Reasonable Expectations for 08-09 (Penner)

Despite the dollars and size, Dustin Penner’s offense will rely heavily on where they slot him in the lineup. If he plays the entire season on the top line with Horcoff and Hemsky he could have a career season. If he loses that job and doesn’t catch the Gagner wave this could be a rather difficult year.

My guess is that the pressure the organization feels in regard to his performing at near his contract will be enough to get him the gold linemates and plenty of powerplay time. He’ll certainly be a part of the “MacT blender” but Penner is also a useful player who brings some nice things to a line with Hemsky or Gagner.

According to, the Oilers gave “The Big P” a helluva push with the man advantage. Here are the total minutes leaders among forwards on the Edmonton Oilers 07-08:

  1. Stoll (315 minutes)
  2. Penner (305 minutes)
  3. Hemsky (286 minutes)
  4. Gagner (221 minutes)
  5. Horcoff (221 minutes)

And just to be fair, here are the top forwards in powerplay time on ice per game:

  1. Horcoff 4:10
  2. Stoll 3:53
  3. Hemsky 3:52
  4. Penner 3:43
  5. Gagner 2:48

So on most nights, Penner was on the 1st PP. Agreed? Penner’s logical competition for those PP minutes will be Erik Cole, Robert Nilsson, Sam Gagner and Rob Schremp. I keed. Anyway, it’s tough to predict his numbers next season because there’s a wide range of possibilities. I’m going to assume he plays on the top line for much of the year and he also retains 3 minutes a night on the PP.

By The Numbers

  • 06-07 5×5 per 60m: 1.92
  • 07-08 5×5 per 60m: 1.34
  • 06-07 5×4 per 60m: 4.01
  • 07-08 5×4 per 60m: 4.07

He can’t possibly be this bad again at EVs and if he does play on the top line Penner will get a nice push in 5×5 points. His PP number also helps.

Prediction for 08-09: 82gp, 30-23-53 (.646 per game).

I should also say a few words about a possible position change. Penner is a candidate for center should all those kids fail in their roles this fall. After Shawn Horcoff, the depth chart is talented but very young. Unless an Andrew Cogliano or Kyle Brodziak can step up (and these things usually fail miserably with the added feature of stalling prospect progress) or the light bulb is really on for Marc Pouliot, Penner would be the next logical option before a trade is made. He did play some center last season and MacT must be tempted to get Penner’s big body more involved. If he does report to camp in better shape (Penner has been with the Mandelbaum’s all summer) and can stay healthy (Penner has been with the Mandelbaum’s all summer) this is a consideration.

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27 Responses to "Reasonable Expectations for 08-09 (Penner)"

  1. Schitzo says:

    I can’t imagine Penner losing his first unit PP time, simply because of his size.

    That’s not to say that a PP has to have a troublemaker in front of the net to be successful. I just doubt the Oilers are willing to toss out their (ever so successful) PP strategy and try something new.

    If he does get moved to centre, they’re going to have to watch his ice time this year. Coming to camp in better shape is nice, but if he’s backchecking as hard as your centre should, he’ll skate miles more than he did last year.

  2. Jonathan says:

    Penner was a pretty effective powerplay option last season; I don’t think anyone adds his dimension to the unit, including Erik Cole.

    RE:switching Penner to centre – wouldn’t his lack of speed be more of a concern up the middle? Also, he’s never struck me as the most reliable player defensively, and unless he’s playing softer opponents, wouldn’t that be exposed as well?

    I’m not saying it won’t be tried (I think it will) but I have my doubts about whether it will be successful.

  3. Lowetide says:

    schitzo: I think Penner is in a little danger in both top line and PP roles. If the coach takes a liking to Erik Cole in that role, Penner will move down to the Gagner line and if there’s no chemistry there then it’s going to be interesting. I like him as a player but there are other options and the coach really likes Nilsson too.

    That aside, I agree he’ll get every chance to succeed.

  4. Schitzo says:

    LT: no doubt regarding his first line spot being open for competition. But unless someone finds and burns MacT’s dog-eared copy of Powerplays For Dummies, he’ll have the biggest guy possible in front of the net.

  5. danny says:

    I remember this struck a nerve with you last season, when people were questioning MAPs mindset, after being a no-show for Moreaus conditioning camp…

    But what about it this year?

    Impressing the staff seems to go hand in hand with training in California. It even squeezed a compliment towards sugartits from MacT.

