Tuesday, October 23, 2007

2.86% Of The Time, It Works Everytime

The Oilers' PP is now 1/35 and counting.

I haven't commented much on Dustin Penner.
I'm noticing something eerily similar to last season with Lupul. For the first 5-6 games last year, I was astonished at how soft Lupul was along the boards (LT probably remembers the game - three chances to get the puck five feet out of the zone on the same shift. All failed.) and how ineffective he managed to be in the offensive zone. Then, after a couple of more games I started to see some of the upside that Lupul had - Lupul could pass the puck, he had a decent top gear while skating in a straight line, and a legitmately impressive shot when he got it off. Of course, we know how that story ended.
I realize this is just my hangup, but should I be worried that I'm following the same progression with Dustin Penner?
During the first five games, his glaring weaknesses seemed pretty evident. I don't care about anyone's "Lindros Theory" about big players looking lazy; if a forward is last into the offensive zone and the last player back into the defensive zone on nearly every shift, he's slow and/or lazy. The aesthetics of his stride has no impact on my evaluation when he can't even make it on my screen. Other than his speed, he also was not a physical player and had no clue about his assignments in his own end. Reports from training camp suggested that Penner was out of shape and that certainly seemed to jive with what I was seeing.
As with Lupul, I did start to see flashes of why the Oilers liked this guy. He is basically Georges Laraque with hands and a clue how to get the puck to the net. Just like Big Georges was effective by keeping the puck behind the other team's net rather than playing a total game, Penner is going to keep his job in the NHL by maximizing territorial advantage. That is a valuable thing. I almost hate to say it, but that's the kind of thing that made Todd Bertuzzi a terrifying player for a few years while playing with a healthy Markus Naslund.
For the past few games, Penner has been Jekyll and Hyde. He looked decent tonight playing with more appropriate linemates but he was mediocre in Phoenix and godawful against Calgary. The only way the Oilers won a faceoff when he was on the ice is if the centre won it clean - Penner didn't win a single puck battle against Calgary in the faceoff circle. (I'm not even worried about the silly penalties.) I suppose the problem could still be fitness because he was trending up until the Calgary embarrassment and now he had a decent showing tonight.
Now what?
I'm not sure he'll earn his dough, but he certainly has a chance if he is indeed playing his way into shape and manages to get a more appropriate role on this club.


Blogger HBomb said...

I've seen enough from Penner to think this guy is WAY more worth being patient with than Lupul.

Is fitness an issue? Yes. Year one is going to be a struggle for him. But years 2 and beyond of the deal, I don't see any reason that he's not going to consistently be a 30G-30A guy. Beyond that, there's enough to suggest (to me, at least) that this guy is at least half-assed competent on his own side of center ice.

This is going to be a long season anyways, I'm willing to be patient. I'm a lot more optimistic about the Oilers getting the bang for their buck out of this guy than they will out of Souray, that's for sure.

10/23/2007 11:08 pm  
Blogger RiversQ said...

Beyond that, there's enough to suggest (to me, at least) that this guy is at least half-assed competent on his own side of center ice.

Man, I'm not sure I'm willing to give on this one. Penner has looked brutal on a couple of GA where he left his man free in the slot and he sure doesn't backcheck.

The backchecking and the effort along the boards and in the faceoff circle should get better if he's out of shape, but I can't see him figuring things out in his own end. Not soon anyway.

10/23/2007 11:20 pm  
Blogger PDO said...

Riv, just a counter argument here, playing devils advocate more than anything..

But if he's huffing and puffing, then he's not thinking clearly. That's certainly going to impact his ability in the defensive zone... so I think there is reason to believe that he'll become more effective defensively simply by getting in better shape. He'll also (presumably) get into position faster, which will make up for his slow reads.

10/23/2007 11:34 pm  
Blogger RiversQ said...

Yeah, that's not unreasonable. I think I've seen a little too much so far to be explained away by just fitness, but your point certainly has merit.

Regardless, I might not have made it clear that I'm not sure it matters anyway. Penner's going to live and die by how much time the puck spends at the other end. I realize this is true for any player, but it's especially important for the Laraque types.

10/23/2007 11:44 pm  
Blogger Lowetide said...

Every time I see him, I see Denis Potvin.

10/24/2007 7:42 am  
Blogger Black Dog said...

Oh God LT don't say it.

He actually did have one nice play on a backcheck in the 2nd where he came way back and got his stick on a shooter in the high slot - play was off the rush and his play deflected the puck into the stands. He came from a way back.

mudcrutch and I were talking a month back or so and I think Stoll is a good centre for him - he cannot keep up with Cogliano or Horc - Gagner may also be a good fit on that line as a soft minutes line

we'll see - agree he has been more brutal then not but I think he covers the bet over the five years; once they figure out what the hell to do with him I think he'll be ok

slow start last year too btw

of course I am an incurable optimist too

10/24/2007 9:14 am  
Blogger dubya said...

LT, I don't think you can judge Penner based on the picks that he cost. And it's not healthy to focus on it, especially when the Oilers are swimming in so much other shit that can be perseverated on.

