The Los Angeles Kings’ captain Anze Kopitar has a big mantel over his fireplace in his house. This is a safe assumption given all those awards he’s racked up in his impressive career. Will he need to make room for the most significant honour of them all – the Hockey Hall of Fame (HHoF)?
This should be a lock – but it’s not. You can find plenty of reasons why one-day, “Kopi” should be enshrined in the beautiful building in downtown Toronto. That’s an easy article and will keep the fan base and the Kings happy with me – where is the fun in that? Let’s also look at why Kopitar won’t get in. Disclaimer: I hope he gets in!
Another Kings Great Ignored?
Any long-time Kings’ fan will cringe when I write Dave Taylor and Hockey Hall of Fame in the same article. Here we go again. Taylor is one of the main points of evidence why there is a real chance Kopitar won’t be in the HHoF.
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Let’s be real. If Taylor played 17 seasons in Toronto, Montreal or Boston from 1977 to 1994, producing the kind of numbers and playing as physical as he did, he would’ve been in the HHoF when he was first eligible in 1997.
Things have changed since then. It seems the Toronto-centric, Eastern time zone hockey world does occasionally see highlights from the West Coast now. But the possibility is real that Kopitar is ignored in the same way that Taylor has been overlooked.
A Crowded Field
Next, there are a lot of players (and I mean a lot of players) in the Kopitar generation who will be HHoF considerations. Names like Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Carey Price, Marc-Andre Fleury, Patrice Bergeron, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane… and the list goes on. You may notice a lot of those players have ties to the east and the original six. They will gain consideration before Kopitar is even acknowledged.
Now for the numbers: they are good, great when you consider he has played for defensive-minded Los Angeles teams his entire career. At the time of writing, Kopitar has 950 points, which is 11th among currently active players. Unfortunately, 950 doesn’t compare to Ovechkin’s 1,278 and Crosby’s 1,263.
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While we are talking about performance, Kopitar is slowing down. At 32 years old, we have already seen his best, and that was a 92-point season in 2017-18. This in comparison to his dismal 12-goal season in 2016-17 and a 16-goal season in 2014-15. As a player known for skills on both ends of the ice, he recorded a minus-20 in 2018-19, a far cry from his two seasons of plus-34.
Declining Play on a Rebuilding Team
Kopitar was named the Kings’ captain in 2016 when Dustin Brown, a Mark Messier Leadership Award Winner, was unceremoniously stripped of the C. The team has earned just a single playoff berth since.
He has four years left in his current contract that now includes a modified no-trade clause, which allows Kopitar to submit seven teams he would be willing to go to in a trade. With a $10 million cap hit and his performance falling off, it’s unlikely there will be many suitors. That means it is probable he will remain in Los Angeles for the teardown and rebuild of the Kings. That scenario makes it difficult to add to career stats and win more trophies.
Kopitar Should Get in the HHoF
Now for the simple part of the article. Why he should be in the HHoF.
He broke down barriers that we didn’t know existed. It’s reported his home country of Slovenia has only seven arenas, yet the country produced one of, if not the best, Kings player of all time. He is the first Slovenian to play in the NHL after being selected by the Kings 11th overall in the 2005 draft. Kopitar scored two goals in his NHL debut as a 19-year-old. He has lifted hockey’s Holy Grail twice in 2012 and 2014. He won the Frank J. Selke Trophy in 2016 and 2018 and was a finalist in 2013, 2014, and 2015. He won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in 2016 and was a finalist in 2010 and 2015. The five-time All-Star was also a finalist for the Hart Trophy in 2018.
And finally, Kopitar is loved in Los Angeles. He is active in the community and just seems to be an all-around nice guy. His number will hang in the rafters one day, and he will be remembered as one of the best Kings – just like Taylor.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.