In case you weren’t aware, this summer the Kings went after a winger named Ilya Kovalchuk, who ended up signing with the New Jersey Devils. Twice. Or something like that. Anyway, Kovalchuk is a two-time former 50-goal scorer, and the widely-held presumption was that he would have been the ultimate panacea to the Kings’ biggest weakness, 5-on-5 scoring.
Of course, Kovalchuk didn’t land in Los Angeles, and today Terry Murray was asked how he plans to improve the Kings’ 5-on-5 scoring without adding a major piece via trade or free agency.
“We’re going to develop our own 50-goal scorer,” Murray said. “We’ve got talented players. We’re going to push that part of the game throughout training camp, and keep encouraging creativity and making plays at the net. I think we’ve got some players who can put up big numbers, and certainly improve on their production from last year. I’m looking forward to seeing how it unfolds.”
And which players will Murray be relying on to provide that increased scoring?
“I hope it comes from different places,” Murray said. “I know Kopi is an incredibly talented player. I would like to see more production, on the goal side of him in particular, and that line should develop good chemistry. Jarret Stoll is a player that I talked to in the exit meeting. I really want to see him on the puck-possession plays, making offensive-zone plays and shooting more, scoring more. I’m going to encourage that throughout the training camp. It’s there, in my eyes, with the way he can skate and shoot, and his attitude about getting to the net and looking for rebounds. We need him to put up more, in the offensive part of the game, as a second-line center iceman.”
Since the end of last season, Murray has been publicly vocal about his desire to get more production from Stoll, the Kings’ 28-year-old second-line center. Stoll finished with 47 points (16 goals, 31 assists) last season, up six points from the previous season but still far off the career-high 68 points he had with Edmonton in 2005-06.
Today, Stoll said he accepted the challenge from Murray and said he spent much of his summer working on the offensive part of his game.
“As you get to the league and you get established, maybe you don’t work on it as much as you should,” Stoll said. “It’s the simple, little things that you learn when you’re in novice, bantam and peewee that still apply out there in the NHL. So I worked a lot on the skill side of the game, trying to shoot the puck more, trying to get over 200 shots. That’s a good goal for me, and just be more confident with the puck.”
Stoll totaled 164 shots last season. He had a career-best 243 shots in 2005-06 with the Oilers.