    I’m not saying he NEEDS bootcamp, even though MacT said he did before, but I am saying he needs to impress. And that would have been a dandy step.

  6. danny says:

    In true maritimer form…

    When do you start to question the cut of the young mans jib?

  7. Lowetide says:

    It’s a little bit asked and answered with the two year one way deal. Having said that, MP balking at MacT’s Carbonneau comp is kind of a tell too.

    At some point I think you just have to stand back and cheer. He’s not a slam dunk major leaguer, that I think we can say.

  8. Alice says:

    I hope ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’ has not become some kind of character litmus test.
    Is it mandatory? Because I’d hate to think it’s one of those ‘this is completely voluntary but our noses will be out of joint if we don’t see you there…’ gigs. What’s mandatory is understanding where you need to be mentally and physically come TC, and if you choose not to club it in the summer with the guys whose air you’ll be breathing for the next 9 months, well I’m ok with that. As I’m sure are his coaches, else they’d have made it mandatory. I’m sure buddy has a trainer.

  9. Alice says:

    Just so I don’t leave the wrong impression there, I think the boot camp is a great thing. Really! But if it is intended to be fun and loose and Optional, then it can’t be burdened with this expectation that you have to be there. If it’s optional, then it is.

  10. goldenchild says:

    The NHL should just take a page from the NFL and hold mandatory offseason team workouts and take the whole its “voluntary but really we mean mandatory” nonsense out of it. Have the guys come in for a week or so see where they are and what they need to do before camp opens.

    As far as Penner, I’m not sure what he brings if he isn’t on a scoring line, if Cole plays with 83 and 10, and the Kids stay together is there anything that indicates he could be effective on a line with lets say Pisani and Pouliot playing against tough comp?

    Also is there any chance we see him play with 10-83 get off to hot start and the get moved? I’m not sure I see his value on this roster going forward and considering some of the contracts given this summer his deal doesn’t look like as much of an albatross as it did last summer. Would there be any takers?

  11. Alice says:

    And before I got sidetracked, LT makes an interesting point re Penner at C. With Gagner/Cogs/MAP/Brodz there I first thought it was a bit silly, and you just open a different gap on the wing that needs to be filled.

    But consider: last yrs config +Cole you have 7 guys to put in the top-6, which early consensus out here punts cogs to 3C.
    Without another sort of juggle you’ve got 3LW there, Penner, Cole, Nilsson.
    Penner to C has to be at least an option, or one of Nilsson/Cole to RW else one of those 3 has to go 3rd line and Cogs is the one that bubbles back up. Some earlier posts had Cole on RW and nobody balked at that so I assume he’s played there before?

  12. Ofer says:


    This is totally off-topic but I chuckled a bit this morning because I remember you posting about Chris Hajt being a favourite prospect of yours last decade…

    I work for the Guelph Storm (His junior squad) and he’s just been brought on as an assistant coach after a couple seasons in Europe.

    A little bit of an Oiler prospect “where are they now” for ya.

    Keep up the great work on this great blog.

  13. transplantedjetfan says:

    Any chance you could drop a link to explain the Mandelbaum references? My head’s not making the connection between off-season workouts and critical realism.

    Also, despite his conditioning issues I thought Penner was solid on the defensive side of things last year. I seem to remember MacT giving him props for that aspect of his game as well.

  14. Dennis says:

    I think that there are enough positive things to focus on — Horc signing longterm and Hemsky being Hemsky and the kid line — that the Oilers really won’t care about the public perception if Penner’s four mill per year ISN’T being played on the first line this year.

    I’m ready to “limb out” and say that 26 gets the first line role for the PVP gig but 27 gets the PP time. Another subplot that could factor into lineup construction is how much do the Oilers want to get on Cole’s good side with an eye towards bringing him back for 2010 and how that plays into PP time allotment.

    I really wouldn’t worry a whole lot about that because going forward I don’t see a big contract for Cole being a part of things. Up front the team has 10-12-27-83 locked in and now it’s time to be talking of getting 13-89 inked.

    I really don’t see how Cole would factor into that — and let’s not forget the Oilers are most likely going to shoot for the Hossa moon again next summer — so I’ll predict that affects Penner to the point he doesn’t get 10-83 as EV teammates but he gets to play with 83-89 on the PP.

    The other point is conditioning and as long as Penner has a weight problem, we really can’t count on him anyway; at least not for a big season, IMO.

