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Anze Kopitar: What Needs Work

As I covered yesterday, Anze Kopitar is a very good hockey player. No player is perfect, however, and there's a few things I think Kopitar could work on. They're just little things and I fully expect him to improve on them during the upcoming season.

If this could not happen that'd be great too.

The biggest thing Kopitar needs to do is cut down on his turnovers. Kopitar ended up 8th in the league in giveaways with 85. If you'll look at the list, you'll notice that all the people at the top are good players; after all, you can't give the puck away a lot unless you're the one driving the play. Still, giveaways put your defense out of position and are never a good thing.* Most of Kopitar's giveaways come when he's entering the zone as defenders stand him up. The easiest solution is mixing up who carries the puck in and dumping it in occasionally. One person who does this well is Ryan Getzlaf, who can either carry it in or throw the puck into the corner and punish the defender who corrals it. Having Kopitar dump it in and then letting Brown destroy whoever touches it first seems like a good idea.

*Lubomir Visnovsky, Kopitar, and Alex Frolov were all in the top 20 in turnovers. I wonder if that means something...

Secondly, Kopitar needs to work on his positional defense. He's pretty good at stripping the puck but his focus away from the play needs work. Look at this goal, for example:

Ales Hemsky breezes into the zone and gets a quality scoring opportunity against a terrible, terrible goaltender* because Kopitar didn't recognize the play until it was too late. (Also, poor Lubo. How many times did he look like a dick because of someone else last season?) He has to recognize that better if he's going to be an elite two-way center in the NHL. I'm of the opinion that defensive play by forwards is underrated, but there's no real way to quantify it. Still, I can quantify that play and say that Kopitar cost us a goal there. That can't happen if he's going to play 20 minutes a night.

Finally, I'd like Kopitar to work on his faceoffs. He's not bad by any means (49.5%), but most of the elite centers in the league win around 52-55% of their faceoffs. All young centers need work on their faceoffs though, so this one isn't a biggie... I mean, not a big deal. No, I don't use the word "biggie" in casual conversation, fuck off.

Anze Kopitar is one of the best young players in the league, but we can't shower him with rose petals 100% of the time. He could improve on none of these things and still be one of the most talked about players in the league, but he wouldn't help us win as many games as he should. On a team like the Kings it's hard to find good things to talk about, so I get why everyone loves Kopitar so much. I do too. But he's not infallible. He's a soon-to-be 21 year-old kid and he needs to work on getting better. I'm confident he will, too, because he's that kind of guy. Kopitar's great, but he's not one of the 10 best centers in the NHL. Yet.