Player evaluation: 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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