Having just passed the Great One Wayne Gretzky on his team’s all-time scoring list, Anze Kopitar can realistically be called the greatest Los Angeles Kings player ever.
Look at it this way: Gretzky (918 points) will go down in history as the best player to ever lace up his skates while wearing a Kings uniform. However, that’s pretty much true of any team for which he played, and no one would ever argue he’s the best St Louis Blue, right?
Hell, bottom-six forward Patrick Maroon may be held in higher esteem for bringing the Stanley Cup to St. Louis as a hometown hero. That’s why you have to look at the bigger picture, of which only a single part is point production. And that’s why Kopitar is quite possibly the best King ever despite now only ranking No. 4 on their all-time scoring list.
Gretzky vs. Kopitar
Of course, Gretzky remains at the very least in the conversation as arguably the best hockey player ever alongside Bobby Orr, for example. Kopitar will admittedly have a hard time earning consideration as the best player in the league right now. However, with regard to their tenures with just the Kings, Kopitar very well may have built the better resume.
Not just with regard to Gretzky, either. We’re talking about fellow Hockey Hall of Famers Marcel Dionne and Luc Robitaille, who rank Nos. 1 and 2 on the list with 1307 and 1154 points respectively with the franchise. Kopitar, now with 920 points, has them beat, though.
Dave Taylor ranks No. 3 with 1069 points, for the record, but seeing as entry into the Hall of Fame has eluded him, however unjustifiably, he can’t really make the cut here. Granted, Kopitar, who will quite possibly pass his points total by the end of his career, has yet to so much as retire, but there’s little doubt he’ll eventually get the call. Consider his accolades: He’s won the Frank J. Selke Trophy twice as the league’s best defensive forward and, oh, yeah, two Stanley Cups too.
Kopitar vs. Brown
With the Kings having won the Stanley Cup only those two times (2014 and 2016) in their history, it’s obviously an accomplishment no one else on the list can claim as their own. Now, there are obviously other Kings who were on both teams, for example captain Dustin Brown, who was unceremoniously stripped of the captaincy in favor of Kopitar.
To be clear, there’s a definite case to be made Brown was a better Kings captain than Kopitar currently is. That’s not really up for debate seeing as the Kings have earned a single playoff berth over the three seasons Kopitar has been captain, a first-round sweep at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018.
Hands-down, they enjoyed greater success with Brown at the helm. Refer to the two aforementioned Stanley Cups as proof. However, as Kopitar led the team in scoring both of those runs, he had just as much to do with the two wins as Brown or either one of the Conn Smythe Trophy winners, goalie Jonathan Quick 2012 and Justin Williams in 2014.
So, enter Brown into the conversation of just who is the best Kings captain. He has a shot there, no doubt. However, his accomplishments compared to Kopitar’s overall? There’s no contest. Just a few seasons ago Brown’s contract was a major concern for the Kings, because his production had evaporated. He’s thankfully resurrected his career to a certain degree, but Kopitar has consistently put up the points at an elite level.
Kopitar a Lifelong King
Meanwhile, Williams played a relatively small portion of his career (seven seasons) with the Kings, while Quick, despite having been a member of the team for his entire career, has seen his performance diminish rapidly over the last few years. Kopitar, meanwhile? He’s in the midst of a comeback season, leading the Kings in scoring with 32 points in 36 games.
Again, it’s not just the scoring, though. It’s the fact that he’s still scoring at age 32, in Year 14 of his career, all of which has been played with the Kings, who drafted him at No. 11 back at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. While there’s still theoretically plenty of hockey left for him to play, Kopitar is a good bet to stay a career-long King, with a modified no-trade clause attached to the remaining four seasons after this one in his eight-year, $80 million deal.
Things can still change, but those changes will more than likely come on that all-time franchise scoring list when all is said and done. Kopitar can still realistically catch Taylor and Robitaille. Everyone else is chasing Kopitar for the title that matters most, though.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has written for such publications as the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently covers the Habs for THW as a columnist.