In some circles, LA Kings’ GM Dean Lombardi is referred to as ‘Dealer Dean,’ largely because of his frequent swapping of draft picks and prospects. More recently though, he’s been all about big-name trades, landing the top prize each of the last two seasons on Deadline Day – Dustin Penner from Edmonton in 2011 and Jeff Carter from Columbus in 2012.
In the deal with the Oilers, Lombardi received a player who had scored at least 20 goals five times and already had a championship ring. Since arriving in Los Angeles though, Penner has only scored nine regular season goals in 86 games played.
After a rough 2011-12 season, all seemed to be forgotten when he scored one of the biggest goals in team history last May – an overtime, series-ending goal vs. the Coyotes – putting the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final.
Rather than test free agency a few months later, Penner opted to sign a one-year contract with Lombardi and the Kings.
“I give him a lot of credit,” Lombardi recently said. “At the time, he could have went somewhere else and (instead) he took the one-year deal. Pens is a good teammate, you know. Obviously, we’d like to get a little more out of him because we know he’s so capable. But, it does say something that he turned down multi-year deals…I know he had better options.”
On many levels, the deal with the Kings was personal for Penner.
“(I want) to be part of a team that has stuck with me and believed in me,” he told MayorsManor just after signing his one-year, $3.25 million deal last summer. “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.”
At the time, Penner had big hopes. He talked about going to the White House this season (something he missed out on after the Ducks’ Stanley Cup in 2007) and he was committed to coming into training camp “lighter and leaner.”
Although the start to this season took much longer than anybody originally expected, even coach Darryl Sutter was optimistic about Penner’s role with the team earlier this month.
“Dustin’s been through a couple tough years once he got traded,” Sutter said in the days following the lockout ending. “I think that he has something to prove, and he probably wanted to prove it with players, coaches, and management that he’s familiar with.”
On the eve of camp opening, Penner was more than his usual jovial self – he was like a kid waiting for Christmas.
Right out of the gates, he was was joking about how he convinced Mike Richards to get on a plane and return to LA, how Alec Martinez’ looks were going to be just fine after taking a puck to the face and even about Drew Doughty maybe not knowing the lockout was over because they don’t have cell towers in London, Ontario.
But, he also was revving to get started – a chance to build on his success from last spring.
“It’s that good anxiety that you get seeing Daryl and Dean, and just that official feeling,” Penner said of his eagerness to get the season going. “You have that camaraderie and I guess a bit of the hoopla from winning it last year. It’s going to be a fun time to be around.”
Or so he thought.
Penner had three shots on goal, but no points, in the Kings’ opening day loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. Still, many saw him as one of the team’s better players that afternoon.
The tide turned quickly though.
Game two in Colorado saw him struggle a little defensively and he hasn’t seen game action since.
Penner’s been benched for the Kings’ last three games, starting with a game in Edmonton – his home for nearly four seasons before coming to LA.
“That was a bit of a double whammy, but what do you do?” he said.
Well, part of what he did was spend time with an old friend.
“I got to see Joey Moss, we caught up,” Penner remarked, referring to the Oilers’ long-time locker room attendant. “I was also able to pick up some suits that I had purchased the day before the trade (to LA). So, I had those returned to me.”
Wait, his suits have just been lying around Alberta since February 2011? H
e’s been back a few times already, what gives?
“Harry, one of the equipment guys had them,” said Penner. “But, Mosser was probably trying to sell them on ebay.”
Things didn’t get any easier last Saturday either, when we was scratched for the second game in a row.
“On the road, sometimes there’s trouble with checking out of the hotel room and things like that,” he began to explain. “We’re not as babied as everyone thinks we are. So, I forgot my belt in my room in Phoenix. I had to have it shipped to me.”
A belt? Shipped hack? How special was this belt?
“Well, I wasn’t going to fly back to Phoenix to get it,” quipped the Manitoba native. “I don’t do a lot of shopping, you know. Even though my style may say otherwise.”
Fine, but what’s it going to take for him to get back in the line-up?
“Hopefully not an act of God,” Penner said. “It’s something you deal with as a professional. We’re a team first organization and we got a big win last time, you want to keep that rolling. So, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”
MayorsManor Live Radio with Dustin Penner – October 2012
MayorsManor on-ice interview with Dustin Penner – June 11, 2012
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