Edmonton’s best interviewer at the moment, Jason Gregor, has an interesting one up with Theo Peckham over at OilersNation. This quote caught my eye:
You want to go out there and be physical and protect your teammates, but you’re not sure if you take a penalty. And it happened a couple of times last year where you would go after a guy, and then they would end up scoring on the penalty or something would happen, and then you get kind of blasted by the coach. So you’re just not too sure what to do anymore.
Longtime readers of the site will know that stuff like this catches my eye, whether it be Joffrey Lupul’s silly complaints that Craig MacTavish didn’t give him a chance or Todd Bertuzzi making the same complaint about his time in Anaheim.
As it so happens, Theo Peckham was a bit of a penalty machine last year. His PTAKE/60 (Uh – Gabe probably coulda named that one a little better) was the sixth worst in the NHL amongst defencemen who played at least 40 games. This is not a new problem by the way – he had the worst PTAKE/60 (I admit it – I just like typing this) amongst D with the same threshold in 2010-11, his “good” season.
Peckham went to the penalty box twenty times last year in non-coincidental situations (that strikes me as pretty high for a guy who played half the year; I remember drilling into Jason Smith’s penalties one year, a tough player who wasn’t blessed with speed and being stunned at how infrequently he went to the box and actually put the Oilers down a man. A quick look now shows that in 2003-04, he had 98 PIM, and put the Oilers down a man 13 times.) More than half of those were speed/positioning penalties – hooking, holding, tripping and interference.
Peckham had some lousy luck in that he was in the penalty box for six goals against. Four of those were speed/positioning penalties; not really what he’s talking about.
The first “tough” penalty that resulted in a goal against was against Minnesota on November 25, 2011. Late in the first period, the Oilers were winning 2-0 and had Sam Gagner in the penalty box. The puck cames into Devan Dubnyk – it’s loose – and Dany Heatley falls forward onto Dubnyk while trying to play the puck. Peckham crosschecks him four times in the back, right in front of the referee and gets a penalty. The Wild score on the 5 on 3 with ten seconds left in the first period.
The second “tough” penalty that resulted in a goal against was against Columbus. Derek Dorsett (hmm) tried to make a play on a puck that Dubnyk was reaching out to cover and Dubnyk got a bit of a whack. This may be my bias as a guy who plays forward rather than goal or defence showing but it didn’t look to me like it was anything more than the price of playing goal. The whistle went as Dubnyk covered the puck and then Peckham kind of shoved Dorsett to the ice from behind. Columbus scored on the PP late in the period to tie the game at two and went on to win.
Were these protecting the teammate penalties? The first more than the second I suppose, although if Dany Heatley hasn’t stopped going to the net at this stage in his career, I doubt Peckham will make him stop; it’s more avenging your teammate by driving a guy into him a few times. As far as picking your spots goes though, that probably isn’t the sort of thing you want to be doing on a 5 on 4. The second struck me as awfully dumb – nobody’s dissuaded from anything by a shove like the one Peckham gave.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Peckham did catch hell in the dressing room between periods – taking a stupid looking penalty that results in a goal right before the end of the period is probably an excellent way to get screamed at by an NHL coach. I kind of think Peckham’s got bigger problems when it comes to being an NHL defenceman than this though: he just flat out takes a ton of penalties. We used to think that Matt Greene put the Oilers down a man a lot due to his various deficiencies – he caused them to be short 13 times in 768 minutes when he was 24, compared to 20 times in 911 minutes for Peckham in his age 24 season, about 30% more often. It’d be even more if you adjusted for the fact that penalties were far more common when Greene was 24 than they were last year.
Given Peckham’s pre-existing problem with penalties, I don’t particularly take a lot of comfort from the next part of the quote I referred to above:
And in some situations like that, they’re never good and they’re never going to lead to the right outcomes for me. Just knowing that I have the green light to maybe go in and take that 2, 5 and 10 and not possibly be sitting out next game, I think that’s a huge part.
I’m not sure that a Theo Peckham who feels liberated to take penalties, given his pre-existing problems in that department (and the fact that the ones he took last year that led to goals were dumb), is a particularly good thing for the Oilers. As always with the past few years of the Oilers, it’s probably not particularly relevant in the bigger picture because I doubt he’s going to be here when this team finally gets off the canvas but it’s something to watch nonetheless.