Dustin Penner is making over $4 million this season—and just so happens to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. So when he’s under-performing, it’s a story. But when the four-time 20-goal scorer (including 31 goals in 2009-10) is sent to the press box as a healthy scratch for consecutive games (on a team that can’t score) people are going to start asking questions.
Here was the exchange between head coach Darryl Sutter and the media regarding Dustin Penner after the Kings practice on Tuesday afternoon:
What’s the scenario for Penner right now? What’s the message or what do you need to see?
“Work your ass off. Then you get a chance to play again. If you don’t, you don’t. It’s pretty clear.”
Is he back to square one as far as that’s concerned?
“I think when you’re told to work your ass off, that IS square one.”
As if bringing in two, big physical rookies to play in the final two games of the Kings recent road trip wasn’t a strong enough message. Sutter’s comments don’t leave a lot of room for interpretation, do they?
It’s no secret that Dustin Penner has been the source of much frustration amongst Kings fans this season. Some fans can’t believe that this was the big deadline acquisition from last season. So fans are upset with the perceived rollercoaster consistency. And some can’t simply see five goals and eight assists in 43 games this season.
For those keeping track at home, he’s racked up a total of seven goals and 12 assists in 62 total games for the Kings since last season’s trade deadline. Compare those numbers to the 21 goals and 39 points Penner had in the first-half of last season alone, and it’s easy to see the source of fans’ frustrations.
Unfortunately, numbers don’t tell the entire story with Penner this season. When he’s been on top of his game, he’s looked like one of the best Kings on the ice for short stretches. Two games here, another two games there, and he looks like the kind of player that Dean Lombardi and the rest of the organization thought they were getting when they traded Colten Teubert, a 1st round pick, and a 3rd round pick last season. He has shown flashes when he plays a gritty, physical brand of hockey—whether he shows up on the score sheet or not.
Today’s comments show that the coaching staff has been upset with more than just Penner’s production lately. Not scoring is one thing—but not working consistently will not be tolerated by any coach at any level. Kings fans can only hope that the shock of being scratched puts the defibrillator paddles to Penner’s season.
Can’t we just go back to the Penner Cakes story and raising money for charity at a local IHOP?