Player evaluation: Kopitar

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ANZE KOPITAR
This season: 82 games, 27 goals, 39 assists, 32 penalty minutes, 20:27 average ice time.
The good: Even though Kopitar’s offensive production dropped from 2007-08, 27 goals is nothing to sneeze at. Plus, from the first day of training camp, Terry Murray’s point of emphasis with Kopitar was to improve his defensive game. Even though the plus-minus numbers didn’t show it (do they ever?), Kopitar’s defensive game took a step forward. He drew tough assignment and logged big penalty-kill minutes.
The bad: There’s a certain difficult with analyzing Kopitar’s game, because there’s no accurate formula for determining how much the emphasis on defense took away from his offensive game. From a basic, objective view, however, there were simply times when Kopitar didn’t look like his former dominating self in the offensive zone. Was it simply a matter of adjusting to a new role? Was he burdened by the symbolic responsibilities of being an alternate captain? Or did he merely go through a stretch of bad play, as players often do?
Going forward: By the later part of the season, Kopitar’s game began to look more familiar. It’s interesting that Dean Lombardi singled out Kopitar as a player whose physical conditioning could improve. Given that Terry Murray has noted, several times, the importance of offseason conditioning, it’s a good bet that Kopitar will be expected to show up at training camp in the best shape of his career. Will that lead to him returning to the point-per-game level?

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  • Ersberg

    “There’s a certain difficulty with analyzing Kopitar’s game, because there’s no accurate formula for determining how much the emphasis on defense took away from his offensive game.”

    I don’t think his situation could have been better described better. He’s Anze. He’s obviously extremely talented. He has size, speed, hands, and good vision. He’s defense has vastly improved. The scary part is, he’ll get even better. I’m thinking next season he’ll evolve into the player he’s slated to be, contract or not.

    Grade: A-

  • Howe 9

    Kopi is still the best player we have. Overall I think he did a great job this year all things considered. Also don’t forget he was on a line with Calder/Moulson a good portion of the year too.

  • anthonyy

    Under this coach, almost every players point production dropped. Kopi, Frolov, Brown, Sully. The only top player (from last season), whose numbers went up was Camalleri’s. Which would explain him being on another team.

    But I’m not here to bash our genius coach. I’m here to praise Kopitar. Truly, this guy has talent almost second to none. With the right coach, I’m sure he’d be able to put up numbers similar to Crosby, Malkin, Thornton, Ovechkin. Now i’m saying similar, not more than.
    I really believe he’s that good.
    Too bad this coach is holding him back.

  • nykingfan

    Rich, once again…right on with your analysis. Why do we bother to comment?
    Because it beats doing what we really should be doing!
    Grade: A-
    Another guy we forget how old he is….
    It seems like he’s a veteran…yet only 21.
    The sky’s the limit for him..and thanks to TM getting him to think more defensive minded, he’ll be a lot better player than we all thought.
    I would hope he adds a little bulk and starts to become somewhat of a physical presence. He has the size, that’s for sure.

  • David

    Hey Anthonyy!

    Don’t forget about Rob Blake, whose point production went from 31 with the Kings to 45 with the Sharks.

    Blake also went from a -19 with LA to a +15 with SJ.

  • anthonyy

    David,
    Thanks for your input.
    And the same can be said about Vishnovsky.
    Before getting injured, his stats were 8-23-31 in only 50 games. He also went from a -18 with LA to a +6 with the oilers.
    Everybody Tanked under TM. Except for Handzus, who clearly gor a lot favortism from TM. Playing almost 20 minutes a game. An ex-flyer thing you know.

  • kingsince67

    There is no doubt AK has all the tools, but no coach can take someone with his ability and stop him from driving to the net though. I buy into the conditioning thing because he just did not seem as dominating and that has nothing to do with better defensive awareness. I think the pressure of the big contract played a bit of a role, maybe the instability in his line mates. But when you are looking for something that clicks that is the fallout. I think having a whole season of JW & AF together will be a positive. But AK has to get stronger and step it up to a more physical presence, not to fight but be a monster with the puck. Happy with his year, no, but I do not want him going anywhere. He will rebound if he steps up his conditioning.

  • macdup

    The only thing that I would add to Rich’s comments is that Kopi also drew the other teams top shut down lines every shift. Other teams are wise to Kopi’s talent and I hope he lays off the pancakes this off season and really comes into camp ready.

    Leave the pancakes to me!

    -Dave W

  • JDM

    Frolov’s goal production went up fro last year…

    I was surprised to hear about Kopi’s conditioning, or lack thereof. Being a coaches son, I can’t imagine Kopi will take that criticism lightly.

