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Dustin Penner Must Carry The Oilers And Everything Old Is New Again

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Photo by: Mike Powell via <a href="">Wikimedia Commons</a>, Creative Commons License
Photo by: Mike Powell via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons License

It was just about this time last season when Dustin Penner's hot start convinced people of at least some portion of his relative worth.  The late adopters of The Penner Effect witnessed Penner, Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky playing high-level hockey when Pat Quinn wasn't forcing Hemsky to play with J.F. Jacques.  His performance this season compared to his performance in his first 27 games in 2009-2010 isn't nearly as impressive.

2009-2010 15 15 30 19.91 5
2010-2011 9 8 17 17.77 3


Penner's start this year hasn't been as strong by the traditional counting stats, but he's been the second-best forward on the team to this point considering his defensive zone play and penalty killing.  Penner has also been the lynchpin for every player on the roster except Taylor Hall, Shawn Horcoff and Jordan Eberle who combined to form their own effective even strength line.  Now that Hemsky is out until the New Year and Horcoff is out until St. Patrick's Day, Penner will have to carry the team again.

Who will Penner play with and which forward position will he play?  After the jump we look at some possibilities.

Until Hemsky comes back, the options are bleak.  Bleak being the same as last year but with an even worse Islanders team pinning down and surrounding the number one overall pick and the Devils closing in on the second overall pick.  Tanking for a draft pick is much more difficult when the highest pick available isn't one of the first two.

Last year's line of Penner - Andrew Cogliano - Gilbert Brule immediately becomes the Oilers first line, both offensively and defensively.  Like Penner last season, this line, at least for the next month, is going to be called upon to score, outscore and handle the tough competition opposing coaches will throw at it.  The rest of the forward group will fill in around Penner's line and attempt to hold their own even though they may have a younger average age than some AHL teams.

However, I wonder if Tom Renney isn't better off moving Brule back to center.  Brule can at least win faceoffs and sheltering Cogliano is never a bad thing.  Penner has proven the ability to carry a line, even against tough minutes and it's possible he would be able to carry even Magnus Paajarvi.

Penner - Brule - Paajarvi 
Hall - Gagner - Eberle
Omark - Cogliano - Jones
O`Marra - Fraser  - Stortini

I've read some suggestions that Penner move to center with the Swedish contingent, but this leaves Gagner exposed to some extremely difficult minutes, an assignment the young line is not ready for.

Hall - Gagner - Eberle
Omark - Penner - Paajarvi 
Jones - Cogliano - Brule
O`Marra - Fraser  - Stortini

While it keeps Ryan Jones, Cogliano and Brule sheltered, It doesn't solve the fact that the Oilers needed two real NHL forwards prior to the season and now need four.