Thursday, August 7, 2008
What can I say about Anze Kopitar. He is the face of the Kings. When other teams come to play the Kings, the first name that pops into their heads should be “Anze Freaking Kopitar.”
He finished his second full NHL season and demonstrated why he is the top line center, which I’m sure was never a doubt in anyone’s mind. He admitted in a few interviews that he was afraid of falling victim to the “sophomore slump,” but he held his own and was never invisible. He played in all 82 games and racked up 32 goals and 45 assists for 77 points. He had a great year in terms of his own improvement, and he was so great to watch. He had the ability to move his big frame with such finesse and ease while being equally strong on the puck; basically, the best of both worlds. Even when the Kings were having an especially horrible game, you could always count on Kopi making a showing somehow. But I will note that there was a stray game or two where I remember thinking, “Man, even Kopi isn’t looking good.” He should be commended for his accomplishments last season because he improved immensely on an individual level while trying to carry a team that was going in the opposite direction.
He is definitely the type of leader who leads by example. His point production was rivaled only by Dustin Brown, his linemate and seemingly life partner in that they were hardly ever out on the ice without each other. I really can’t express just how awesome Kopi is as a player and subsequent team representative. That being said, seeing him out on the ice during the All-Stars Game warmed my heart. Here was the face of my franchise on a huge national stage getting the attention he so rightly deserved. It definitely made a boring game a bit tolerable.
After the season ended he went on to represent Slovenia in the World Championships. He is the only NHL player who hails from Slovenia, which meant that his name was the only recognizable name on that roster. Just like he was the face of the Kings last season, he was Team Slovenia in the Championships. He logged the most ice time, had the most points, and basically carried the entire team on his shoulders. The most telling stat that I found was that his average ice time for each shift was longer than everyone else's on the team, which included the defensemen.
This summer produced one of most ridiculous trade rumors involving Kopi that I’ve heard in awhile. Kopi to Chicago with Martin Gerber and Andrej Mezsaros in return from Ottawa? That deserves a punch in the face. I’ve already expressed my thoughts here so I’m not going to go into that again. I feel lame that I don’t have more to say on Kopi, but how many words do I need to use to tell everyone that he’s as solid and as consistent as the next NHL superstar. He will be with the Kings for many years to come and I’m curious to see how much money will go his way once we lock him up long term. I also see him wearing an "A" next year, no doubt.