That is, unless you plan to re-align your evaluations if Anaheim pick a dud...i.e. if they go all Bustamaki with the picks, does Penner all the sudden become a better player?

10/24/2007 12:02 pm  
Blogger Vik said...

Another thing to remember is that it's only his 2nd full NHL season. And before that he didn't exactly have a lot of experience with just the one season in college and the one in the AHL. Besides that, he played at pretty low levels. I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that he hasn't really learned all that he needs to about the game at this point and it should probably be expected that he's going to be inconsistent at the best of times for the next couple seasons.

10/24/2007 1:32 pm  
Blogger RiversQ said...

Wow, that's damning stuff, vik.

I'm not sure if you were trying to be positive there or not, but that sounds like a hell of a description for a guy the Oilers are paying big bucks and gave up a lot to get.

Still, like I said, at least I've seen some flashes of Penner's upside. I don't think he deserves two years to start reaching it though.

10/24/2007 10:34 pm  
Blogger HBomb said...

Riv: I think we give him this season from a fitness perspective and nothing else.

29 goals in his "rookie" year with Anaheim is enough to prove his upside to me, and that if he gets up to speed over the course of this year and next summer, he's going to be back at that level or beyond it.

What I do know is this: he's a heck of a lot better horse to tie your wagon to than Joffrey Lupul at this point. That to me is enough to maintain a reasonable level of optimism.

10/24/2007 10:40 pm  
Blogger RiversQ said...

I realize I'm starting to sound a little negative again, but I'll try to temper your comments anyway.

Hbomb said...
29 goals in his "rookie" year with Anaheim is enough to prove his upside to me...

Oh yeah? Like Lupul's goals in his second season? Or any number of other players that popped 25+ goals in a single season while playing bottom sixers?

By now we should have learned our lesson about the counting numbers, especially just one year's worth. Kevin Lowe on the other hand... He'll be choking on his lesson for the next four seasons after this one on Souray alone. I for one hope that Penner doesn't slam that lesson home.

What I do know is this: he's a heck of a lot better horse to tie your wagon to than Joffrey Lupul at this point.

Well, shit. Is the bar really that low?

OK fine, I'll agree with this one. Penner shouldn't have much trouble outperforming a total freaking sinkhole.

10/24/2007 11:24 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

He has good hands for a big guy, but so far he hasn't been creating much space or time for himself or his linemates. He sure as hell won't do it with speed, so he'd better learn to use his size and keep the puck in the good end of the rink more. I think he will get better with that.

Right now, in any situation except for the PP, I'd rather see Raffi on the ice. I don't know what MacTavish thought he was getting, but Penner has been playing too much against good players. Not to the same extent as Souray ... but still.

10/25/2007 8:35 am  
Blogger Vik said...

I'm not sure if you were trying to be positive there or not, but that sounds like a hell of a description for a guy the Oilers are paying big bucks and gave up a lot to get.

My comment about him still learning the game was in reference to his less than impressive defensive play, not his play in general.
But consistency is an issue for nearly all new players in the league and has, in my opinion, been a clear problem for Penner so far this season.

10/25/2007 12:04 pm  
Blogger namflashback said...


for sure he has been taking more than his fair share of shifts out there against toughs, and he is (no surprise) more productive on home ice and when snuck out against softs. Although it was Leopold that became terrified of him, coughed up and then Gagner to Gilbert. Results be results?

He is still 9GP 2-2-4 -1. We know that none of those points were on the PP. And he was on the for SHGA and an ENGA.

Second most shots to Torres.

He is not the Oilers player to be worried about at this point.

10/25/2007 4:38 pm  
Blogger Dennis said...

I had an early breaking point with Penner after last Sat night's game in Cgy when Penner was useless in the O zone and took two lazy penalties to boot.

My early opinion on Penner is that he'll be worth 4 odd million dollars just as soon as the league gets their big TV contract with ESPN and the cap goes up to 60 mill;)

I didn't mind this offersheet when it was extended even though I knew he'd need soft min to do any kind of damage.

Playing 27 with 16 seems to be an easy call, though. Both need soft min to get anything done and both are some of the slowest Oilers and thus can play a cycle game which was where Penner seemed to make his paper on the line with Getzlaf and Perry.

10/25/2007 7:18 pm  
Blogger HBomb said...

Well, methinks the Oilers found themselves a power-vs-power trio that could do some damage.

Nice little 9-point outing for Torres-Horcoff-Hemsky tonight.

And yeah Riv, maybe Lupul as the bar is low, but after eight games last year, instead of the "oh shit, we signed this guy for three years?" feeling I was getting about #15...Penner's shown flashes that indicate he's going to be WAY better than Lupul ever was, is or will be....tonight he was very good, despite being held off the scoresheet.

All I'm saying is at least there's a reason for optimism with this guy. At least I think there is.

10/25/2007 11:36 pm  
Blogger IceDragoon said...

hbomb - Did Penner not keep the puck in at the blue line... quick advance to Horcoff, across to Hemsky for that beauty 4-3 goal? That's good for a second assist.

He's a work in progress alright, with less than 150 games of experience. Cool thing is... he has a clue, and the smart ones tend to be ahead of the curve.


10/26/2007 12:36 pm  

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