    Regarding Pouliot’s refusal to go to Camp Mendalbaum, can you really blame the guy? The Quebec-plugged in Louiss from over at HF said 78 elected not to go back to Cali because he’s seem too many guys come back from that training and get hurt. Well, who can argue with the kid?

    And his reluctance to do didn’t affect his status in the org’s eyes because they gave him a two year one way deal and decided to cast Reasoner adrift in a undeniably related set of moves.

  15. breakerdog says:

    “Some earlier posts had Cole on RW and nobody balked at that so I assume he’s played there before?”

    I love the idea of a Penner, Gagner, Cole line getting soft minutes. Penner could help out taking left handed face offs. Leaving Horc and Hemsky to play vs. the top lines with one of Nilsson, Moreau, Brodziak or even Cogliano to play LW on this line. 3rd line C seems to go to Poo if he shows up in TC.

    Penner has been very productive the last two years on the PP. Last year he was almost a goal better than Cole (4.07 vs. 3.13) with less TOI (3.59 vs. 3.93). If both of these players are going to play LW why not let them play to their strengths. Cole gets more minutes at evens and tougher minutes where he has shown himself capable over his career. Penner gets the softer Qual/Comp and the first line PP gig.

    P.S. This is virtually the same argument I would make with Horcoff/ Gagner. Horc more tough minutes Gagner gets PP and soft minutes because that is their strenghts at this point in their careers.

  16. spOILer says:

    With 7 forwards available for the top 6 spots, and seemingly 3 LWs, Penner is a real conundrum.

    And I have to wonder if Dustin is being kept simply as insurance against Cole not signing an extension (not to mention port-sider injuries).

    It’s easy to see why LT has Cole pencilled in for the 3LW spot as that would solve a lot of problems.

    But either Cole or Penner at 3LW seems like a waste of offense and an expensive contract for the position.

    As for centre, would you be willing to roll like this?


    I don’t think I would, even with the solid wingers on the third. I’m not convinced Penner’s faceoff ability can hold up over the long haul, nor is he a RHer.

    As much as MacT wants to not “be remiss by revisiting the Kid Line”, I think personnel is going to force him to drop Cogliano to 3C.

    And considering Nilsson is better at LW than RW, and Cole plays well at RW, I think we might see…


    I’d be sad to see Cogs dropped because I think he’d be far more effective at 2C, but it’s either that, or trade him or Penner, no? I also think it unwise to run the 3rd line with no true puck distributor (see Stoll experiment).

    It seems like without a trade, we’re going to be wastng offense in a defensive role, and some player is going to be mighty unhappy. Will Cole want 3LW responsibilities and linemates in a contract year?

    As far as reasonable expectations go, if Penner gets primo top 6 and 1st PP minutes, I expect 30-25-55 this year and a plus player. I also want to see a minimum of 1 hit per game, preferably approaching 1.5. He needs to take the next step and become that power forward 30 goal man.

  17. Hemsky_83 says:

    Penner is three times the PP performer Cole is, he’s not coming off that top unit even if he does get played on the third line.

    One thing about Penner’s game that I think a lot of us ignored last season was his defensive game. When he put i the effort, Penner was able to cleanly separate guys from the puck in the D-zone, and clear the area. I think we could see him play a lot of minutes regardless of where he plays.

  18. Hoos says:

    transplantedjetfan said…

    “Any chance you could drop a link to explain the Mandelbaum references? My head’s not making the connection between off-season workouts and critical realism.”

    The Mandelbaum reference is from Seinfeld. I’ve included a link.

  19. heed says:

    the life of an oiler fan has definitely taken a dramatic turn around. the fact that we are discussing the problem of having 7 top 6 forwards is mind blowing. our neighbours to the south are discussing the problem of having 3 top 6 forwards. hell has frozen over and it’s still 20 degrees outside.

  20. Schmidty says:

    I think spoiler is on to something:


    I believe the kid line will not remain intact and Cole adds size, presence and a good shot to Gags and Nilsons playmaking.

    Noone can argue how effective Horpensky was before Horc got hurt. Horc is not as effective without Hemmer and Penner nosedived without Horc.

    I see them starting together and Cogs moving to the 3rd line. How will he develop into Marchant without 3rd line pigeon-holing.

    Of course, with how MacT loves line continuity, that will last for the first 5 minutes of the opener.

