Player evaluation: Penner
This season (with Kings): 19 games, 2 goals, 4 assists, 2 penalty minutes, 17:01 average ice time.
The good: The mere idea of Penner was almost as uplifting to the Kings as Penner himself. The Kings, at the Feb. 28 trade deadline, landed a top-level scorer, and players were enthused at the idea of adding a big, powerful scorer to their lineup for the stretch run of the regular season. Penner immediately went onto the Kings’ top line and made an immediate impact, as he totaled two goals and four assists in his first seven games with the Kings. The Kings had a 5-2-1 record in those seven games.
The bad: Well, then the eighth game arrived. And the ninth, and the 10th, etc. Penner finished the regular season with 12 consecutive games without a point. By the latter stages of the first-round series against San Jose, Penner was demoted to the fourth line and seemed to be in danger of being a healthy scratch. After the season, Terry Murray and Dean Lombardi carefully but pointedly said that Penner needed to be in much better shape for the start of the 2011-12 season.
Going forward: It’s not hyperbole to say that Penner’s situation is the most important one faced by the Kings heading into next season. Which version of Penner will they get in October? Will it be the in-shape, motivated 30-goal threat, the offensive force who they can put with Anze Kopitar and finally have a stable, threatening first line? Or will it be the slowed-down, hesitant Penner who took short shifts late in the season? The Kings will be anxiously awaiting the answer.