Dustin Penner is set to reunite with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry as a member of the Anaheim Ducks, per the team's official Twitter feed, giving fans flashbacks of the 2007 team that won the Stanley Cup. Will "putting the band back together," as Penner tweeted, also result in a career revival for the left wing?
Astute onlookers may recall that back in '07 this trio was referred to as the Kid Line, and Penner was the sandpaper of the unit—the gritty bassist that allowed Getzlaf and Perry to seamlessly trade off between lead guitar and rhythm, if you will.
Then suits shut the party down at 11: The Edmonton Oilers sent Penner an offer sheet, the Ducks didn't match it and the instance is still the only time a restricted free agent has been successfully poached by an opposing team within the confines of this round of CBAs.
Prior to the move that ex-Ducks general manager Brian Burke characterized as "gutless," per The Associated Press (via ESPN.com), Penner was seen crushing skulls on a dominating top line alongside Perry and Getzlaf. While the duo that stayed in Anaheim have since taken their games to new heights, Penner has struggled mightily to find his way on the ice.
How Anaheim ended up being able to bring back this wayward son is simple: Penner has a lot to prove at this point. He didn't have the reputation as a lackadaisical player while he was a Duck. He was young and didn't really have any reputation at all.
Now it's an uphill battle for Penner, and not without reason or merit.
He was invisible for the Los Angeles Kings in 2011 during the regular season, then turned into Superman—along with the rest of the team—en route to winning the Stanley Cup.
L.A. gave him a one-year "prove that wasn't a fluke" contract, and Penner didn't prove to be much more than an expensive option for a healthy scratch. Turns out two goals in 33 games doesn't cut it when you don't lift the Cup at the end of the season, especially when the team's brass thinks you're lazy (h/t Edmonton Journal).
Penner and his training habits were such a lightning rod for criticism during his time in Edmonton and Los Angeles that it's listed as his profession on his Twitter page. While it's obviously a self-aware and sarcastic nod to media types grilling him and his love of pancakes, just because it's a joke doesn't mean it's not true.
Now Penner will look for his A-game—and effort—in Anaheim, something that hasn't been seen or heard from since 2009-10, when the bruising winger posted 63 points with the Oilers.
If anyone can return Penner to 20-goal form, it's Getzlaf, who has helped morph Perry into a Hart Trophy winner and constant goal-scoring threat.
Even if Penner only posts 20 or 25 points, this is a cheap gamble for Anaheim, which at worst will end up with a solid and affordable depth forward who is good along the boards.
Penner also serves as a backup plan in case Teemu Selanne retires. Anaheim's management is doing its yearly ritual of waiting for the Finnish Flash to decide whether or not he has another year of NHL hockey in his system.
In the meantime, they added Penner, who has shown an affinity for playing outstanding hockey for the organization. Will he be able to go into Anaheim and approach his rookie total of 45 points? Perhaps, and in putting up those kinds of numbers Penner would be doing both his career and pocketbook a favor.
At some juncture, he is going to have to put together a mildly consistent regular season to stay in the NHL. He'll be on the wrong side of 30 in no time, and no one besides Ilya Kovalchuk wants to leave the show at that point.
Penner has never been known as a conditioning freak, but the enticing (syrup-free) bait is there for him to take. Work hard off the ice, and you get to line up with Getzlaf and Perry on it. You end up with a long-term and lucrative deal to carry you to 35, and, more importantly, you get to prove all the doubters in L.A. and Edmonton wrong.
If that isn't enough motivation for Penner to revive his career, then nothing will be.