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An Amicus Brief In Support of Dustin Penner, Part I -- Traditional Stats

Brief of The Copper & Blue as Amicus Ludus In Support of Dustin Penner for Playing on the First Line, Part I.

Table of Contents

   1. Introduction
   2. Traditional Stats
   3. Power Play
   4. Microstats
   5. Conclusion

1.  Introduction
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 separate sets of statistics confirm the above argument.

2.  Traditional stats
Historically, hockey statistics have been based on the simple statistics found in box scores:  Goals, assists, points, penalty minutes, and beginning in the 1950's, Plus-Minus.  In recent years there has been a movement towards more granular statistics to bring game and player analysis to a new level, similar to the revolution that baseball experienced thirty years ago.  In this section, only traditional statistics are used.

Over the course of the last two seasons, Dustin Penner has played on a line with Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky in 72 games.  The results of those 72 games are broken out between '07-'08 and '08-'09 below:


When combined as a line, the Penner-Horcoff-Hemsky line produces just better than a goal per game.  The Rangers famous GAG line sent two players to the Hall Of Fame by producing at a similar rate.  Shawn Horcoff averages just under one point per game and Ales Hemsky averages just over one PPG while on a line with Dustin Penner. 

At that scoring rate, the "Horpensky" line is the 3rd most productive goal scoring line in the Western Conference:

Marleau - Thornton - Setoguchi - 94
Hossa - Datsyuk - Holmstrom - 86
Penner - Horcoff - Hemsky - 86
Franzen - Zetterberg - Samuelsson - 84
Sedin - Sedin - Burrows - 81

How do these two perform without Dustin Penner on their line?   Because Shawn Horcoff was injured to finish the '07-'08 season, the only available numbers are the '08-'09 season:


In '08-'09, Hemsky suffered a .5 PPG falloff and Horcoff falls by .4 PPG without Penner on the port side.  From the two-year average, Hemsky was off by .36 PPG and Horcoff by .43 PPG.  Over the course of a season, that amounts to 30 fewer points per season for Hemsky, and 35 fewer points per season for Horcoff.

In a broader sense, while together with Penner and Horcoff, Hemsky's scoring rate is 3rd among right wings behind Jarome Iginla and Daniel Alfredsson.  Horcoff's rate is 10th among centers.  Without Penner, Hemsky's rate is 15th among right wings and Horcoff's rate is not in the top 45 in the league among centers.

With Horcoff and Hemsky, Penner's season equivalency is 24-32-56, a rate that puts him 20th in goals and 21st in points among left wings for the '08-'09 season.

Dustin Penner may not be good enough to carry a line in the NHL.  However, to call him a complimentary player is a slight.  He's good enough that his presence allows Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky to produce as world class players and gives the Edmonton Oilers a line to match any in the Western Conference.