Dean Lombardi: Anze Kopitar Must Learn To Handle Success
Gann Matsuda of Frozen Royalty is right back at it with his exclusive sit-down with Los Angeles Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi. This is a great read to take you into the weekend!
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings started the 2009-10 season on fire, as did center Anze Kopitar.
The Kings were scoring goals in bunches, as the line of left wing Ryan Smyth, right wing Justin Williams and Kopitar were torching just about every opponent they faced.
Kopitar was largely responsible for that, as he opened the season on a serious tear with fourteen goals and seventeen assists for 31 points in the team’s first 21 games (October 3 – November 14, 2009).
Indeed, with Smyth going hard for loose pucks and consistently parking himself in front of the opposition’s net, Kopitar found himself with more room to maneuver in the offensive zone, giving him more scoring chances.
But it was much more than Smyth that made Kopitar the scoring terror that he was early in the season.
Off-season conditioning and strength work added muscle and endurance to Kopitar’s 6-3, 222-pound frame. That gave him more speed and power to get past defenders and to help him win more loose puck battles.
But when Smyth went down with a rib injury and missed six weeks starting in mid-November, Kopitar went down, too, virtually disappearing from the scoresheet. In fact, from November 11 (a few games before Smyth was injured) to December 7, Kopitar did not score a goal—a thirteen-game goal-scoring drought.
Since November 16, the first game Smyth missed due to the injury, Kopitar has scored just four goals and has added ten assists for fourteen points in 26 games, way, way off the 1.48 points per game pace he set to begin the season.
Conventional wisdom has been that Smyth’s absence was the primary reason for Kopitar’s huge slump. But don’t try telling that to Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi, even though he was scratching his head about the situation as well.
“I can’t deny that I’ve asked myself if one guy [could make that much of a difference],” Lombardi said during a recent interview. “I’ve got to admit I was a little confused by that myself. I did the same thing you did. I talked to hockey people and asked, ‘is it possible that one guy who was leading the league in scoring then gets six points in thirteen games, [could be because one player (Smyth) goes out of the lineup]?’”
Lombardi then went to an expert for help.
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