By Victor Cabrera
The Los Angeles would break the news of appointing Anze Kopitar as the new team captain on June 16, 2016, after the team had finished their 2015-2016 season. He replaced Dustin Brown who was captain of Los Angeles for eight seasons. A rare occurrence in the NHL where a current captain remains on the team but is relinquished of the ranking. Kopitar had a very good 2015- 2016 season winning both the Frank J. Selke trophy and the Lady Byng Memorial trophy. The Frank J. Selke trophy is awarded to the best defensive forward and the Lady Byng Memorial trophy is awarded to the player with the best sportsmanship and conduct as well as good play. Kopitar would also be given the honor of being captain for Team Europe in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey that took place in September. It all seemed to be rolling in favor of the Slovenian, but this season has just been a forgettable one for him.
Kopitar has spent his entire career with the kings being drafted by Los Angeles in 2005 as the 11th overall. The center has come a long way becoming the franchise player and a fan favorite across the league. Now with the proof of his tough journey on his jersey with the stitched “C” for Captain. Although this may be the start to even bigger things for Kopitar in LA. But first to compare his last and current season.
During 2015-2016 Kopitar would play in 81 games, recording 25 goals and 49 assists for 74 points in the regular season. In the playoffs, he would score two goals and two assists during the five-game series against the Sharks. Kopitar would sit at 243 goals seventh overall on the King’s all-time goal scorer board and in sixth place was the “Great One” Wayne Gretzky with 246 goals. It seemed that the new and current captain, Anze would be surpassing Gretzky’s mark with ease in the 2016-2017 season. That has not been the case as Kopitar has found himself staggering along with the team as they are currently in a tight spot sitting 8th in the Western Conference. The Kings are in a playoff spot but hold a slim lead in points from (Vancouver, Winnipeg, Dallas, and Nashville) and the season is near half way over for the league.
Kopitar would be very limited on offensive production only scoring four goals and 17 assists during his first 37 games of the season. Kopitar also suffered an upper-body injury that hindered him from playing five games in mid-November. Anze would tie Gretzky’s record of 246 goals, in the game against Buffalo on December the 13th. Kopitar would finally surpass Gretzky, on January 9th in a 6-4 loss to the Stars. Kopitar would find the back of the net on an offensive rush receiving the puck ahead of the blue line, controlling the pass and shot a wrister glove side, hit a piece of the post to beat Kari Lehtonen for goal 247 in his career all with the Kings. That was Kopitar’s first goal in 13 games his previous was the record-tying goal at Buffalo. The game vs the Stars was also his 800th NHL game and his stats so far are 247 goals, 457 assists for 704 points. Kopitar is 28 goals away from surpassing the 5th top scorer of the Kings Butch Goring (275) which is a very feasible accomplishment.
The season is very bleak for Kopitar thus far regardless of the injury prior and after, we’re not seeing the typical Kopi that the league has come to know. The injury has not been the cause of his poor production as sometimes the case for other players. This is his worst season thus far and even if his production doubled he’d only manage 40 points on the season. However, with the Kings being in the second half of the season and very much alive in the playoff battle there could be a jump-start to his point production. Anze really should be leading the team offensively like he had done throughout his career.
The Captaincy has brought him down heavily rather than bring him up. Kopitar has to look to score more he’s got the eye and hands to place his shot were he wants. He should aim to score around 12 to 15 goals when the season is done and record 30 to 35 assists nearing around 45 points. He has to start clicking on the power play and he’ll have his game elevate a lot. All this while helping his team secure a playoff spot in the tough Western Conference. A difficult task for Anze Kopitar but, he’s shown throughout his career that he can put up points.
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January 14, 2016