Anze Kopitar has been one of the league's very best players for a long time now, and his 2014-15 season wasn't much different from the ones that precede it.
He helped the Los Angeles Kings generate shots (4th best Corsi for/60 on the team), he helped them suppress shots (3rd best Corsi against/60), he created offense (led team in points, 4th in points/60), he played stellar defense (3rd best scoring chances against/60), and he did all of this while playing lots of minutes. He's done just about everything well in his career to date, and nothing changed this season.
Individual shot generation is the only area of Anze's game that is lacking at this point.
Kopitar's shots/60 dropped to a career low level in 2015. In fact, his shot rate has dropped precipitously over the past several seasons, minus a slight uptick in 2013-14. I do think there is some cause for concern here, though it's nothing that will result in an immediate tragedy.
We know that shot rates tie heavily into predicting future production for players. We also know that Anze Kopitar is heading toward the end of his scoring peak. He has a few seasons left before then, of course, but it's looming on the horizon. His shot rate declining already is worrying as we get closer and closer to Anze Kopitar the 30-year old.
The biggest question with Anze Kopitar's shot rate is whether or not it is by design. Is he doing this on purpose? Is he just over-passing? People - whether they be Jim Fox or bad bloggers - have wanted Anze Kopitar to shoot the puck more often for as long as he's been in the league.
Anze Kopitar, forever a rebel, has ignored all advice and gone on to win a pair of Stanley Cups.
This season, his shot rate dipped more than even the most irritating pessimist would have predicted. He dropped 1.7 shots/60 from last season (from 7.18 to 5.48). If you're not ready to buy in to this being caused by physical decline (and, really, he's probably still too young to decline like this anyway), then you could simply look at his linemates.
Anze Kopitar had never played with an elite goal scorer for any length of time prior to this season. Over the past 5 seasons, his most common linemates were Justin Williams and Dustin Brown. Love them as I do, I cannot call them great shooters or goal scorers.
Then Anze found Marian.
Marian Gaborik really likes to shoot the puck. He's also quite good at it. Though Gaborik's shot rate has also declined in recent years, he was starting from such a high level that he's still close to 3 full shots per 60 minutes better than Anze Kopitar. Gaborik has also almost never seen his shooting percentage dip below 10%.
Anze's shot rate declined, but both his assist and first assist rates remained as strong as ever. Though it's a situation to monitor, I wouldn't be surprised if this is just Anze Kopitar's evolution as a hockey player as opposed to an actual decline. Put more simply: I would pass the puck to Marian Gaborik too.
Kopi scored 16 goals this season, and none of them were particularly momentous or fascinating to watch. Thankfully, he and his wife welcomed Neža into the world.
Beautiful collage of Kings players with their children pic.twitter.com/2tCoH5Q0My— Jewels frm the Crown (@JFTC_Kings) March 15, 2015
Anze Kopitar is elite. He doesn't need to change a thing. He'll be an excellent player for several years to come, and he's very likely to remain effective well past his prime. How long he'll remain effective and exactly who he will become are questions the Kings are going to have to attempt to answer in the very near future, as Kopitar becomes an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2016.
It's hard to imagine that the Kings won't retain him, but Kopitar is at a tough point in his career. We have seen team after team make the same when they get to this point of a player's career. Kopi's next contract is likely to carry him into his mid-30s.
Again, the Kings will retain him, and it might even be a reasonable idea to give him a huge contract. At some point in the life of his next contract, there's a chance the Kings won't be competitive, and it won't much matter what they're paying him then. Pay him a lot now to make sure he stays while the Kings are amazing and don't worry too much about 5 years down the line when the Kings might not be very good. That is the most likely scenario, and I'm not opposed.
Mostly, I'm not opposed to this because I love Anze. I hope he's a King for life. I hope he retires and the Kings build a statue for him at center ice. I hope they make him president of the team. I hope Phil Anschutz just gives the whole franchise to him. If Anze plays until he's 90 and he's terrible for the last 55 years of his career, but all of those seasons come as a member of the Kings, then I'd be happy until I die. I hope the Kings retire his number and also all multiples of 11. Retire #99 again and put Kopitar's name on the jersey. I don't care. Rename the team from Kings to Kopitars. Make him ruler of the entire damn planet. Anze, if you read this, please adopt me. I love you very much.
He is the best or second best player on the Kings, and he was very good again this season.