    I like that Dean is challenging him to come to camp ready to have the best season of his career.

  • mrbrett7

    Wow…considering that Lubo and Blake never played under Terry Murray, that’s a real spot on analysis there buddy.

    Kopitar spent half the season learning how to actually play hockey. In today’s game, a #1 center has to do more than put up points. If your going to be playing 20-25 minutes/night, you had better damn well be able to stop the opposing team from scoring as well. In his time under Crawford, he never once was forced to do this, nor learned how to, meanwhile under Murray, Kopitar is learning how to actually be a hockey player.

    All the goals and points in the world mean absolutely nothing if you can’t win the games. Defense and goaltending win championships, not pretty goals. Ask the Stanley Cup winners for the past, oh, I don’t know, 100 years…it’s the same story. Until your forwards learn what defense is, your team will get nowhere.

    I don’t care if the kid never scores another point…I do care if he can play his position right, win faceoffs and help stop the other team from scoring…guess what, the points will come after that.

  • TB

    Guys, the Kopitar question can’t be answered perfectly. TM is not to “blame”. Yes, he attributed to the difference in his game. But there were countless times this season when Kopi had the puck on his stick in a scoring position and he wouldn’t finish. Many times he’d miss the net completely. Thats not a coaching issue. Thats a player in a slump. Plain and simple. His timing and accuracy was off and at his lowpoint of the season, he wasn’t even registering more than 1-2 shots a game.

    I agree wtih DL that his physical conditioning has to be better…not that it was bad this past year, but because he will see more ice time next season once the top line is fortified with our soon to be acquired LW. If he can develop the size and endurance of a guy like Rick Nash or Evgeni Malkin, he can log a ton of minutes, and be effective on both sides of the puck.

  • vicarious

    Get them another talent in the top six so the other teams cannot key on certain guys and Kopitar, Frolov, Brown will have better #’s. Especially a left wing who can create and score.

    The overall defense improved IMO so the guys playing big minutes get kudos. Not so many good scoring chances for the other teams.

  • Ersberg

    What’s with all the “expert analysis” of Kopitar. The guy is incredible, we should be happy he asked for contract, rather than the door out. Let me give you a real simple formula to the changes he has endured. Keep in mind, like Brett said, he’s a center, not a winger:

    Crawford=no defense
    Murray=defense first

    With the very simple analysis I provided, you could see what a 1st line center, that never played defense, was then asked to learn and play it, dipped a bit numbers. It’s really a non-issue, considering he still scored some sweet goals, and assisted on a bunch as well.

    He’s not a Crosby, Ovechkin, or Malkin, but he is an elite player, regardless of our “expert analysis”. He’s also 21, and doesn’t have as talented as linemates to play with like the before mentioned super-starts.

  • http://vanitydesignstudios.com/ ianmonsta

    “Everybody Tanked under TM. Except for Handzus, who clearly gor a lot favortism from TM. Playing almost 20 minutes a game. An ex-flyer thing you know”

    So what’s your excuse for Stoll?

    08/09: 74gp 18g 23a 41p -7
    07/08: 81 gp 14g 22a 36p -23

    or Fro who had 9 more goals

    I think i speak for a majority of us that are sick of reading your tired rants about Terry Murray being the worst coach ever, get a new shtick.

  • variable

    i agree with the analysis regarding the need for kopi to play w/other top grade talent…
    you couple that with the new system and you are going to get the results/production we got from kopi this year…
    the shutdown factor also is a good point, too…

    i’m going to give t.m./d.l. some leeway on the conditioning comments…they probably know better than all of us combined…i would hope they are accurate on this and not just searching for motivational ploys…

    again, when frolov was added to the top line, kopi’s production went up…
    do not under-estimate the loss of stoll towards the end of the season if you are remembering just how poorly the team’s offense was down the stretch…
    one less weapon for opposing d’s to key on always makes it harder for a top line…
    i also saw some promise with kopi/fro/jw skating together…

    kopi has the potential to be a bonafide #1/franchise center…so if fitness is the key to get to that desired level, take off the simpsons slippers, get into some new balances and bicycle ride with jj to the gym…if you think about it, if that’s the biggest issue w/kopi’s game, that’s an easy fix…kopi will be fine…

  • http://SJKingsFan SJKingsFan

    Kopi’s biggest problem is conditioning. He had trouble accelerating to get in to the offensive play after making a play in the defensive zone. He had a little trouble in the corners this year and did not finish around the net as well as last year. Simple fix – add a few pounds of muscle and work on explosive starts.

