Takes and trash talk from both ALL sides of the NHL's most obscure PATHETIC* rivalry

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Anze Kopitar: What Needs Work

As I covered yesterday, Anze Kopitar is a very good hockey player. No player is perfect, however, and there's a few things I think Kopitar could work on. They're just little things and I fully expect him to improve on them during the upcoming season.

If this could not happen that'd be great too.

The biggest thing Kopitar needs to do is cut down on his turnovers. Kopitar ended up 8th in the league in giveaways with 85. If you'll look at the list, you'll notice that all the people at the top are good players; after all, you can't give the puck away a lot unless you're the one driving the play. Still, giveaways put your defense out of position and are never a good thing.* Most of Kopitar's giveaways come when he's entering the zone as defenders stand him up. The easiest solution is mixing up who carries the puck in and dumping it in occasionally. One person who does this well is Ryan Getzlaf, who can either carry it in or throw the puck into the corner and punish the defender who corrals it. Having Kopitar dump it in and then letting Brown destroy whoever touches it first seems like a good idea.

*Lubomir Visnovsky, Kopitar, and Alex Frolov were all in the top 20 in turnovers. I wonder if that means something...

Secondly, Kopitar needs to work on his positional defense. He's pretty good at stripping the puck but his focus away from the play needs work. Look at this goal, for example:

Ales Hemsky breezes into the zone and gets a quality scoring opportunity against a terrible, terrible goaltender* because Kopitar didn't recognize the play until it was too late. (Also, poor Lubo. How many times did he look like a dick because of someone else last season?) He has to recognize that better if he's going to be an elite two-way center in the NHL. I'm of the opinion that defensive play by forwards is underrated, but there's no real way to quantify it. Still, I can quantify that play and say that Kopitar cost us a goal there. That can't happen if he's going to play 20 minutes a night.

Finally, I'd like Kopitar to work on his faceoffs. He's not bad by any means (49.5%), but most of the elite centers in the league win around 52-55% of their faceoffs. All young centers need work on their faceoffs though, so this one isn't a biggie... I mean, not a big deal. No, I don't use the word "biggie" in casual conversation, fuck off.

Anze Kopitar is one of the best young players in the league, but we can't shower him with rose petals 100% of the time. He could improve on none of these things and still be one of the most talked about players in the league, but he wouldn't help us win as many games as he should. On a team like the Kings it's hard to find good things to talk about, so I get why everyone loves Kopitar so much. I do too. But he's not infallible. He's a soon-to-be 21 year-old kid and he needs to work on getting better. I'm confident he will, too, because he's that kind of guy. Kopitar's great, but he's not one of the 10 best centers in the NHL. Yet.


Nut said...

Anze should also learn to stop digging through garbage cans at camp sites.

Gautham Ganesan said...

Kopitar's great, but he's not one of the 10 best centers in the NHL.

For what it's worth, I think you could make the case that he is. IMO:

E. Staal

Mike Richards is close, but Kopitar's one year younger and has one more year of high-level production than the Flyers center, so I gave Anze the edge. There's a good chance I completely overlooked someone huge, though. (Oh, and I only consider one of Zetterberg/Datsyuk a center since they play together all the time and since Zetterberg's the one usually taking the faceoffs, I'll call him the C).

Earl Sleek said...

TSN has Kopitar pegged 13th among their "Top Trade Value" list (which is a pretty sketchy ranking). All BoCers:

Getzlaf - 4th
Thornton - 8th
Kopitar - 13th
Giguere - 24th
Nabokov - 26th
Perry - 33rd
Michalek - 38th
Brown - 39th
Pronger - 40th

You might think that I left out any Dallas Star mentions, but that was them, not me. How's Turco or Morrow not valuable?

And while I'm on link-lovin', here's today's PuckToon, which talks about the uncertain future of the 4-S Club. Enjoy!

Joe said...

<3 the raccoon pictures, thats the best part of Kopitar week

RudyKelly said...

Kopitar was 13th among centers in points.

Alexander Dubcek said...

What can Anze work on? How about something utterly ridiculous.

ESPN's fantasy geeks have released their complete projections for the coming season, and they suggest Anze is going to be the 140th most valuable player overall, behind such luminaries as Rob Blake, Sean Avery and my left ass cheek. (My left ass cheek can't score to save my right ass cheek, but it racks up plenty of penalty minutes, logs plenty of ice time, and has a surprisingly good plus/minus.)

Now, I know nothing about fantasy hockey, and I realize some of the most valuable fantasy players aren't folks you'd peg as the biggest stars, or cornerstones of a franchise. Still, if this is any indication, fantasy sports (or at least fantasy hockey) are the devil's work, and all who partake in them (or at least the so-called "gurus" and "experts") should be drug into the street and shot.

Anyway, don't take my word for it. See what they had to say:

2009 Outlook: This low ranking for Kopitar is in no way a bias against the West Coast, a conspiracy against L.A. or anything of the sort. The fact of the matter is that even a point-per-game player in the NHL will hurt your fantasy team is he is into a double-digit minus rating. The fact that Kopitar doesn’t get any penalty minutes or take a heck of a lot of shots on goal doesn’t help his case either. He’s an exciting, skilled player but at the end of the day, he doesn’t do that much for fantasy teams.

Of course, they're also going to undervalue Kopitar if they project him to fall off ever so slightly from his goal and assist totals from a year ago (28-44=72 vs. 32-45=77 from 07-08), which I might believe if they expected him to miss a few games, or if they really think secondary scoring is going to be any worse this year (somehow I don't think that's going to be the big problem). Maybe they expect Terry Murray to implement a more defensive-oriented system (bold prediction there), but I think youngish forwards like Kopitar ultimately become better offensive players and put up slightly better numbers when they become more responsible defensively, so short of implementing a full-blown neutral zone trap, or icing the puck whenever they take possession, I don't think Kopitar is likely to regress, and I'd expect him to crack the point-per-game barrier this season.

The only fantasy hockey I expect to play this season (aside from the endless loop in my imagination of me scoring a Bobby Orr-style Cup-winning goal in OT of Game Seven) is NHL 2K9, since it'll be the first NHL game for the Wii. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that 2K Sports will have Kopitar at least cracking the top 100.

Anonymous said...

He's going to be doing that heavy breathing (last pic) a lot this season...hehehe.