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Dust-In the (Trade) Winds

by Bob Stauffer / Edmonton Oilers
Dustin Penner

If ever there was an Oiler who would appreciate a play-on words to the Kansas song that got a second life from the Will Ferrell movie “Old School” it would be Dustin Penner.

This is, after all, a man with a dry wit and a great sense of humour, who handled a tumultuous 3 ½ year run here in Edmonton with a tremendous amount class; despite receiving never-ending criticism on several fronts.

Penner’s tenure with the Edmonton Oilers ended abruptly today as he was moved to the L.A. Kings in the biggest move on trade deadline day. The Oilers return is more than fair: Colten Teubert - a hard rock defenceman who was selected 13th overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, the Kings first round pick in 2011, and conditional pick in 2012.

The trade was met with mixed reviews from the fans I spoke with on “Oilers Lunch” on the Team 1260, and the time I spent with Dan Tencer on 630 CHED.

This does not surprise me, because there has always been a fair amount of debate when it comes to Dustin Penner.

There shouldn’t be, but there always has been.

At the time that then-Oilers General Manager Kevin Lowe signed Penner to the RFA Offer sheet in the summer of 2007, I fully endorsed the move in a column I wrote in the Edmonton Sun and suggested on-air that Penner would outscore the recently departed Ryan Smyth over the course of the deal.

As Penner heads off to join Smyth in L.A. he has 93 goals and Smyth 84. Penner has been the healthier of the two players for sure but he has not had the privilege of playing with Anze Kopitar the last couple of seasons, either.

And speaking of the last two seasons, Penner has scored 53 goals for a last place team in the NHL. Only 14 wingers in the league have scored more.

The $4.25 M per season cap hit that Penner received with the RFA offer sheet from Lowe was lambasted by several around the hockey world including the blustery Brian Burke.

The same Burke who dragged his heels to work on a deal for Penner who contributed to the Anaheim Ducks winning the 2007 Stanley Cup; while signing Todd Bertuzzi to a two-year deal at a cool four million per year.

The Ducks would buy out Bertuzzi after one season.

Based upon Penner’s production as an Oiler, $4.25 M per year turned out to be a fair deal.
Edmonton Oilers right wing Dustin Penner, right, scores on Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier, left, during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Los Angeles, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Jason Redmond)
There are warts in Penner’s game. He does appear to lack passion and seem disinterested at times, but I think he was misunderstood by a large percentage of the fans, most of the media and even some of the coaches he has had here in Edmonton.

Sometimes you have to accept that players are who they are.

Penner is more like a European big man in basketball than a power-forward in hockey.
He uses his brains on the ice, lets the puck do the work and does not exert energy when unnecessary.

Granted he picked his spots in terms of playing physically, but that is part of the reason he missed so few games over the last four years.

The times when he did fight were to usually defend his smaller teammates just ask Ales Hemsky, Sam Gagner and Linus Omark.

By his own admission on “Oilers Lunch” today Penner admitted the past two seasons were quite enjoyable here in Edmonton.

That is a good thing because we all know that he spent a lot of time in the first two seasons here in Edmonton in former Oilers Head Coach Craig MacTavish’s dog house.

But now the big man will ply his trade back in Southern California.

My hope is the deal is a win-win for both organizations. The Kings are a playoff calibre team that has found a left winger to play with Kopitar.

The Oilers, meanwhile, will have young tough prospect on the back-end in Teubert to groom slowly and Head Amateur Scout Stu “The Magnificent Bastard” MacGregor will have another bullet on draft day.

The Oilers players, meanwhile, learn to live without Dustin. They will also have to find a new player to pick out the movies on the plane.

Pretty sure we might see “Old School” one more time.
Bob Stauffer is Colour Analyst for the Edmonton Oilers Radio Network and Host of Oilers Lunch on the Team 1260
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