Things are slowly starting to settle down for Dustin Penner after getting a late start to his summer. Even with wrist surgery three weeks ago, he’s not complaining though. A few days earlier he signed a new contract with the Kings and he can finally start to look forward.
“I fully expect to be ready by training camp,” he recently told us, in reference to the procedure performed at the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic in Marina Del Rey (note: the picture above was taken just moments before he went under the knife).
Since winning the Stanley Cup in June, he also admitted to watching Game 6 at least once.
“I picked up more this time around, as opposed to the (first) time I won it,” said Penner, who also won a Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007. “I was able to take a step back sooner and watch all of my teammates, friends and family. So, I was able to enjoy it at a different level than in the past. That being said, watching the game, it’s always nice to go back and reminisce and get those feelings of winning the Cup and seeing what it was like by watching it from a different perspective.”
And just what has he picked up on?
“I definitely noticed the reaction of Darryl (Sutter) and the coaching staff, the parade, the speeches at the pep rally and so on. It’s just about getting a different view of it and driving it into your memory for the rest of your life.”
He’s adjusting a few other things this time around too. After being crowned a champion the first time he signed a free agent offer sheet and was off to Edmonton for the next few years. He also shared the Cup with anybody and everybody. Now, he’s looking for a few more intimate memories.
“I’m probably going to do something a little different with it,” he said when speaking about his plans for taking the Cup back home to Manitoba. “Last time I didn’t get to spend enough time with it. I ran around showing it to everyone else and it negates what you want – you know, it is your Stanley Cup that you won. So, back then everyone else got to spend time with it, but probably the one thing I can say about that is I didn’t get to spend enough time with it myself.”
While he’s still a little unsure about exactly what he’ll be doing with it, he was perfectly clear on his immediate plans following the Kings defeating the Devils last month. He wanted to stay in LA for at least one more year.
“One thing is going to the White House, which I missed out on last time,” he said, when asked why it was so important to re-sign with the Kings and defend their championship. “That’s not the main reason though, it was just to be part of a team that has stuck with me and believed in me. I have great teammates, along with the coaching staff, management, Dean (Lombardi), Ron Hextall and everybody else. I just wanted to be part of something special and I didn’t want to have to pack up and readjust to a new team and a new city. Being part of a situation that worked for me was important. Not to say Anaheim didn’t work for me before, but I was at a different part of my life, where I didn’t have job security. I didn’t have the financial security either. Now I have that and I want to be able to enjoy the game more, and I know I’ll enjoy it a lot in LA.”
He could have been an unrestricted free agent on July 1 – something many players are eager to explore in this day and age, where teams across the league have been doling out big money deals. It just didn’t interest Penner to find out what was available though. Was part of it motivated by thoughts that the Kings offer may not have been there once they started pursuing other players?
“You have to think about it from a bunch of different angles – how it plays out hypothetically if I had waited until (July 1) and then I had the knowledge of other teams and other offers. With getting it out of the way before July 1st I really cut out all of the other variable that can weigh on your mind. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen after July 1st and I knew I wanted to be a King. So, the deal got done pretty easily after that.”
Was he scared that other offers might not have come in if he went the free agent route?
“Scared is the wrong word,” said Penner. “You’re not sure what’s going to happen. You don’t know though, you can’t predict the unknowns out there. I went though a similar situation previously with Anaheim and I wanted to go a different route this time.”
Coming back to LA brings its own set of issues as well. Fans and media alike have consistently ridiculed him for his poor regular season stats. While all may have been forgiven when he scored the goal to beat Phoenix in the Western Conference Final, there’s still work to be done this off-season.
“My strength has always been there. So, I’m just trying to maintain that overall and maybe improve in certain areas,” Penner said of his summer workout plans. “I’m also going to try and get lighter and leaner for training camp. I’m changing my workouts accordingly and with our new strength guy, Ryan van Asten, plus my guys in Newport, that shouldn’t be a problem.”
Which begged the question, what’s his target weight?
“I’m going to be pretty specific here and say less than what I weighed-in at for last year’s camp,” he said, in typical Penner fashion.
So, one pound lighter means success?
“I’ll be less than that, but I don’t want to get your hopes up,” he said, followed by lots of laughter.
That sense of humor is what’s also made him loved by legions of fans around the league. Yet, his self-proclaimed upper-body strength may be a curse. When asked why he wasn’t on the roster for Drew Doughty’s charity softball team this past weekend, Penner was quick to point out – it had nothing to do with the wrist, there was a much bigger factor at play.
“I probably had the inside track after being mentioned as one of the premier players for El Cid’s Lounge. So, I’m sure he didn’t want me to come show him up…because I’d make sure I was playing against him.”
Ah yes, the famous ‘El Cid Lounge’ comment by LA’s General Manager. Which, months later, may have been the impetus for another Penner remark.
Last September, he told me that one of his goals for the upcoming season (2011-12) was to get Lombardi to wear a PennerMania shirt.
“It hasn’t happened yet. But, I’m thinking now is probably a good time for me to ask him.”
We’ll be waiting for the picture.