Michal Kempny was the Capitals’ key acquisition down the stretch that helped them become Stanley Cup champions in 2018. Since then, Kempny’s impact has waned as three consecutive injuries to his left leg have paused what appeared to be a promising future.
The trouble all started for Kempny in March 2019, when he suffered a freak injury in a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Kempny tore his left hamstring after being wrestled to the ice during a scrum. The tear ended Kempny’s season, forced him to go under the knife, and delayed his start in 2019-20.
After playing 58 of 69 games that next year but was never quite himself, Kempny tore his Achilles in the Czech Republic during the offseason and missed all of the NHL’s 2020-21 season. As the defenseman neared a return nearly a half a year later around playoffs time, he injured his left leg again while rehabbing in Hershey during a freak accident with an ice shoveler. “Shit happens,” a demoralized Kempny wrote on Instagram after the incident occurred.
“I was ready to play,” Kempny said after the second day of Capitals’ on-ice practices at Training Camp. “I told that to our training staff. I was missing games so much and I wanted to play. I went down to Hershey. I had a chance to play there and I said yes. I played two games.”
Kempny chuckled incredulously. “Then there was the accident with the shovel guy. After that, it was too much for me and I gave up the season and tried to focus for the next one.
“It was just bad luck,” he continued. “I try to recover for next shift standing by the boards and having a sip, drinking my drink, and the shovel guy stepped on the towel and just fell down. I fell right to my knees. My knee went kind of inside.”
Kempny was told by trainers that he suffered a grade 2 MCL injury, meaning that his ligament was partially torn. Kempny believed he would have been back in 10 days, but the injury is generally estimated to take two to four weeks for a full recovery.
“In that moment, I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry,” Kempny said. “I had big two traumas past three years. It was tough injuries. Last season, I was rehabbing with my Achilles. I was just struggling with my knee. I tore my hamstring up here and broke my Achilles down there. My knee was kind of in the middle of it. My leg wasn’t in the right balance so I worked really hard this offseason to get my left leg right and balanced to be able to compete at the highest level.”
Over the summer, Kempny split with his previous longtime trainer and began working with Dominik Kodras.
“I just felt that I needed some change in my stuff back home,” Kempny said. “It was tough decision to make but I’m glad I made it. I work with this guy right now. He’s really good. A lot of people back home coming to see him with tough history with injuries and stuff like that. He’s really good at it. We worked twice a day from the start. We did a lot of simple exercises to get my left leg back in balance and to be without any pain all summer. We worked really hard. We didn’t do any jumping, any running. We made some changes in my training. We just really focused on, to come back here, healthy, pain-free, and ready to go.”
On Instagram, Kodras praised Kempny for his hard work and posted the following transformation photos.
Kodras wrote, via a translation from Alexandra Petáková:
CASE STUDY #9 – MICHAL KEMPNÝ
i.e. “all or nothing”
torn hamstring, torn Achilles tendon, sprained knee ligaments…
Few would be able to come back stronger than ever.
Kempes did it, no doubt!
I really wish he would stay healthy so he can fully show what he’s made of!
To sum it up, how did his off-season training go?
PHASE 1 = REHAB / PROPRIOCEPTION WORK / HEALTH MANAGEMENT
Work on a neurological reset of movement habits, mobility, unilateral training with strong use of isometric contractions, a huge load of training with an emphasis on the frequency of stimuli. That’s a short summary of the first phase.
Adjustment of eating and lifestyle habits was a given.
PHASE 2 = STABILITY / HYPERTROPHY / NERVE WORK
After the opening phase, we started to work on a big weakness – stability, especially of joints of the lower half of body.
Focus on contralateral load; external stability was used for mechanical damage to muscles. As a part of the neurological training, we started using neuromechanical drills, i. e. working with different nerves, again primarily on the lower half of body.
Focus on rehabilitation routines, sufficient calories intake, replenishment of deficient vitamins and minerals.
PHASE 3 = STRENGTH / VAGUS NERVE ACTIVATION WORK
Inclusion of strengthening elements with continued focus on uniliteral variants.
Work on activating the vagus nerve for better switching to parasympathetic regime.
PHASE 4 = PEAKING BEFORE CAMP
Inclusion of more dynamic elements and [professional] sport-specific variants of exercises before departure for Washington.
That said, the rehab/prehab process stayed (had to stay) the primary focus.
Kempes, thanks for the trust
WE ALL KEEP OUR FINGERS CROSSED FOR YOUR FUTURE WORK.
I and the whole STACA team are eager to see all that you’ll achieve this year! ✊🏻🍀
There is room for the left-handed shooting Kempny to make the team and play if he’s able to find his stride in Training Camp. The Capitals opted not to bring back Zdeno Chara and traded Brenden Dillon to the Winnipeg Jets for two second-round picks. The Capitals have two lefties who appear to be locks to make the team on Opening Night, Dmitry Orlov, Martin Fehervary.
“I don’t know to be honest,” Kempny said when asked where he thought he might line up. “I’m just focusing on my game and myself. I’m here 100 percent. I’m healthy. I feel good on the ice. I can’t wait to play the games, two preseason games. Only thing I can say is I did everything I could this summer to be in this spot. I’m just going to give everything I got every day here and go from there.”
Kempny will play Sunday against the Boston Bruins, the Capitals first preseason game of the year. For Kempny, it will be his first NHL game of any sort since March 9, 2020, against the Buffalo Sabres — a span of 566 days.
“I believe that everything bad is behind me and I’m just trying to focus on what’s (happening) now and enjoying every day here. That’s what I have to say.”
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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