Dustin Penner, 45 Years Ago

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Lowetide often mentions Frank Mahovlich when he's writing about Dustin Penner.  Mahovlich, the big winger that wore Penner's same number 27 for the Maple Leafs, Canadiens and Red Wings, had many similar physical traits to Penner.  He had a long, loping stride, he was dominant on the boards in the offensive zone and was never afraid to stand in front of the net.  Both men can and  could play center when called upon and both men were and are under-rated defensive players.

There was another physical trait that the two shared.  From the CBC biography of Mahovlich:

Leaf Coach Punch Imlach was a stern taskmaster, who considered the Big M’s fluid style a sign of laziness. The tyrannical coach made Mahovlich his whipping boy, putting him through punishing workouts.

Mahovlich's "laziness" scored 533 goals in the NHL and accumulated 1103 career points.  Talk to some old-time Maple Leaf fans and to this day they will still bring up the fact that Mahovlich was slow or lazy and that he was carried by better men like Red Kelly, Alex Delvecchio and Gordie Howe.  That he averaged 30 goals per year for 18 years on three different teams is a matter of finding himself with some great linemates, apparently.

Not only do the two players have similar physical characteristics, but Mahovlich and Penner have are also tied together in that they are both independent, free-thinking, witty and often run up against the hockey machine.  Mahovlich is famous for his holdout in Toronto, one that irreparably damaged his already dented relationship with Punch Imlach.  Penner is famous for signing an offer-sheet and moving from a Stanley Cup team to the Oilers.  Imlach thought Mahovlich was lazy and tried to work the laziness out of him. Penner is thought of as lazy and unmotivated and faced the scorn of Randy Carlyle and Craig MacTavish.  Mahovlich had to deal with Imlach bad-mouthing him to the press, often to the point of rage.  Penner spent a year under siege in the media at the hand of Craig MacTavish.  Mahovlich was trashed in the media because his coaches and management turned on him.  Penner has been trashed in the media because MacTavish turned on him. 

Even though both men were and are highly productive wingers, neither of them can win for winning.  Once the hockey establishment turns on you, the mouthpiece media is quick to follow.  In both of these cases, it was a case of management playing wag the dog.  Don't mind that we're not doing well, look at that guy.  Doesn't he look slow and lazy?

The physical similarities are striking, especially when you watch the videos below.  First is a video of Mahovlich.  I've started it :30 in so that you can see his warm up video.  He looks like a bird of prey, swooping around the ice in long, graceful movements, yet he's moving quickly.  Like Lowetide said:

The little men of the world always look like they're putting out maximum effort (Tie Domi looked like he was passing a kidney stone in full stride), while men like Dustin Penner (with long strides that often look plodding) are easy targets based on visual evidence.

 

 

And here's the video of Penner's breakaway goal against the Avalanche.

Note that Penner doesn't seem to be putting much effort into his stride, yet neither Brett Clark nor Kyle Cumiskey, both of whom are skating furiously, sticks everywhere, legs flailing and arms akimbo, could get close.  Fans that characterize Penner as "lazy" or "unmotivated" should remember this video.  Penner looks like he's out for a Sunday stroll, yet he's easily outpacing the defensemen on the ice.

Remember that article I wrote about groupthink and confirmation bias?  Edmonton fans and media types that have pounded Penner for on-ice sloth are perfect examples of the above.  The next time someone says something about Penner in that vein, remember that the same types of people said those same things about Frank freakin' Mahovlich.

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