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39 Days to Go: It’s Not 50 in 39, But It’s Not Bad

Reviewing the best first halves for LA goalscorers.

Nashville Predators v Los Angeles Kings
Imagine if Carter had gotten 82 games in 2012-13?
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Our countdown to the 2016-17 season continues, with 39 days to go...

Hockey has a few records that will probably never be broken. Many of them were set in 1981-82, by one man. Wayne Gretzky’s scoring output that year was unlike anything the NHL had ever seen, and when he reached the 50-goal mark before half the season was gone, it was clear something special was happening.

I’m reasonably sure no one will ever match the speed at which Gretzky reached 50, but this got us thinking: what’s the most goals a Los Angeles King has scored in the first 39 games of the season?

Best 39-Game Starts in Kings History

Player To Pos G | Player Year Pos Goals
Bernie Nicholls 1988-1989 C 37 | Jimmy Carson 1987-1988 C 22
Luc Robitaille 1989-1990 LW 31 | Ziggy Palffy 2000-2001 RW 21
Luc Robitaille 1992-1993 LW 30 | Wayne Gretzky 1989-1990 C 21
Wayne Gretzky 1988-1989 C 29 | Luc Robitaille 1990-1991 LW 20
Luc Robitaille 1988-1989 LW 27 | Luc Robitaille 1993-1994 LW 20
Bernie Nicholls 1989-1990 C 27 | Corey Millen 1992-1993 C 20
Wayne Gretzky 1990-1991 C 25 | Pavol Demitra 2005-2006 LW 20
Luc Robitaille 1987-1988 LW 23 | Tyler Toffoli 2015-2016 C 19
Jeff Carter 2012-2013 C 23 | Luc Robitaille 1991-1992 LW 19
Luc Robitaille 1998-1999 LW 22 | Luc Robitaille 2000-2001 LW 19

Not surprisingly, the all-time franchise leader in goals scored during a season wins out. Bernie very nearly went at a goal-per-game pace in the start to his 1988-89 season. Luc Robitaille has nine of the top 20 “first 39’s” in franchise history. Notably, only three players since the lockout crack the top 20. Pavol Demitra started off an injury-shortened 2005-06 in fantastic form. Jeff Carter scored 26 goals in just 48 games in the lockout-shortened 2013 season and probably would have been LA’s first 40-goal scorer since the lockout. And though his pace cooled off in the second half of 2015-16, Tyler Toffoli got himself to a pretty impressive start last season. Even if it was only half as good as Bernie Nicholls’ start in 1988-89.

Tomorrow: remembering the best player ever to wear #38.