    Kopi was also hurt by the loss of Visnosky and Blake and the continual juggling of linemates. Both Blake & Visnosky were very good at getting shots to the net giving Kopi more room to work in the offensive zone and more rebound opportunities. I believe our dmen will get better with experience at getting shots to the net. Hopefully, the Kings will come be able surround Kopi with more skill next year.

  • AK47

    Amazing, solid, impeccable player.. Whoever doesn’t think this guy is going to be our number 1 center is lost and whoever keeps saying the Kings should acquire Lecavalier and make Kopitar our number 2 center is lost..

    He should change his number to 47 so that he can be AK47, hahahaha.. But seriously, he’s way too good to be selected 11th overall.. What a player

  • anthonyy

    Ianmonsta,
    Where in this thread, did I say that TM was the worst coach ever. C’mon bro.
    BTW, you’re right, Frolov did score more goals, but his point total dipped considerably.
    08 – 67 points in 71 games. Almost a point per game.
    09 – 59 points in 77 games. Considerable drop.

  • Johnny Utah

    Watching Kopi this season was extremely frustrating. He simply did not put out the same effort in the offensive zone as he had in the past. Countless times he simply would not move his feet to get to loose pucks and shied away from any and all contact – a big difference from the Kopi we knew from the last two seasons.

    Kopi seems to suffer from the same affliction as Fro – does not skate with full effort 100% of the time. For some reason Kopi gets a pass, while Fro is constantly fighting his way out of the dog house, even though Kopi is making $7mill and has an “A” on his sweater.

    There is no way you can give Kopi a grade of an A when you compare this season to his first two. Everyone was shocked how easily he was able to use his physical strength to hold off the opposition in the past (such as his goal against Pronger) yet this season he didnt show even remotely close to the same determination.

    We always have a Euro star player who takes shifts off – from Palffy to Demitra to Fro to Kopi – same story, different name. Tons of talent, but lacking the killer instinct of a winner.

    Hope he gets his head on straight in the offseason and comes back as a determined leader because he is far-and-away our best player and should be putting up #1 center numbers, even with increased defensive responsibilities.

  • Ersberg

    Anthonyyy,

    That’s 8 points. It’s not even close to enough to get us into the playoffs. Frolov is a monster. He also lacked in the defense department this season, which is why he was benched. I.e He was cheating to create more offense.

    Kopitar is a CENTER. They are more responsible for stopping the opposing teams offensive lines, which is why centers generally have a few less goals than their linemates. There are exceptions, of course, but those names begin with Sidney and end in Malkin.

    On conditioning comments..

    I don’t get the conditioning thing. He looked fine to me. I think it was Dean just trying to cover for his coaches new system. It’s not like Kopi is showing up to the rink everyday grubbing a Double Whopper, and washing it down with a 12-pack. Come on. There are siuations, such as these, that include p-o-l-i-t-i-c-s. Do you honestly think DL is going to publicly call out his coach, whom he hired in the same season? No, because for one, Kopi made the comment(s), and two he’d look like an idiot.

    It’s the SAME deal with Sully, he couldn’t hack the new system.

  • brianguy

    transition year for Kopi. now he’s adjusted and is playing well. it’s hard to suddenly play on different lines and be tasked with much more responsibility defensively, he’s a more well rounded but his numbers are obviously off somewhat. and he didn’t have much help on the left side.

    still, this season will have benefitted him in the long run. I’d love to see him come back 5-10 lbs bigger and stronger and be as hard to knock off the puck as Frolov or Joe Thornton. that’s probably the only real obvious area of improvement.

    I say A- or 90/100

  • boo habjan

    First I want to thank you Rich for the great work you are doing for us Kings fans from all around the world !
    About Kopi:I wasn’t happy with his play this season just because there were too many games when he wasn’t there!
    He should be the leader but he’s too inconsistant in his game,yes I know he’s only 21 but…
    He needs a vet who will teach him how too lead the team and I wouldn’t mind if DL would aquire a Shanahan tipe off player for the job.
    Looking forward too see if he can become a player all we Kings fans are hope he can be.
    greetings from Slovenia
    P.S.
    Slovenian NT lost the game too Kazakhstan today and did’t qualify for the elite groupe,but i can tell you if Kopi could play we would won and with the pace off that game,he could play at least 35 mins without a problem.

  • wisconsinKingsfan

    I keep forgetting that this guy is only 21 years old. He plays and acts much older than he actually is. He has a tremendous upside and if you play him with people who can actually score then his point production will go up. I actually liked him at the end with Frolov and Williams. His overall game has improved immensely and I expect to see even greater improvement in the upcoming years.

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