MacTavish slams Penner's poor performance, attitude

 

Edmonton Oilers coach Craig MacTavish took the gloves off today and drilled winger Dustin Penner with a verbal roundhouse right to the kisser. “When we signed Dustin we thought he’d be a top-two-line player,” said MacTavish as the team prepares to face the Detroit Red Wings on Monday night.

 
 
 
 
 

DETROIT - Edmonton Oilers coach Craig MacTavish took the gloves off today and drilled winger Dustin Penner with a verbal roundhouse right to the kisser.

“When we signed Dustin we thought he’d be a top-two-line player,” said MacTavish as the team prepares to face the Detroit Red Wings on Monday night.

“We thought the contract ($4.25 million average for five years) was a starting point for him, but he views it as a finish line. I can’t watch it, certainly not for another 2 1/2 years,” he said.

Actually, it’s 3 1/2 years.

Penner, who got a detention Saturday and wasn’t part of the Oilers class in their game against Colorado, likely won’t play again against the Wings tonight unless the unhappy coach has a change of heart at the morning skate.

He has some major fences to rebuild with his coach, who hasn’t liked the winger’s competitive fire, which has been a flicker, according to MacTavish, or his stats (he’s only scored in two games).

Penner may have been stung by MacTavish’s comments but didn’t dispute anything he was saying.

“It’s time for me to bring that part of my game (competitiveness) up … that’s a part of my game that’s always been harder for me to attain,” said Penner. “I have to take the right steps.”

He led the Oilers in goals last year with 23 (13 on the power play), bouncing back after major questions about his conditioning in the early going. He showed up at camp this September fitter than he’d ever been and had two goals in the first game of the regular season against Colorado. But he’s only had one since, and he was playing on the third line when MacTavish, looking to make changes, yanked him on Saturday.

Penner has certainly heard knocks on his game before.

“The path I took (to the NHL) was unique,” said Penner, who was cut from kids’ teams as a youngster, never played major junior, went to a small U.S. school on a look-see, then managed to crack the University of Maine lineup, before finally being signed by the Anaheim Ducks.

“There was a lot of hardship leading up playing in the minors where I had a point and a half a game, then getting to Anaheim and winning the Cup, then coming to Edmonton with the big contract.

“What I have to do is figure how I got here and how can I reapply myself to where they want me to be and, more importantly, where I want to be.”

MacTavish said he’s not in good enough condition, which brought a perplexed look from Penner.

“My (fitness) tests were better this year than last. But I guess you can always be in better shape.”

Penner is the classic big body. He’s not a punishing hitter and not a fighter, so he has to score as John LeClair did in Philadelphia with his Legion of Doom buddies Eric Lindros and Mikael Renberg. And like the marginally physical Johan Franzen is doing in Detroit, who’s not overly physical but has great hands and plays hard because of the peer pressure of living up to the standards of the Wings’ big guns.

“I’ve heard the stories about guys who are similar in size to me and I’ve heard names like John LeClair, not just from friends but from other players I’ve played with,” Penner said. “The bigger the tire the less it has to spin to get the same amount of distance as a smaller one.

“I want to be a productive part of this team and I haven’t been.”

The best part of Penner’s game is his work from the hash-marks to the net. He also did a pretty good job killing penalties earlier this year. That was MacTavish’s way of getting him more minutes.

But through the neutral zone he’s not much of a threat with the puck on his stick, and the transition game hurts him because of his lack of footspeed. All big bodies have that problem.  If he was scoring, the Oilers wouldn’t care. But he isn’t.

“You can’t throw gratuitous ice-time at a player that’s inconsistent,” said MacTavish. “It’s his competitiveness.

“The frustrating thing for me is he has the game but he can’t find it and you have to put the work in. He has a great set of tools but his legs are inconsistent. He needs more horsepower,” said MacTavish.

While playing on the top unit last year, Erik Cole took that spot in training camp, but Penner said he has no problem playing on the third or fourth line.

“Mac wants me to play certain roles, and as a player you accept that because he wants the team to win,” Penner said.

“He has to get his game to a level where he can help us,” MacTavish added. “To this point, it hasn’t gotten there. Where do we go from here? Hopefully when he gets in, he’ll be more motivated than he’s been. At times we’ve seen his competitiveness but we need more of it.”

jmatheson@thejournal.canwest.com
 
 
 
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Scoreboard

11/20/2014 9:15:52 PM
 
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