Hunched over, with the weight of the team on his shoulders.
At even strength [Dustin Penner] 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.
--Bruce McCurdy, Edmonton Journal on Penner's performance against Carolina. On a night when many recaps called him lazy and sluggish, Bruce chose to see the game rather than look at it and in doing so, McCurdy revealed Penner's true contribution. But it's not just the Carolina game where we see the stark contrast. 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. After the jump, a couple of stats that show just how good Penner has been this season.
Take a look at relative Corsi, courtesy the ever-vigilant Gabriel Desjardins of behindthenet.ca:
Penner has picked up where he left off last season. He's way out in front of this group. 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. Paajarvi's number is worth noting.
Below is a WOWY comparison of scoring chances, courtesy Dennis King of MC79hockey.com. Unfortunately, there is an issue with the tracker for the last two games, so they are not included. The left most side of the tale is chances for, chances against and chances percentage with the top nine left wings, the right side of the table is the same data without those left wings.
|With Penner||Without Penner|
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.
|With Hall||Without Hall|
If you'd like to see a line meshing well together, checking out the 4-10-14 line. Horcoff is .593 with Hall, Eberle is .560. Without him, Horcoff falls to .429 and Eberle to .433.
|With Paajarvi||Without Paajarvi|
Every single forward is better without Paajarvi and by a significant amount. It's a shame that Steve Tambellini has clogged the bench spots with Steve MacIntyre and an injured J.F. Jacques -- this would be an ideal time to see how Liam Reddox or Linus Omark would fit onto the big club.
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.
Update: Jonathan Willis at Oilers Nation looks at Penner's scoring rates and sees that his performance hasn't fallen off.