If Slovenia doesn’t have a King, I’m pretty sure Anze Kopitar is the acting king. He is a benevolent king, he does not force war and strife onto his fellow countrymen, but crusades for championships. The Stanley Cup is his scepter.
The Kings may not be playing today as the lockout is still ongoing, but they are still Stanley Cup Champions and hockey’s royalty. That’s why the Kings dominate our list of the Top 25 in LA Today. Brown, Lombardi, and Sutter have already made our list. But why would Kopitar be ranked higher?
The captain Dustin Brown despite almost being traded at midseason is phenomenal as a leader and skilled forward. But Kopitar is just a more skilled player and that’s all there is to it.
Kopitar created the flashiest goal of the playoffs, to go with his out of this world numbers. His 8 goals, 12 assists, 20 points, and 16 +/- all ranked first in the postseason. He is a big strong Slovenian at 6’ 3’’, so he is hard to knock off the puck. His hands are so good he can maneuver around defenders. Kopitar doesn’t give up the puck until he wants to. It was a devastating blow to the Kings in 2011 when he broke his ankle prior to the playoffs. And while there are endless other factors that changed, a first round exit compared to a Stanley Cup a year later say plenty about Kopitar’s importance to the team.
Speaking to the endless factors that changed brings the focus to Dean Lombardi. Any one and all of those changes were important. Yet Lombardi did not draft Kopitar, but rather Dave Taylor did. Lombardi is responsible for getting all the player’s into the building, but Kopitar’s skill goes beyond the x’s and o’s—he’s an x-factor. His skills on the ice are the difference.
Darryl Sutter was the final change that pushed the Kings towards the Cup. The prevailing mythology in sports dictates the importance of the head coach. Subversives maintain it’s a bit overstated, and the players are much more important. You can’t just call the plays you have to make the plays. It’s the execution that makes the difference, and no one on the Kings executes better than Anze Kopitar.
The bottom line is he is the best true goal scorer on a team that is usually desperate for offense. He has gone cold for stretches at a time. But when he’s hot, there isn’t a better forward in the league. If Kopitar was playing professional basketball in LA, there wouldn’t be a better platform to boost his fame and skill. But playing hockey in LA, Kopitar does not get the national attention he deserves. That will hopefully change whenever hockey resumes for the Stanley Cup champs, one of the best forwards in the NHL, one of the best names in all of sports, and number 12 in the Top 25 in LA Today.