  21. Bruce says:

    Dustin Penner remains one of the most intriguing players on the Oilers. As a soon-to-be 26-year-old with two full seasons (both of 82 GP) under his belt as well as 7 playoff series and a Stanley Cup, it probably isn’t correct to consider him a “prospect” as he enters the second season of his controversial contract, but he’s hardly a veteran in the conventional sense either. Last year MacT tried him in a number of different roles, including spot duty on faceoffs, a brief turn at centre, and an eye-opening Game 82 experiment on the PK. Hard to see which of those roles might expand in the upcoming season, but it is clear MacT sees him as a multi-dimensional player.

    My own preference is to see him on the wing, where he can use his size, strength, and puck control skills to dominate the wall. I agree with Dennis he’s in for some stiff competition from Cole for first line duty, but surely he is the first choice on the PP, where he has shown signs of developing into a dominant force.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing Dustin develop into a faceoff man, hardly an unprecedented role for a power winger. I don’t know how much stock to put in his impressive 55% win rate from last season, given the majority of his draws were on the PP when the attacking team has a much-better-than-even chance of winning possession off of scrambled draws. (Anybody know what is the league-wide FO% for offensive-zone, PP draws? That would be a better comparable than the default 50%) Nonetheless, his faceoff capability is sure to improve on a MacT team, and would make a very nice complementary skill on a line centred by Gagner or Cogliano.

    While he’s not the burner that Erik Cole is, his foot speed is better than it appears, pretty typical for a big man. Once he gets a head of steam and cuts in for the net, he’s a load to try and stop. Acceleration and agility are bigger issues, and it’ll be interesting to see how a summer in boot camp might improve these aspects.

    I also want to see a minimum of 1 hit per game, preferably approaching 1.5.

    Spoiler: Penner had 99 hits in 2007-08, tied with Stortini for second on the team (behind Stoll), for an average of 1.2 hits per game. His hits tended to be unspectacular but very, very solid … anybody hit by Penner stayed hit. Like you, I would like to see that average creep up to 1.5 or even 2 hits per game; a little more edge to his game would give Dustin a little more room to put those soft hands to good use.

  22. Alice says:

    //anybody hit by Penner stayed hit//
    That’s sweet.
    To the point tho, a little more edge to his game doesn’t just open up his space, it gives Hemsky some air cover too. When Regehr’s lining up his next head shot, and he sees 27, he should be thinking “Semenko”.

  23. dave says:

    There is no concerns for Penners ice time. If he loses 1st line. Cogliano loses second line. Cogliano may be on the out. Cause can MAP or Brodziak outperform him on a 3rd or 4th line role? I think possible or likely. Pretty sure we will move a young center out at the deadline.

  24. spOILer says:

    Alice: seeing 27 and thinking Semenko cracked me up.

    Bruce: Agreed, but Penner’s hit rate went up after MacT made it a mandate. I’d like to see that mandate continue (ie, not have the expectation removed), and hopefully increased.

  25. doritogrande says:


    NILS GAGN Cogliano
    Cole Pouliot PISA

    Fixed to my liking. lowercase is my take on your lines.

    I still think Cole has a chance to be effective in a third-line role, especially with two underrated offensive players in our system. It’d be a third line that could play tough opposition and outscore the opponents on a regular basis. I still see the 30-25-55 point total being suggested earlier even if he’s on that 3rd line.

  26. Bank Shot says:

    “As for centre, would you be willing to roll like this?


    I’d love to see that happen for the Oilers going forward. Unfortantly I don’t think it’s realistic either.

    Anyone remember how long the Penner at center experiment actually lasted last season? I remember only one game against Nashville with Penner centering Moreau and Pisani, and they were scored on twice by Arnott’s line in route to losing the game.

  27. RiversQ says:

    But what about it this year?

    Impressing the staff seems to go hand in hand with training in California. It even squeezed a compliment towards sugartits from MacT.

    I think this is probably true. Now did Penner decide to get in shape this offseason? He obviously wasn’t in shape last year.

    As for the centre thing I don’t recall it really. I remember Penner taking some draws but I don’t think he actually played the position.

    Truthfully I think he’d make an awful centre. The guy was incredibly bad in the neutral zone this past year – just a turnstile all year. (Well, slower than a turnstile, maybe a pylon?)

    Penner needs to get in on the forecheck and win puck battles along the wall and you can’t do that as the high man all the time. He’s Laraque with hands and a clue and it’s wasting his talent to use him in the middle.

    It’s a bad idea.

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