“To be honest with you, a couple games weren’t really good," he said.
Kempny discussed a lengthy conversation he had with Coach Todd Reirden ahead of Washington’s 3-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday, so they could each express their thoughts. Kempny said he hopes that conversation leads to a turning point in his play.
“We were honest with each other, all the time — [even] when I [first] got here,” Kempny said. “I told him how I feel, how I felt, and so we had a pretty good discussion and conversation. And I believe it is going to help me be myself, to be Michal Kempny, you know? The one everybody knows. There is no excuses for me. We had a good conversation, and it is going to help me for sure.”
After the acquisition of Brenden Dillon, Kempny moved from the top pair with John Carlson to the third pair with Radko Gudas, limiting his ice time and thus slightly adjusting the way he plays.
When he came to Washington at the 2018 trade deadline and became a part of the Capitals’ Stanley Cup run, Kempny knew he was going to have the responsibilities of a top-pair defenseman. Now his role is more varied, with all the moving parts of the blue line yet to be cemented ahead of the playoffs.
“It’s a little bit different,” Kempny said. “Right now I’m not playing against top players, how I was supposed to. But playing with Radko, we’ve played with each other before, and I know him pretty well, and we’re just trying to work hard every game and do what we are supposed to do.”
Kempny isn’t necessarily expected to stay on the third pair. His skill set is still suited for a top-four role. If his game doesn’t start to turn around, however, there will be less room for the coaching staff to elevate him and give him more ice time. There also is the role of Jonas Siegenthaler, who has been a healthy scratch since Dillon’s arrival, to consider.
But for now, what Kempny does know is that his trust in Reirden remains the same as when he first arrived.
“I can’t thank him enough, and he did it a lot for me and still does so I’m going to be forever grateful to him,” Kempny said.
After Kempny was traded, he spent a lot of time with Reirden in the video room, with the then-assistant coach trying to get Kempny up to speed on the team’s system. Kempny praised Reirden’s ability to show him facets of his game he can improve on and applauded how the feedback always comes in a positive manner.
“It was different than in Chicago and so yeah we spent a lot of time together after practices and you know, we could talk about hockey and about other stuff, so it was nice,” Kempny said. “ … for me, it is completely different than Chicago and find this team as a family, it is more friendly here. Everybody talks to everybody so it was a lot different than it was in Chicago.”
Kempny showed some improvement against the Jets, especially coming off a couple of rough games. The Capitals are facing a stiff test with their next slate of games, starting Sunday against the Minnesota Wild and followed by Metropolitan Division matchups with the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins.
“Sometimes it’s really nice to talk with someone you know,” Kempny said. “To talk about everything: ‘How is your feelings? How is everything going?’ It was really nice. I really appreciated it, and I can talk to him all the time. He was always there for me. It was nice.”
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