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2014 Season Review: Anze Kopitar

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USA TODAY Sports


Anze Kopitar Corsi, 2008-2014

GP Corsi Relative Corsi On Expected Corsi dCorsi
2007-08 82 5.5 -6.666 -2.615 -4.051
2008-09 82 12.3 8.835 5.19 3.645
2009-10 82 11.2 8.679 4.552 4.127
2010-11 75 8.3 9.903 3.114 5.979
2011-12 82 13.8 19.419 10.4 9.019
2012-13 47 18.4 24.612 14.303 10.309
2013-14 82 15.4 24.378 13.889 10.489

(dCorsi numbers from @Mimicohero)

Positives

Kopitar plays spectacular two-way hockey and is an enormous reason why the Kings are the league's best team at controlling at the puck. He finished 2nd among all NHL forwards in raw Corsi and 20th in Corsi relative (it's probably more difficult to post a high Corsi relative on a good puck possession team). Every Kings forward who played at least 50 minutes with Kopitar posted better possession numbers with him than without him, usually by a big margin. Kopitar accomplished this despite receiving slightly negative zone starts (-3.47% ZS rel) and playing the toughest competition on the team.

Kopitar's strong Corsi numbers come in almost equal part from shot generation and shot suppression. Kopitar was on the ice for the 6th highest rate of Corsis for among all NHLers and the 15th lowest rate of Corsis against. In other words, he excels at both offense and defense. He was also the best King at controlled entries.

Kopitar was productive at even strength, leading the Kings with 1.95 5v5 pts/60. The Kings shot a rather average 8.05% with Kopitar on the ice at even strength - but then again, Kopitar's career on-ice 5v5 sh% is just 8.25%. It may be that Kopitar does not have the ability to drive on-ice shooting percentage as much as other centers like Toews, Sedin, or Getzlaf. Still, the sheer volume of shots generated makes him an effective offensive player. Kopitar had a rather fortunate individual shooting percentage, so expect his goal total to drop a bit next year, but that should be made up for by a rise in assists.

Kopitar was highly effective on the power play. He logged the second most 5v4 time on the Kings (behind Drew Doughty). The power play was average at Fenwick generation overall (11th in the NHL), but the real story is that they were great with Kopitar on the ice at 5v4 (80.94 Fenwicks/60, which would be 4th this year) and terrible without him (61.27 Fenwicks/60, which would be 27th). Single-year special teams samples are inevitable tiny and subject to lots of random variation, but Kopitar did have a similar (albeit less dramatic) impact in 2012-13.

Negatives

The most common criticism of Kopitar is probably that he doesn't shoot enough. But I'm not sure this is a real problem. At even strength Kopitar put up 7.18 shots/60, a slightly above average rate among NHL forwards and 7th among Kings forwards. It is a little unfortunate that Kopitar generates shots at a lower rate than, say, Trevor Lewis. But that shot rate is typical for a playmaking center, not far off from Toews (7.52), Crosby (7.96), Datsyuk (7.19) or Getzlaf (7.26). And Kopitar's linemates put up huge shot totals. Carter spending 400 5v5 minutes with Kopitar this year is a huge reason why Carter's shot rate rebounded to elite levels.

Kopitar obviously has a much better wrist shot than, say, Dustin Brown or Justin Williams, so I understand why people want Kopitar to shoot more even if it means his linemates shoot less. But as shown above, his shot rate isn't that low. His current approach is working well, in that the Kings get the vast majority of shots and goals when he's on the ice. I'm not sure a change is called for.

The other complaint is that Kopitar has a tendency to lapse into prolonged scoring slumps. First, the frequency of these slumps is very much overstated. Second, all elite scorers are inevitably streaky - that's the nature of probability. Third, as an elite playmaker and defensive forward, Kopitar helps his team even when he doesn't score, more than just about anybody else in the NHL can. This line of criticism is misguided.

So yeah, I couldn't find any real negatives about Kopitar after all. Oh well.

Highlight

What a ridiculous shot. Unfortunately for the Sharks, it wouldn't even make the top three of "most crushing Kopitar goals against San Jose this year."

Roman Emperor Comparable: Trajan

I previously claimed that Augustus was the best Roman emperor, but many actual Romans would have preferred the emperor Trajan (ruled 98-117), whose military achievements left contemporaries in awe. Unfortunately Trajan's reign is not very well documented, but he seems to have been considerate to his subjects - allowing freedom of expression and refusing to persecute religious minorities, for example. As a military commander he led the last great expansion of the Roman Empire, annexing the vast new provinces of Dacia (106), Armenia (114), and Mesopotamia (116). His Eastern conquests proved ungovernable, and shortly after Trajan died in 117 his successor Hadrian withdrew to Rome's traditional Eastern border.

Trajan, born in Spain, was the first emperor from the empire's provinces. At the time of his accession, many conservative Italians refused to believe a provincial could possibly be up to the task of ruling the empire. But his glorious triumphs shattered these doubts. His reputation was such that emperors after him were sworn in with the ceremonial phrase felicior Augusto melior Traiano ("may he be luckier than Augustus and better than Trajan.")

Kopitar has also battled stigma stemming from his place of birth. He fell to 11th overall in large part because many NHL executives did not think Slovenia was a legitimate source of NHL talent. Like Trajan, Kopitar proved the doubters so, so wrong.

Going Forward

Kopitar will be LA's first line center for two more years at a bargain cap hit of $6.8 million. He will then get awfully expensive.

Grade

Kopitar gets an A for being one of the very best players in the NHL. You guys gave him a B last year. Don't… don't do that again.