s article about selling him high. Some good points there and I suppose it’s in the best interest of the team to ditch him sooner than later. I guess sometimes you just like a player, stats aside. Jones is that guy for me.

            I would love to keep both Penner and Hemsky. Ditch JFJ, MAC and Fraser for some guys with actual skill sets other than “play tough”, add a dman or two and this team is fairly competitive next season in my eyes. Too bad Bulin is stuck here for two more years. Would be nice to have Dubnyk fight for ice time with a younger/better goalie over the next couple seasons.

    • Steve Smith

      On the one hand, you’re right. On the other, there’s a form answer for athletes for this kind of thing. It goes something like “That’s something I’m going to worry about in the off-season. Right now I’m an Edmonton Oiler, I’m happy to be one, and my focus is on winning games.” I don’t think that would have gotten him sent to Hershey.

      Dustin Penner’s a pretty well-spoken guy, so I don’t think he gave an explicit “yes” to “Would you like to stay here long-term?” just because it was the only inoffensive answer he could think of.

    • Hemmercules

      I think he would have worded things alot differently if he didn’t want to be here. Watching his interviews over the years he seems to tell it like it is so I’ll take his word for it on this one. If they do extend him it will be interesting to see what length of contract he gets offered. I would guess it to be 3 or 4 years, maybe ending the same year as Horcoff?

  • His trade value is as high now as it will ever be. I think Tambi needs to pull the trigger if a solid trade offer comes his way. My biggest fear is that all the things he has been criticized for in the past could come back at any time, especially if he signs an extended contract.

  • DK0

    Ok he said he likes it Long-Term, Robin, do you think you could maybe get in there and see if he’s OK short-term? What if he wants to leave but come back later? I”M FREAKING OUT HERE MAN!

    • As Penner said, Tambellini and Johannson have touched on the issue, but I suspect they will talk again at length before the deadline.

      If you are going to trade Penner, you get more for him this season or in the summer than you do at the 2012 deadline.

      Penner wanting to stay doesn’t mean he will because somebody might make Tambellini an offer he’d be stupid to refuse, but knowing which way he is leaning helps no matter how you slice it.

  • Penners gotta stay…he doesnt have to be a leader and i think its scary to think of what he can do in the playoffs for this team.

    If the oil are going to trade, i think that guy should be Hemsky but only for the right price that fills a need (ie schenn or bogosian). Ya, those are longshots but Hemmers been through the tough times and deserves to see this thing out. Its not like he’s Moreau and we need him out. Hemmer is a playoff performer too. When we get back to the dance, we need guys that have been there before!

  • bhlazo

    Firstly Its Super Terrific to hear that the D-Train likes it here, lets hope its not all just some lip service just so he can get through the rest of the season without being the target of some disgruntled fans.