Elliott: Big improvement: Adrian Kempe can hit the goal mark he hasn’t had since 1993-94

The last time a member of the Kings scored 40 goals in a season, Wayne Gretzky was on the verge of scoring the last of his 10 NHL titles, Kelly Hrudey, who wore a headscarf, regularly performed his acrobatics in goal, and home ice meant the fabulous forum.

The season was 1993-94 and Luc Robitaille scored 44 goals to lead the team for the fifth straight season. He flirted with 40 by scoring 39 in the 1998/99 season and the magical Ziggy Palffy had 38 goals in 2000/01 and 37 in 2002/03 but no Kings player has scored 40 goals since.

“This is crazy,” said Robitaille, whose exploits earned him a place in the Hall of Fame. “It’s about time someone did it.”

Appearance of the Swedish winger Adrian Kempe. With a career-best 36 goals and eight games remaining in the regular season, Kempe has a good chance of reaching the prestigious 40-goal level.

At 26, Kempe was not yet born when Robitaille recorded 44 goals this season. Kempe has heard a lot about it lately, but he doesn’t look back on the team’s history. His focus is firmly on what lies ahead for the Kings, who will face the Oilers in the playoffs on Thursday in Edmonton with second-place finishes and potential home field advantage.

“It’s been a long time. It would be fun if I could ever score that many goals. Whether it’s this year or another, we’ll see,” Kempe said during a phone call on Wednesday.

“It would be cool and I’d be happy if that happened, but I’m trying not to think about it. At the moment I feel like my mentality is somewhere else. I’m just trying to win games.”

Kempe’s performance at the top with Kopitar and Quinton Byfield went a long way in proving his 35-goal production last season was no fluke.

His outburst came as a surprise considering he had 11 goals in 2019-20 and 14 goals in 2020-21, with the season curtailed due to the COVID pandemic. But he hadn’t had much time on a goal line or on the power play in any season. He scored 16 goals as a rookie in 2017-18 but lost out in the Kings’ rebuild shuffle and his confidence faded.

When he finally got minutes into prime time, he fulfilled the promise that had led the Kings to pick him to the first round and 29th overall in 2014.

His rise as a goalscorer has given the Kings a scoring depth they have long lacked. They are averaging 3.42 goals per game this season, putting them in the top 10 in the league.

Left winger Luc Robitaille, who celebrated a goal in 1993, is the last king to score 40 goals in a season.


“Of course, different players develop on different schedules. They are put in different roles. I don’t think he saw the power play here in the first four years,” said Robitaille, club manager for 16 years. “And the one thing I will never forget when I look at Adrian is that a lot of young players sometimes get nervous about their defensive play. We never had to worry about that with him. He was almost overcautious.

“And then he kind of developed into a power forward, a great shooter. If there’s definitely one thing we need to learn every day, it’s to be patient. It’s hard to say what happened, but he was definitely cast in a different role. And he took off with it.”

Continuing the success of the past season was a goal for Kempe this season.

“Being in the same space was important to me in terms of expectations and what people expected of me,” he said. “I’ve always had high expectations of myself and when I came back last year I felt like I could do the same things as last year. I wasn’t sure it would go that well, but the team is playing well and that helps too.

“I’m just happy that I was able to live up to the expectations of many and play well for the team. Nothing else matters.”

Kempe made it a point to speak to 20-year-old Byfield about the high expectations the youngster has as the No. 2 pick in the 2020 draft. Byfield’s development has been delayed by injuries and illness and he has just three goals and 21 points in 45 games this season.

Other elements of his game have shown his maturity and intelligence, and Kempe has tried to help Byfield, correcting him where necessary and reassuring him that he is on the right path – even if that path, like Kempe’s, could take a little longer.

“He’s gotten better and better the whole time he’s been playing for us,” said Kempe. “He’s working so hard and using his body so much more than maybe before and winning puck fights.

“Maybe he won’t get credit for all the work he puts in, but that’s to come. I think he’s happy with how he’s playing right now and I think everyone else is too. So it’s something that’s going to be big for that final stretch.”

There will be no chance of letting up for the Kings, whose 2-1 loss in Calgary on Tuesday ended their 10-0-2 scoring streak. Her duel with the Oilers is a potential playoff preview, a chance for her to go head-to-head with the team she defeated in a seven-game playoff series last spring.

For many of their young players, this series was their first postseason experience. Kempe played in the 2017-18 team swept away by Vegas and said last spring’s tense back-and-forth series was a different and valuable experience for him.

“Last year we didn’t have as many expectations as this year,” he said, “but I feel like the team is more comfortable going into the playoffs than last year.”

That they could go into the playoffs with a 40-goal scorer makes it all the more intriguing.

Source : www.latimes.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *