The Hockey Writers is a fast-growing site that covers the National Hockey League, and I am looking forward to contributing feature stories and commentary/analysis pieces on the Kings and the National Hockey League on a weekly basis during the season.
My first story for the site, a feature on center Anze Kopitar, is now available. Here’s a preview:
As soon as the 6-3. 222-pound center from Jesenice, Slovenia hit the ice for the Kings, he became their best center since Wayne Gretzky donned a Kings jersey, starting in the 1988-89 season.
In his rookie year, the 2006-07 season, Kopitar scored twenty goals and tallied 41 assists for 61 points in 72 games.
He improved on those numbers in 2007-08, scoring 32 goals and adding 45 assists for 77 points in 82 games.
Kopitar’s numbers declined a bit in the 2009-10 season, when he scored 27 goals and contributed 39 assists for 66 points in 82 games, but he got back on the upswing last season, scoring 34 goals and adding 47 assists for 81 points in 82 regular season games.
He also added two goals and three assists in six playoff games.
Looking back at Kopitar’s career, the trend is mostly upward and reaching the thirty-goal and 80-point marks last season are certainly nothing to sneeze at.
But his last two seasons have been marked by inconsistency.
In 2008-09, Kopitar got off to a slow start, failing to score a goal until mid-November and by the time New Year’s came around, he had scored just ten goals.
In 2009-10, Kopitar started the season so hot, he was melting the ice as he scored 14 goals by November 9 and led the league in scoring for a short time. But after that, he went into a big slump, going a month without scoring a goal and scoring just once more before the New Year.
Kings head coach Terry Murray said that injuries to line mates Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams had an impact on Kopitar.
“It’s all a learning curve for him, a young player playing in the National Hockey League, just figuring it out over the early part of his career,” said Murray. “Scoring is not just an individual thing, either. It does take a line, and we got very unfortunate with his line this [past] year. They got off to a tremendous start. They were on fire.”
“We lose Ryan Smyth [and then], after 22 games, he comes back, [but] in his first game back, Justin Williams goes down,” added Murray. “Those were very unfortunate injuries that happened to both players.”
“It [took] the momentum, the magic they had going away from the line and away from the team. It does take five guys today in order to generate offense, to score, and to get yourself in position to score on a consistent basis. The way teams are structured on the defensive part of things today, if you’re off by a foot or out of position by a foot, [compared] to where you were a month [prior], that’s all it takes in order for frustration to set in at any given time.”
Indeed, Kopitar appeared visibly frustrated at times, as he struggled during that six-week slump…
To read the full story, click on: LA Kings Center Anze Kopitar: A Superstar In The Making?
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