If Dustin Penner thought he and Craig MacTavish were a marriage made in hell here, how about Los Angeles Kings’ GM Dean Lombardi, who was so unenamoured of Dustin’s play in the playoffs he took a major rip at the one-time Oiler winger. [the beer league comment from several days ago.] The Lombardi shot sounds worse than MacTavish throwing up his hands in November, 2008, when he asked about sitting out Penner, in the second year of his five-year $4.25 million a season deal.
"We thought his contract was the starting point. He believes it’s the finish line. He’s never been fit enough for us. I can’t watch him for another two and a half years," said MacT. MacT was exasperated, but Lombardi’s level of frustration has grown much faster than the former Oiler coach’s.
As it turned out, MacT was gone after the 2008-2009 season. Pat Quinn coaxed the best year of Penner’s NHL life out of him. Last year, coach Tom Renney liked Penner, and spoke highly of his compete level, but the team traded him after 62 games for Colten Teubert and a No. 1 pick this June (No. 19). He had two goals in 19 league games and a goal and an assist in six playoff games when he sometimes found himself on the fourth line. He has one year left on that $4.25 million a year, and he is at the crossroads as Lombardi says.
Make no mistake, Penner has lots of ability. He is a big man, over 240 pounds. He is a handful, when the spirit moves him. He could be like Johan Franzen in Detroit, but he has to look in the mirror. The question is this: he is 29 years old in September. Can a leopard change his spots? He’s not a kid any longer. That $4.25 million won’t be there in 2012-2013 if he struggles next year, too. [...] When your new GM is already calling you out, a few months after sticking his neck out to trade for you, that is not good, Dustin. Like I said, it’s a shame, because Penner has soft hands for a big guy, he can win face-offs when called upon, and when he’s engaged in the battle, he’s tough.