The Los Angeles Kings have named Anze Kopitar the team’s new captain.
Dustin Brown had previously served as the team’s captain since 2008, a stretch that included two Stanley Cup victories. However, Brown’s play has deteriorated tremendously in recent years, and Kopitar has evolved into one of the best two-way forwards in the game.
“It’s time for Kopitar to take over,” Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said. “He’s been bred for it. He’s been trained for it. He’s one of our top players, and he’s moving into his prime. It’s his turn.”
Kopitar, who will be 29 at the start of next season, recognizes the added responsibility of the captaincy but is ready for the challenge.
“If you can add the ‘C’ letter to your jersey, it’s a challenge,” he said. “I’m up for challenges. It’s going to give me another boost of confidence.”
Regardless of Brown’s diminished role, Kopitar more than deserves the promotion. He has the support of the entire organization behind him considering he signed an eight-year, $80 million contract extension in January. That puts him at number three for the highest cap hits in the league behind only Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. But Kopitar’s numbers more than speak for themselves.
Kopitar has led the Kings in scoring in each of the past nine seasons, scoring at least 60 points in all ten seasons of his NHL career (he was on pace for 73 points in the lockout-shortened season). He has reached the 70-point mark in seven out of ten seasons.
Kopitar scored 25 goals and 49 assists for a total of 74 points in 81 games this season; despite a first-round exit, Kopitar scored four points in five playoff games. He has 243 goals and 441 assists for a total of 684 points in 764 career regular-season games to go along with 20 goals and 64 points in 74 career playoff games. He has been nominated for the Selke Trophy, awarded to the best defensive forward in the game, for the third straight season.
Lombardi also explained that he does not intend to buy out Brown’s contract. Brown, 31, has six years remaining on his contract, which carries a $5.875 million cap hit. He has met with Lombardi and head coach Darryl Sutter to figure out what needs to be changed in order for him to return to his old form. Brown has scored just 11 goals in each of the past two seasons, the fewest since the 2006-2007 season. He was relegated to third- and fourth-line duties for most of the year.
“I really believe [Brown]’s going to get his game back,” Lombardi said. “He perfectly recognizes that for us to be successful as a team, he needs to get his game back to where he’s capable. It’s just about putting the grind in now to figure out how to get his game back to where at one time, not long ago, he was one of the best power forwards in the league.”
The team’s alternate captains have not yet been announced, though defenseman Drew Doughty will almost definitely be one of them as he is due to take on a more prominent leadership role with the team moving forward.
The San Jose Sharks made changes to the team’s core leadership at the beginning of the season, putting the team in the hands of Joe Pavelski. The Sharks had the most successful season yet with the franchise’s first-ever Stanley Cup appearance. Perhaps the Kings are looking to make a similar change to jumpstart the team and get it back on track as one of the perennial favorites come playoff time. In all likelihood, this decision has nothing to do with San Jose’s, especially considering there were major problems in the Sharks’ locker room and organization, something that is not the case in Los Angeles (at least not publicly). However, it could be just the thing the Kings need.
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