Dean Lombardi: "Dither thither whither hither...oh, and by the way --"


I remember a couple of years ago, when Dustin Penner's stock was down a bit, there was a rumor regarding Penner for Dustin Brown, a prospect and a 1st. In my memory, which may be faulty, that prospect was Colten Teubert. Might have been Thomas Hickey. I can't find the article or my post on the article (damn archives!), but I'm pretty sure my memory is close to accurate on this. I bring up this bit of (possibly misremembered) ancient history because every trade deadline reminds me that what I think is likely to happen (or what anyone else thinks) never seems to have much connection to reality.

I would put today's trade -- Penner for Teubert, a 1st round pick and a conditional 3rd round pick -- in the same magical category as Ryan Smyth for an albatross and a waiver-wire pick-up. In both cases, if you told me Smyth/Penner is the player coming our way, I wouldn't have been anywhere near the ball-park in guessing what we gave up.

There has been a lot of yammering about how the Kings weren't going to get Penner or Ales Hemsky without giving up Brayden Schenn. Obviously, Kings fans were pretty certain Schenn wasn't going anywhere for a trade not involving a superstar. But there's a lot of ground between Penner for Schenn and Penner for Teubert and two picks. From the Kings' point-of-view, there's a world of difference. Schenn is expected to be a third-line center next year. Teubert, at best, would be fighting for a roster spot with Jake Muzzin in a couple of years, and a year or so later he'd have to deal with Derek Forbort and Kevin Gravel. I have no doubt (unlike some impatient people) that Teubert will have an NHL career when he develops, and defensemen are generally slow to develop (or they used to be). But the fact is, for the Kings, Teubert was half of a possibility a couple of seasons down the road. Schenn was and is a virtual certainty in 2011-12.

If I were the Edmonton GM, after Schenn, I would ask for Wayne Simmonds, then Kyle Clifford, then Andrei Loktionov, then Jonathan Bernier, then Viatcheslav Voynov, then Tyler Toffoli, then Forbort, then Martin Jones, then Oscar Moller, then Nicolas Deslauriers, then Maxim Kitsyn, then Muzzin, then Linden Vey, and then Teubert. Probably Steve Tambellini didn't want some of those guys, but is there any way Teubert was higher than tenth on the wish list?

Over the years, the Copper and the Blue has done some great writing on the topic of Dustin Penner. Here are some links and tidbits (from CatB and other places). Good stuff. I'll box up some quotes here, but follow the links.

An Amicus Brief In Support of Dustin Penner - The Copper & Blue
The Edmonton Oilers failed to make the playoffs for the third straight year in 2008-2009. Craig MacTavish, an ineffective and overmatched coach for the entire season, unfairly used Dustin Penner as a scapegoat throughout the year. Because MacTavish was outcoached by virtually the entire league, Penner was made to suffer, when in fact, he should have been on the first line for the entire season, playing with Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky. Three seperate sets of statistics confirm the above argument.

Dustin Penner Shouldering The Load Again - The Copper & Blue
Penner has been delivering results and pushing the play since the beginning of the season, however, like in previous years, Penner is starting to take heat from the media and many average fans.[...]

Penner has picked up where he left off last season. [follow link for charts showing Penner greatness in various stats] It should be noted that Hemsky led the team by a large margin when Penner was on his line. Since Penner's demotion, Hemsky and Gagner have been ineffective in either end of the rink.

[...] Hemsky's chance percentage with Penner is .596, Gagner's is .563. Without, they fall to .364 and .208 respectively. Cogliano is even in chances with Penner and .400 without. Brule is one short of even with Penner and .347 without him. [...]

Though this isn't Amicus Brief Part II, the numbers don't lie. Penner's performance has not waned compared to last season, rather Penner has remained the one Oiler to be counted on to move the puck in the right direction and keep it in the zone. It's not often a fan base spends so much time complaining about the team's best player, especially when that player is out there killing it.

Dustin Penner: Perception And Performance | OilersNation
The fat jokes and the comments about entitlement disappeared last season as Dustin Penner put in a remarkable performance for a miserable club – exploding in the early going and then settling into a role as the club’s only bona fide offensive player down the stretch. Just over a dozen games into 2010-11, Penner hasn’t put up the same shiny scoring totals, and the comments have started to creep back into the picture. [...]

His ice-time at even-strength this year has been drastically reduced, largely due to the influx of rookie talent and the desire to give them NHL minutes, but Penner’s still scoring at nearly the same rate as last season, and the puck is still generally in the right end of the rink when he’s on the ice. Here’s a quick look at Penner’s 5-on-5 scoring rates as an Oiler, as well as his relative Corsi [follow link for charts]. [...]

Anything above 2.0 is a really good 5-on-5 scoring rate – between 2.14 and 2.18 so far this season we find Penner, Patrick Kane, Jason Arnott, Cory Stillman, Daniel Alfredsson, Scott Hartnell and Tuomo Ruutu. Heck, in the early going on any given even-strength shift Penner has been more likely to record a point than Alexander Ovechkin (2.10 PTS/60) or Evgeni Malkin (2.07 PTS/60).

While I certainly don’t expect Penner to be ahead of those two at the end of the season, I do think it’s fair to say that his scoring at even-strength has been just fine. Penner’s goal-scoring hasn’t been a problem either – he’s on pace for 32, the same number as last year. I think a big part of the problem is the style Penner plays. He doesn’t look impressive; big men always seem to look slow and Penner can appear sluggish out on the ice. Take the game against Carolina as an example. I was less than thrilled with his performance, and Robin Brownlee was in the same boat. But then I read this tidbit from Bruce McCurdy:

At even strength was on the ice for 21 attempted shots by the Oilers, just 8 for the 'Canes; and was on the bench for 18 attempted shots for the Oilers, 37 for the 'Canes. Read that again, and then tell me Penner had a bad game against the Hurricanes.

In other words, with Penner on the ice the Oilers had an almost 3:1 advantage in shots, and with him off the ice they were getting outshot more than 2:1. That’s craziness, and it’s why he always has such a good Corsi rating – the Oilers spend lots of time in the offensive zone when he’s on the ice [...] And personally, I’ll take visually unappealing but effective over flashy and ineffective every day of the week.

This one's a couple of years old. I include it because I like the phrase "cryptically good numbers."

Hockey Prospectus | The Plus and Minus of Plus/Minus
[T]ake a player's +/- production and subtract from it what happens when he's not on the ice. In other words, generate a plus/minus relative to his team. [...] [follow link for chart]

[W]e still see the top Bruins and Wings, but we also see players who've had dominant (and generally unsung) seasons for bad or mediocre teams, like Mark Streit. Perhaps the most interesting player on the Corsi list is the much-maligned Dustin Penner, who has continually failed to live up to expectations in Edmonton despite posting cryptically good numbers on a regular basis.