Monday, December 28, 2020

Kings Preview: Anze Kopitar Jersey Card

This will likely be the preface to all of this year's Season Preview posts: 2020 is a different beast and requires adaptability; in my case, it means the joint posts with my "main/personal" blog will not be in the "player here/analysis there" format but rather the entire scope of the analysis will take place here and the player will have some sort of direct connection to what's written. Caveats: at this point, despite the season being set to start in Mid-January, several impact players haven't found a team yet and quite a few teams are currently above the salary cap, which means there is much maneuvering left to do.

The present and recent past have been bleak, but the Los Angeles Kings (team links are ads for which I may eventually get paid) have positives they can build on: they were the only team in the NHL that didn't surrender a single goal while on the powerplay last season and they finished 13th in the league in goals against, as Calvin Petersen looks poised to steal more starts away from future Hall Of Famer Jonathan Quick. They also seem to have drafted well, they just need to ride out bad (or in the case of Jeff Carter, merely "too long") contracts to veterans to make room for that talent before it gets overpriced, too.

What makes their odds look good:
The Kings have more blue-chip prospects than dependable NHLers right now: Quinton Byfield, Gabriel Vilardi, Alex Turcotte, Samuel Fagemo... unfortunately, they're all huge power forwards who will take years to reach their prime, so instead of being two or three years away from dominance, think four or five. That's a long time with no offense and rookie mistakes, but it will be exciting. They also have a ton of players who have won Stanley Cups, and although they're are generally trending downwards, they can at least dispense experience and are not adverse to each having a miracle rejuvenation in a shortened season. If "anything is possible", then of all the teams I've excluded in the playoffs, my "long-shot" betting money would be on the Kings to make a surprise deep run.

Question marks:
Is Drew Doughty already in a steep decline? How long will Dustin Brown be kept around? These physical players don't typically have a long shelf life. How long will L.A. keep putting Quick between the pipes?

Some teams will be out of their rebuilding phases soon, your Ottawa Senators in a year, your Detroit Red Wings in two or three. The Kings took a longer route, that of waiting out long contracts, which means they will actually hit cap connundrums right before turning into contenders, as this current wave of youngsters age out of their rookie and bridge deals and into lucrative prime years, while they fight for pretty much the same spots, and the team will have to choose between top-five picks from a five-year gap to fit into the lineup. So the playoffs are a ways away, and contention a little further still. But I see the Kings ahead of the other two California teams.

Sixth in the West.

One player who's had his ups and downs since the Cup-winning days of 2011-12 and 2013-14 is current captain Anze Kopitar, the first Slovene to play in the NHL, a towering two-way center who almost always gets his 60 points per year but whose plus/minus stats oscillate greatly from year to year:
Take a look starting in 2013-14: +34 (Selke Trophy win), -2, +34 (Selke), -10, +21, -20, +6, -1... lesser players have had their contracts bought out for that kind of inconsistency, but Kopitar hasn't even been the most at-risk of that happening on his own line. He is due to hit a few milestones this season, notably the 100th-best rank on the career points list, surpassing defenseman Larry Robinson's 958; Kopitar stands at 950, meaning he likely won't hit the 1000 mark this year in a 56-game season, but definitely early in the 2021-22 campaign. Should he play in at least 40 contests this year, he will surpass both Luc Robitaille and Dave Taylor and stand second of all-time for games played by a King. Here he is wearing Los Angeles' white (away) uniform from 2007-11 (the team also used a version of it as its home version with a more elaborate bottom than just the "Los Angeles" wordmark from 1998 until 2002):
That's card #GJ-KO from Upper Deck's 2011-12 Series 1 collection and UD Game Jersey sub-set, featuring a matching white game-worn jersey swatch. Although, for obvious reasons, he has never medaled with Team Slovenia at the U18s (three times), World Juniors (three times), World Championships (six times), and Olympics (twice), he was a member of the Team Europe squad that finished as runner-up to champion Team Canada at the 2016 World Cup and had an assist in the first game of two in the Final.

No comments:

Post a Comment