Along with management, coaches, scouts and staffers, a guest watched part of the Kings’ development camp today, clad in a workout shirt and shorts and with a towel around his neck. Dustin Penner, at 6-foot-4, still towers over everyone, but he appears rather slimmer than when last publicly seen. Penner has been back in Southern California for workouts and, according to Dean Lombardi, has been at the practice facility at 7:30 a.m. to start work. Penner took some time to chat about his offseason habits, about his motivation and about the public criticism he took from Lombardi, who said Penner is “at the crossroads of his career” and needed to choose whether to be a dominant power forward or “a dominant number four hitter for the El Cid Lounge in a men’s softball league.” (Hat tip to The Sporting News on that one). Penner starts by talking about the change in his routine this summer and how he has incorporated workouts into his lifestyle…
PENNER: “Now it’s pretty much an 8 (a.m.) to 2 (p.m.) job. I think a lot of guys who come from other teams, we share that feeling that we weren’t used to this type of intensity. But it’s definitely (a good thing). I think you can attribute some of their start last season [12-3 in the first 15 games] to the training they did in the offseason. With the team we’ve got this year, and everybody on the same page as far as that goes, we will be tough to stop.”
Question: And this is also the final year of your contract as well…
PENNER: “I have heard that. [smiles]”
Question: Have you thought about who you might have as your linemates this year?
PENNER: “I don’t know where I’ll play or with who. It doesn’t matter. We’re going to be a threat, through all four lines.”
Question: Do you think about maybe being able to develop some chemistry with Kopitar?
PENNER: “Yeah. Obviously he’s a big body. He plays every inch of the ice, both sides of the puck. He’s a great player, so I can’t wait to be able to build more chemistry.”
Question: When you hear the criticism of you, does it bother you?
PENNER: “No. Less and less. The one thing I can say, and I don’t know if you watch `The Simpsons,’ the episode with Darryl Strawberry, when they start (chanting) `Darryl, Darryl,’ and there’s a tear in his eye. I used to laugh at that, and now I don’t. [laughs]”
Question: People didn’t really chant your name though, right?
PENNER: “No. They picked different names, instead of my name. [smiles]”
Question: A late-season trade like that can be disruptive. Have you had time now to kind of calm things down, in terms of your personal life as well?
PENNER: “Everything has calmed down, as far as the family and the kid having a school. We’re at home now, so it’s been a great summer as far as that goes. I’ve gotten into a routine and I’m looking forward to the season starting.”
Question: Any particular goals for the season?
PENNER: “Well, winning is one of them. I want to set personal bests in my statistical categories and then just improve as a player, become more of a leader and things like that. What the great players do is, they’re always looking to improve facets of their game. I think, with these workouts, I’m on the right track.”
Question: Is that the biggest change, in terms of coming from Edmonton and the change in culture?
PENNER: “Well, like I said, these workouts are different than I had encountered before. It’s really exciting to be part of something this special with a guy like (strength and conditioning coach) Tim Adams. As far as the culture, Edmonton was really young. Here, I think it’s more middle of the pack. We have some older guys, but I think we’re all around 27, 28, right around there, as the average age. I think we’ve got the perfect mix of players to do some damage.”
Question: When you heard about Dean Lombardi’s softball comments, what did you think?
PENNER: “I’m a good softball player. [smiles] … What he’s saying, I think, is that if you’re in the position I’m in… I know what he’s saying and I know what he wants out of me. It’s more kindle for the fire.”