RE 10-11: Dustin Penner

Today begins our “reasonable expectations” series. In the next 30 days or so, I’ll go through the expected roster and ask a few questions about each player’s season, how their role may change, how the coach might use them and then attempt to set a reasonable line in the sand for 10-11 performance.

Much of the groundwork for these posts was done earlier in the year and I apologize if some of the material appears to be familiar. It is. Having said that, we appear to have a clearer picture now about roster makeup and the 10-11 Oilers.

We begin this season where we left off last year: somewhat in awe of Dustin Penner.

On August 4 last year, I posted the following on Penner and expectations: The curse of the big man in hockey is that his stride makes him look lazy. A little imp like Tie Domi used to excite the crowd with choppy little strides and a grimace, while Dustin Penner looks like he is lollygagging or that the wind just blew him in the right direction. Dustin Penner looks (like Peter Mahovlich and Joe Thornton and many others) like there should be another gear.

Whatever his failures–real or imagined–Dustin Penner is a helluva hockey player. Much of the season was spent with suspects to his left and right, but the big man performed admirably. Dustin Penner is a quality NHL player.

•Boxcars: 82gp, 32-31-63
•Shots: 203
•Plus Minus: +6
•Corsi (Rel): 17.0 (1st F)
•GF/GA ON: 58-48
•5×5/60: 2.40 (1st F)
•5×4/60: 3.93 (3rd F)
•Quality of Competition: 7th F
•Quality of Teammates: 3rd F
•FO Percentage: 47.6% in 420FO’s
•OZone FO %: 45.6 (3rd toughest F)
•Cap Hit: $4.25M

All references in terms of secondary numbers are courtesy Desjardins. Penner’s 5×5 SP was .909, meaning he was a little more fortunate in this area than his mates. You may notice some of the numbers have been altered from the last time, it looks like our friend Gabriel has been tweaking.

  1. What do these numbers tell is? Penner was the best player on the team by enough that we can absolutely conclude he was the straw that stirred the drink. It is giggle worthy that all of the other forwards performance numbers spike when placed on his line and despite some dry stretches Penner was far and away the outstanding player for the 10-11 Oilers. I can’t imagine his point total if Hemsky had been healthy the entire season.
  2. How Could these numbers be better? According to Gabriel, Penner didn’t play the toughest minutes (Pisani, Horcoff, Moreau) over the season. However, much of that measurement surely took place later in the season when Pat Quinn gave in and devoted a “checking line” to the tougher opposition. Previous to that, and certainly on the road all season, Dustin Penner was the only game in town for the opposition to focus on. I don’t think we can be too critical based on results. It goes without saying 83′s injury impacted his final boxcars.
  3. Did Quinn help him? I think Quinn did help Penner in that earlier in the season OTC rolled 4 lines and that gave the big man some opportunities. On the other hand, he played some tough opposition and crushed them (I’m thinking specifically of a game very late in the season against Dallas when the big man went Buford Pusser on the Stars’ ass).
  4. Why did Quinn break up the Horcoff-Penner-Hemsky combo? Penner, Horcoff and Hemsky did play together early but injuries and ineffective play meant shakeup early on. Horcoff’s ability to play well away from the puck combined with awful puck luck meant he was utilized in a more defensive role and Penner was relied on to produce an offensive line nightly. I don’t really know anyone who would have thought their roles should be reversed. After Hemsky went down, they were the two best F’s on the roster and the coaching staff (eventually) got around to using their strengths.
  5. So it was a great season. Do you think MacT lit a fire under his ass? I’ve never bought that. I’m a MacT guy but his comments were beyond the pale and I think a clear sign the coach had been too long at the fair. Dustin Penner isn’t a buzzsaw, if he was (at his size) he’d be dead. It goes back to the quote at the beginning of this post, Penner never looks like he’s giving max effort but buddy is moving. Guys his size are more effective using their strength to remove players from the puck and Penner had a wonderful season in that regard, especially in the opposition end.
  6. Will he play center in 10-11? I’ve been thinking about this for awhile and I’m hoping they keep him at LW. The C job is complicated in all kinds of ways, mostly in your end and Penner (although improved) isn’t exactly Mike Peca in terms of read and react. Why not play to his strengths? I’ve watched some crazy moves in my time (“Tim Raines can play second base!” or “JF Jacques should play on the top line!”) and moving Penner to C wouldn’t be the craziest; however, Penner has proven that he can impact the offense playing LW so its probably a good idea to find a solution to the problem elsewhere.
  7. What line should he play on? Ideally you’d have the depth elsewhere to run a Horcoff-Penner-Hemsky trio, but there doesn’t look to be enough (and that’s being kind) depth on the current roster. I’d place him with Gagner and run the kids through to see if there’s any chem. If there isn’t, then Brule (if he isn’t a center) might be a nice match.
  8. What will Renney do? Play the living shit out of him. Seriously. Renney had Jagr over 6 minutes on the PP early in his time coaching the Rangers, and Straka, Nylander and Rucinsky were close to 5. I’d guess Hemsky, Penner and someone like Brule or Hall will get mondo PP minutes. Now that I think of it, they’ll probably give all the top rookies some chances on the powerplay (Hall, Pääjärvi, Eberle) to see what they can do.
  9. What about EVs? Penner played 14 minutes a night at even-strength last season. Renney isn’t going to roll 4 lines with MacIntyre and Jacques in the lineup so that number is likely to increase a little, with Penner heading toward 20 minutes a night overall.
  10. What about PK? I think he’d be good at it, but would think the Oilers can find someone less central to the offense to use in that role. Penner spent 1:15 a night on the PK last season.
  11. Will they trade Penner? Renney likes the big skill guys, so I think Penner gets a strong contract offer as he heads to free agency in 2012. However, if someone comes calling at the deadline with an overpay ST would be a fool to turn a blind eye. Penner will be 28 on opening night, so the club needs to decide if he is part of the future sometime in the next 12 months.
  12. Where will he be opening night 2010-11? Starts the game, with 10 and 83.

By The Numbers

•06-07 5×5 per 60m: 1.92
•07-08 5×5 per 60m: 1.34
•08-09 5×5 per 60m: 1.71
•09-10 5×5 per 60m: 2.43

By The Numbers

•06-07 5×4 per 60m: 4.01
•07-08 5×4 per 60m: 4.07
•08-09 5×4 per 60m: 3.15
•09-10 5×4 per 60m: 3.97

Predictions Past 2009-10: 80gp, 20-21-41 (.513 per game)
Performance in 2009-10: 82gp, 32-31-63 (.769 per game)

Prediction for 2010-11: 81gp, 35-35-70 (.864)
Penner delivers an actual Frank Mahovlich season

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