How Does Kopitar’s Season Compare to Last Year?

  • He’s on pace for 32 goals (tying his career best from two years ago) and 48 assists (exceeding his career best of 45, two years ago) for 80 points. Three points better than two years ago, fourteen points better than last year.
  • Last year, after 43 games, he was at 11 goals, 22 assists, 33 points. This year, he’s at 17-25-42.
  • Last year, in 21 games (out of the first forty three) he did not register a point. This year, only 16 no-shows so far.
  • Last year, in 8 games (through the first 43 games) he was held to one or no shots. This year, also 8 games.
  • Last year, he scored three goals in one-goal victories (i.e. games in which the Kings won by one goal; there were 7  such games in the first 43). This year, he’s scored 5 such goals (out of 13 such games).
  • Last year, there were 9 one-goal losses (first 43 games) in which he did not score a goal. This year, there have been 8.
 
  • https://accounts.google.com/ServiceLogin?service=mail&passive=true&rm=false&continue=http://mail.google.com/mail/&scc=1&ltmpl=default&ltmplcache=2 falmer

    Well, given that last year he was supposedly working on his play away from the puck — and therefore his offensive contribution took a step back — I guess I’d conclude that he’s figuring it out and improving. And from that I’d conclude that he’s smart, talented and cares about the team. All is good.

    It seems clear by now, however, that he was especially hot at the beginning of this season — i.e. NO, we should not expect him to be tearing it up like that all season long. He then went through a slump, and now seems to be leveling out. Kopitar is not a beast like Ovechkin or Crosby; he’s not going to put the team on his back and do whatever it takes to win. (As Lombardi observed, unlike our young Canadian players and prospects, Kopitar never had to be a winner in his pre-NHL career.) Or I should say that I don’t see that brand of hunger (aka “character”) in his game just yet. Maybe he’s not as physically aggressive as I’d like him to be? Anyway, I have no doubt he’ll continue to gradually improve throughout the season and in the coming years. But I don’t know if he’s ever going to be the ultra-dominant player that his size, skills, talents and hot streaks might lead us to fantasize about.

  • quisp

    I agree with your assessment in general. However, given that the official narrative is that, last season, he was working on his complete game (so his numbers took a hit), and therefore this season he’s “putting it all together,” I don’t think the numbers bear that out. His numbers are slightly better than two years ago, with better defensive numbers. Of course, two years ago he was getting paid minimum wage, and now he’s getting $6MM. It used to be that a player’s salary would elicit from me a big “so what,” since I wasn’t the one paying his salary I didn’t care if he was overpaid (sort of like complaints about how much a movie cost to make — I don’t care, the admission price is the same). But now, the cap makes it matter. The question is, is $6MM well-spent on Kopitar in the long run. Given that Ovechkin and Crosby get $10MM–ish, I have to say yes. However, Hossa gets less in cap-terms. There are several relevant comparables. Most of them force me to the conclusion that Kopitar is slightly underperforming and (we hope) is still learning. And that’s basically what it looks like on first impression, too.

    If the team gets past the first round of the playoffs, that will be a big feather in Kopitar’s cap. The fans and management will cut his numbers some slack if the franchise is winning. And he’s obviously a big part of that.

    I was watching the Kingscast pod-cast of their interview with Moncrief. He said two interesting things. One was that when Ryan Smyth is practicing (i.e. when he’s not hurt) he finishes every drill and this has an effect on everyone else. I think he mentions Kopitar specifically, but if not I believe he’s talking about him. The other thing he said was that when Lombardi wanted to bring in Gretzky, in large part that was in order to be able to impart his wisdom to the kids, and the example he gave was of being able to sit down with Kopitar when he’s in a slump and say “I’ve been there.” Moncrief characterizes Kopitar as needing to be “coddled.”

    I think this speaks to your “character” comment. I don’t think he’s lazy, quite the opposite. But I do think he lacks experience. He doesn’t quite “get it” yet. That’s sort of okay. Those things take time. On the other hand, some players come by it naturally (Doughty, Simmonds, Moller). Kopitar, with his superior skills, is apparently not one of them.

    • DougS

      I recall Lombardi saying once (directly in reference to Doughty, and indirectly to Kopitar, IIRC) that when you’re a young stud hockey player growing up in Canada, it toughens you mentally because there’s so much pressure on you at a young age. Kopitar, by comparison, was a big fish in a small pond, and was never challenged in the same ways that Doughty was at the same age. That fits in, I think, with a lot of what you guys are saying here.

      It can take a while to make that adjustment, when you go from being the big fish in a small pond to a much more competitive and intense environment. You have to grow out of a comfy mindset, in which you got used to succeeding without having to work at it. Perhaps Kopi will never fully get past that, but I think it’s too early to get discouraged. If he was 5 years older, I’d say maybe he’s topping out (an argument that you could make about Frolov, for instance).

  • https://accounts.google.com/ServiceLogin?service=mail&passive=true&rm=false&continue=http://mail.google.com/mail/&scc=1&ltmpl=default&ltmplcache=2 falmer

    Underperforming? Agreed.

    Needs to be “coddled”. No doubt.

    What’s reassuring, however, is that Lombardi is creating such a deep character pool — what he calls a “winning culture” — that some of it is bound to rub off on Kopi. As I said, he’s smart and he wants to win. With Smyth, Greene, Brown, Doughty, Simmonds, Moller, etc., etc., — not to mention several younger prospects — there are more than enough examples for him to learn from.

    • quisp

      Totally.