Player evaluation: Penner
This season: 65 games, 7 goals, 10 assists, minus-7 rating.
The good: Where to begin, when discussing the enigma that is Penner? How is it possible to reconcile the fact that Penner had 17 points in 65 regular-season games, then had 11 points in 20 playoff games? For whatever reason, Penner found his game in the playoffs. It wasn’t just the goals, although he scored a couple big ones. Penner also, for the most part, worked hard pursuing the puck when it wasn’t on his stick. Throughout his up and down year, Penner maintained a great attitude, and that’s not hollow praise. When he played poorly, his teammates could have turned on it. Instead, they liked him and pulled for him to improve.
The bad: The Kings had high hopes for Penner at the start of the season, and he was most often brutal. At one point, Darryl Sutter publicly called out Penner and indicated that he had reached last-change status, and that if he didn’t improve, his spot in the lineup might be gone for good. Penner seemed to respond to Suter, but will it last? Nobody doubts that Penner has an enormous amount of skill. The question is, he can sustain a high level of play for any decent period of time? Going into next season, the Kings are counting on Penner to produce at the level of a top-six forward, but should they? Can they afford to?
Going forward: It’s easy to root for Penner. He’s talented, he’s a good teammate and he has a good sense of humor and doesn’t take himself too seriously. That only carries a player so far, though. Penner is now entering his third “life’’ with the Kings. They gave him one when they traded for him, one last year after he put in a strong summer of off-ice conditioning, and now one based on his excellent playoff run. Penner showed confidence in himself when he agreed to return to the Kings on a one-year contract. Sutter seems to be the type of coach that can bring the best out of Penner, but only time will tell.