If you've followed the Los Angeles Kings this year you're aware that Dustin Penner hasn't been very effective this season. He has just 13 points in 47 games and is on pace for his worst season since he became a regular NHL player back in 2006-07.
Penner's name has found itself into the headlines this season but unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. In January, Penner injured his back while "dipping into delicious pancakes". The media, as you'd imagine, took the story and ran it for everything it was worth pun after pun to mock Penner's misfortune. Penner took the odd injury in stride, turning it into a boost for the team's charity, Kings Care Foundation, by hosting an event where he served up - you guessed it - pancakes to fans.
Today, news broke that unfortunately we can't really laugh at or spin positively. Penner's wife Jessica Welch, the one who made him the "delicious pancakes", has filed for divorce. It's safe to say that 2011-12 will go down as a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year for Dustin Penner.
You've got to feel for the guy. Barring celebrity marriages that last only a handful of hours, it's never fun to hear of a divorce being filed. For Welch, this is familiar territory as she was previously married to former NHL skater Richard Zednik between 2005 and 2009. In 2011, Welch got hitched to Penner. The two do not have any children together.
As a writer, I try to strictly analyze what a player is doing on the ice for his team. I don't think it's fair to pry deep into the personal lives of players. I like to keep their private lives exactly that - private. However, in some cases a player's personal life plays a direct role with the product we see on the ice. In Penner's case, it's reasonable to believe that his relationship with Welch off the ice might have been a major factor in the forward's dismal play this season.
Penner has looked like a completely different player in 2011-12, confusing analyzsts and outraging Los Angeles fans. He is known for using his size to his advantage, parking in front of the crease and making life miserable for opposing goaltenders and defenders. This season he has drifted, for lack of a better word. He looks like a man lost in his own thoughts - a statement that likely is pretty accurate following today's news.
At this stage, Penner has two roads in which to choose from. He might continue to struggle, sinking further into his own mind due to the issues occuring away from the rink. Honestly, who would blame him? However, perhaps Penner will rebound using his personal issues as motivation to work harder than ever before on the ice. Maybe Penner's head will finally gain some clarity now that he knows the outcome of his marriage, allowing him to return to form and once again be an effective offensive weapon.
Here's to wishing Penner the best. Pancakes on us.
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