The Big P

This is Peter Mahovlich. During his NHL career he was an odd duck. In the 1966-67 season the Detroit Red Wings wanted to send him down but he couldn’t go to the AHL without being exposed to waivers. In one of many ridiculous rule changes for “need” over the years, the NHL simply (with approval from Toronto who also needed to option out a player) changed the rule to state that Mahovlich could not return for that season or he would be exposed to waivers.

Always fun to play a game where you can change the rules at will. The NHL still does this all the time. It’s Mickey Mouse.

Mahovlich as a player took quite some time to develop. His first season pro saw a lot of time on the bench in Detroit (34 games, 1 goal before being sent down in the “historic” transaction mentioned above) but he scored 20 in 42 games in the minors at age 21 to give some indication about his future. Called up during that season, Mahovlich scored 6-4-10 in 15 games.

Detroit sent him down one more time at age 22 (68-69) and he was traded to Montreal with Bart Crashley for Garry Monahan and Doug Piper – June 6, 1969.

In my youth watching the Montreal Canadiens procure talent was an awesome yet terrible thing, like a Regina thunderstorm in summer or a photo of Geddy Lee. They always had 10 draft picks in the top 30 and because of it almost all of their talent was homegrown. Their are 20 names that appear for the Habs 75-76 Stanley Cup team and 19 of them played in the Montreal system before NHL arrival.

The one exception was Peter Mahovlich. He was a big man, the biggest actual player in the NHL during his career (Phil Esposito was big, but was 4 inches shorter than Mahovlich) but he had all kinds of skills associated with smaller players. Peter Mahovlich could pass the puck very well, stick handle through traffic, skated pretty well and developed a patented move where he split the D and managed to get a (very good) shot on goal. This move combined tremendous reach, brute strength and dogged determination. It did not involve surprise (which I’ve read from time to time when discussions of this particular move come up) since he did it fairly often and was known during his career for being effective with it.

I’m a big fan of comps. Comparables. It is a really good way to find the “outer marker” for a specific player. Among the comps we’ve talked about on this blog over the years are Ales Hemsky (Rick Middleton), Rob Schremp (Ron Chipperfield and Robert Nilsson), Sam Gagner (I prefer Vincent Damphousse but others have suggested Doug Gilmour), JF Jacques (Mike Bloom), Andrew Cogliano (Butch Goring), Kyle Brodziak (Jarret Stoll), Riley Nash (Chris Higgins), Marc Pouliot (Jarret Stoll).

I have (twice) discussed comps for Dustin Penner. They are here and here. In the Matheson post I said “we should be thinking in terms of a Pete Mahovlich “one in several hundred” comp as opposed to a clear connection between Bertuzzi, LeClair and Dustin Penner. “

I think that’s exactly right. Because he didn’t come up through the usual channels we had a hard time marking him early and because he put up numbers upon NHL arrival (at an older age) there aren’t too many obvioius comps there either. He took a different route and it makes comparing him troublesome.

Here are the numbers for each player at the end of their 25-year old seasons:

  1. Dustin Penner 183gp, 56-43-99 .541ppg
  2. Pete Mahovlich 274gp, 88-76-164 .599ppg

Mahovlich is superior in each category but we need to factor in the quality of team, etc. It seems to me that describing Dustin Penner as “Mahovlich-lite” is just about the best comparison available to us at this time.

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13 Responses to "The Big P"

  1. Gord says:

    Penner / Mahovlich / Andreychuk all played similar styles…

    That people use Bertuzzi (a power forward that crushes people) as a comparable to Penner is beyond me…

  2. Lowetide says:

    Andreychuk was certainly the slowest of that group. He was also extremely successful at a very hih level before age 20.

  3. Bruce says:

    LT: Comparables are never perfect, but I like Mike Krushelnyski as a comp for Penner. Both are/were of that class of power forwards who don’t particularly “Krush” people, but use their strength and reach to control the puck while fending off defenders. Players of this type are not usually speed demons but invariably are faster than they look.

    Krushelnyski was capable of playing wing or centre, spent some time on both special teams, was useful in the circle and was reliable at both ends of the ice. However, some fans hated him because he didn’t Krush people all the time, and even when he was working hard — which was usually, but not always — he gave the appearance of not breaking much of a sweat. He applied and absorbed pressure, rather than punishment. Penner has many similar attributes/liabilities, and will always have his critics who will accuse him of never doing enough with that gigantic body.

    After his 25 y.o. season Krushelnyski was superior statistically at 296 GP, 110-134-244, 0.824 PPG; but he came along at a time when players generally started younger, league-wide scoring was way up, and of course he had one huge year on a line with Gretzky and Kurri and another damn fine one mostly playing with Pederson and Middleton. It’s to be expected their stats are less comparable than the players themselves.

  4. Cloned says:

    RIP Alexei Cherepanov. Shocking news really (if true). Goes to show how we shouldn’t take anything for granted, and that goes beyond hockey.

  5. Jonathan says:

    And David Staples wins another convert…

  6. Lowetide says:

    Convert? To what? I didn’t mention errors once?

  7. Dennis says:

    The problem with Penner isn’t what he does on the ice: it’s the picks he cost plus the fact he’s ~ 2mill overpaid a season; give or take around 500K.

  8. Paper Designer says:

    You do realize that four million in today’s NHL doesn’t net you much more than a twenty goal scorer these days?

    Wait to see what his role is on this team. He may end up on a scoring line yet. If he’s around twenty five goals, the deal is fair. If he’s past thirty, it’s a borderline steal for the Oilers.

  9. dstaples says:

    Only a fool would think he could change anyone’s mind — or convert anyone — here on the Free-thinking Oilogosphere, Jonathan.

    And I’m no fool, just a lunatic.

    P.S. I wish the Mahovlich comparable were true, but I believe the Krusher comparable is likely more accurate. It’s so true that Penner frustrates fans in the same way Krusher did. I think, though, that Penner does have a bit more speed than Krusher, so here’s hoping he really is the Lost Mahovlich.

  10. Lowetide says:

    I think Mahovlich is a better “outer marker” which is the idea of a comp. Krushelnyski had a long career but only a few good offensive seasons:

    Mahovlich: 884gp, 288-485-773 .874
    Krush: 897gp, 241-328-569 .634

    Penner’s ppg (.636) is on par with Krushelnyski’s now and he’s not at his peak season PLUS these are different scoring era’s we’re talking about here.

    Penner’s a better offensive player than Krushelnyski, I’m pretty confident of it.

  11. Dennis says:

    PD: I guess it’s up to each particular org how they spend their money but 27 was given ~ 4 mill a season back when the cap was lower than what it is now.

    And if you’re giving every 20 goal scorer 4 mill, you won’t have a lot of room left.

  12. Coach pb9617 says:

    If you piece together the Penner that finally got comfortable on the top line prior to Horcoff’s injury with the Penner that was a Bull on the boards during the stretch run with the Penner that was the best PK on the ice last night as well as a fly in the ointment — you can see all of his outer markers.

  13. Doogie2K says:

    @LT: I see I’m a day late to the party, but I heard a quote from Lowe last weekend that also made me think of Krushelnyski, at least as you and Bruce have described him.

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