September 19, 2011
Earlier this summer, it seemed that the surefire way to become embroiled in a controversy about one's fitness was to be named Dustin, as both Dustin Penner(notes) and Dustin Byfuglien(notes) were the subject of much weight-gain speculation.
Penner's conditioning was an issue towards the tail-end of last season, when he failed to make much of an impact after being acquired by the Los Angeles Kings at the trade deadline. Heavier than Penner himself was the criticism he faced from the Kings' brass. On his way out for the summer, GM Dean Lombardi gave us this gem of a quote in an e-mail to the Sporting News:
Dustin is at the crossroads of his career. He can choose to use his athletic ability to either become a dominant power forward in the National Hockey League or be a dominant number four hitter for the El Cid Lounge in a men's softball league — the choice is his."
As a sidenote, the next time you're surprised at Lombardi's candor regarding the Doughty negotiations, stop and think that he took the time to write this. This man is an open book.
There were rumours that Penner was getting into shape -- even a report that he had lost ten pounds -- but then a fan tweeted the following photo, which depicts a gut typically reserved for Lombardi's aforementioned softballers:
Dustin Pinner he ain't.
At that point, all Kings fans could do was wait and hope that this photo was either doctored, the result of bad angles and lighting, or that Penner was in the gym that very moment, literally busting the gut depicted above.
Thankfully, all the heat was lifted from Penner later on in the summer, when another, heavier Dustin emerged. While boating in Minnesota, Dustin Byfuglien was arrested on suspicion of being intoxicated and, even worse, weighed. When he tipped the scale at 286 lbs., a good 40 more than his playing weight from the previous season, jaws dropped.
It was an exciting time to not be a fan of the Los Angeles Kings and the Winnipeg Jets, because it meant that, rather than being mortified when these guys inevitably showed up to training camp looking like Hutts, you could simply point and laugh.
Instead, something unfortunate happened this weekend: both guys showed up to camp in shape. Where's the fun in that?
It turned out that Penner's offseason work was indeed taking place and had truly paid off, as his fitness levels impressed coach Terry Murray.
"Overall, conditioning, the results were good. We do the off-ice, on-ice testing, and most importantly for me, the actual hockey testing, the on-ice skating, was really good. The times, the heart-rate recovery, is what I look at as a primary number. I'm seeing a real good look from every player that came into the camp. Dustin Penner, it shows. He really did put a look of work into the summer time. There's a recovery rate that's going to allow me to get him back on the ice for another shift. And that's what it's all about, to get your best players on the ice as often as possible."
Futhermore, the report that Penner had lost 10 pounds was only half-true. He's actually down 20 from the weight at which he arrived in Los Angeles last summer. Penner spoke to the benefits of his improved conditioning:
"I felt quicker and stronger today. From the start of my push, when my legs are at a 45-degree angle, all the way through to the end of it, my legs are strong - as opposed to losing power half-way though the push. I can finish my stride."
The news was just as great for Winnipeg Jets fans, as Dustin Byfuglien was not only not detained at the border, but weighed in at 266 pounds, a full twenty below the reports of the ungenerous scale at the police station in Minnesota.
Jets' personnel were "thrilled" with Byfuglien's fitness levels, according to Gary Lawless. Granted, they may have been thrilled because they braced themselves for the worst, but still.
"I know he's in good shape. I saw Dustin on a daily basis and he was working really hard.
[...] "I tell people all the time that I don't think he'd be as good a player if he didn't look the way he does. He's strong. I've never seen somebody as strong as he is. He's powerful and he gets around the ice," said Stuart. "He's fit and he won't be winded. When you look at him, you're not seeing a guy that's cut. That's not his body. Even if he wanted, he couldn't be chiselled."
And Byfuglien, on his own weight:
"My weight's always going to be the same," he said. "I have no problem with my weight. Obviously they're happy with my weight."
It wasn't so obvious earlier this summer, Buff. According to all reports, the chubby Dustins are fit as a fiddle and ready for love, great news for fans and members of the LA Kings and Winnipeg Jets.