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

Reviewing the best first halves for LA goalscorers.

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

Bernie Nicholls1988-1989C37|Jimmy Carson1987-1988C22
Luc Robitaille1989-1990LW31|Ziggy Palffy2000-2001RW21
Luc Robitaille1992-1993LW30|Wayne Gretzky1989-1990C21
Wayne Gretzky1988-1989C29|Luc Robitaille1990-1991LW20
Luc Robitaille1988-1989LW27|Luc Robitaille1993-1994LW20
Bernie Nicholls1989-1990C27|Corey Millen1992-1993C20
Wayne Gretzky1990-1991C25|Pavol Demitra2005-2006LW20
Luc Robitaille1987-1988LW23|Tyler Toffoli2015-2016C19
Jeff Carter2012-2013C23|Luc Robitaille1991-1992LW19
Luc Robitaille1998-1999LW22|Luc Robitaille2000-2001LW19

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.