Brief of The Copper & Blue as Amicus Ludus In Support of Dustin Penner for Playing on the First Line, Part I.
Table of Contents
2. Traditional Stats
3. Power Play
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.
No matter the type of statistic used to analyze Dustin Penner's performance over the last two years, the fact remains clear that he has been a superior performer, especially on the first line. His effect on his teammates is marked, and his effect on special teams is noticeable. Below is a summary of each of the three types of statistics analyzed for this brief.
A. Traditional Stats
On the first line, Penner's season equivalency is 24G-32A-56P, a rate that puts him 20th in goals and 21st in points among left wings for the '08-'09 season.
Over a full season, 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
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.
B. Power Play
Penner outpaced all other forwards for the Edmonton Oilers and the power play was most productive when he was on the ice. Only Ales Hemsky gets similar numbers out of his time on the ice with a man advantage. in 07-08, the Oilers lost Sheldon Souray to injury. The power play did not focus on shots by defensemen, rather it was a more distributed system amongst the forwards. Dustin Penner produced 22 power play points and a GFON/60 of 7.13. In 08-09, in a system where the puck was distributed to the defensemen, Penner's traditional production slumped, but the team was just as effective while he was on the ice due to his play low in the offensive zone.
Ales Hemsky suffers a .5 even strength goals for per game falloff when not on the ice with Dustin Penner.
Hemsky without Dustin Penner scores, at even strength, at the same rate as Richard Park and Blake Comeau of the New York Islanders. With Dustin Penner, Hemsky scores at a rate similar to Sidney Crosby.
Over each of the last two seasons there are only three forwards with a better even strength scoring rate than Ales Hemsky while Dustin Penner is on the ice. Those men are Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin, and Alex Ovechkin.
Shawn Horcoff suffers a .3 even strength goals for per game falloff when not on the ice with Dustin Penner.
Horcoff without Dustin Penner scores, at even strength, at the same rate as David Perron and Pascal Dupuis. With Dustin Penner, Hemsky scores at a rate similar to Johan Franzen and Martin St. Louis.
Over each of the last two seasons there are only nine forwards with a better even strength scoring rate than Shawn Horcoff while Dustin Penner is on the ice. Those men are Jason Arnott, Nicklas Backstrom, Sidney Crosby, Pavel Datsyuk, Ales Hemsky with Dustin Penner, Jarome Iginla, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, and Corey Perry.
In 2008-2009, the Penner-Horcoff-Hemsky line appeared in 39 games together (this does not mean that they played the entire game together). During that time, the line scored 21 ES goals and gave up 5 ES goals. For the rest of the season, when playing together on a line without Dustin Penner, Horcoff and Hemsky scored 14 ES goals and gave up 17 ES goals.
In those 39 games, the Penner-Horcoff-Hemsky outshot the opponent 174-110 (+64). Without Dustin Penner, the Horcoff-Hemsky line was outshot 208-222 (-14).
When measuring scoring chances for and scoring chances against, Dustin Penner had the largest differential on the team, and outpaces those with similar defensive loads. Penner leads the Edmonton Oilers in scoring chances for while on the ice for the power play, besting noted power play ace Ales Hemsky.
On the current version of the Edmonton Oilers, Dustin Penner acts as a catalyst. Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky are outstanding players, but when they are on a line with Dustin Penner, they perform as one of the best lines in the league. Penner's own body of work is not superstar-like on the surface, but a deeper look into the numbers and the numbers of his teammates shows that there is a reaction when he's on the ice. His size creates space for his linemates by attracting the attention of the defense and allows Horcoff and Hemsky to move more freely in the offensive zone. His presence in front of the net makes the power play more effective by screening the goalie during the Oilers point-heavy attack as well as keeping the defensemen lower in the zone and giving Ales Hemsky space to create opportunities. His ability to battle on the boards and hold the pick in deep takes the puck handling workload off of Ales Hemsky and creates more scoring opportunities than any other Oiler.
The statistics used in the first three parts of this brief lead to one indisputable fact: the Edmonton Oilers are a stunningly better team when Dustin Penner steps onto the ice with the first line.