Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar has assumed the role as the team’s new captain, Kings President and General Manager Dean Lombardi announced today.
Kopitar inherits the role from Dustin Brown, who has served as the club’s captain since 2008. He becomes the 14th different captain in Kings history.
Kopitar is set to begin his 11th season with the Kings, and he’s served as an assistant captain for the team since 2008. This past season, he led the Kings in scoring for a record-setting ninth consecutive season, totaling 74 points (25-49=74) in 81 regular season games. He added an additional four points (2-2=4) in five post-season games during the recently completed 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Kopitar signed an eight-year contract extension with the Kings on January 16, 2016. The contract extension begins with the 2016-17 season and runs through the 2023-24 season. Kopitar is a two-time Stanley Cup winner (2012 and 2014), and he ranks sixth on the Kings career scoring list with 684 points (243-441=684) in 764 career regular season games. On the Kings career post-season scoring list, Kopitar ranks third all-time with 64 points (20-44=64) in 75 career post-season games. Kopitar is a 28-year-old native of Jesenice, Slovenia. He was drafted by the Kings in the first-round (11th overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft and he made his Kings/NHL debut during the 2006-07 season.
If you're looking for a captain from the standpoint of "He must excel on the ice": nine seasons of leading the team in scoring sounds pretty good. If you're looking for a captain from the standpoint of "He must be a role model": his on-ice behavior is impeccable, his off-ice history and his work in the community is every bit as good, and it's probably the biggest reason he gets the C over Drew Doughty. (Doughty, reportedly, will wear an A.) And if you're looking for a captain from the standpoint of "He earns respect from his teammates," well, that's just obvious.
Kopitar may not bring a new, fiery leadership style, but who says the problem with the Kings the last two seasons has been motivation? It's a team with plenty of veterans and plenty of leaders, including Jeff Carter, who I'd bet on to get the second A. Dustin Brown's leadership by example worked just fine until his play declined, and I think Kopitar is a similarly appropriate choice to wear the C.
Also, smart of the Kings not to let this drag on too long; Brown's losing the C was a blow to him, but now he'll have nearly four months to focus on his play rather than his letter.