It was a forgettable season for the Los Angeles Kings. They finished last in the Western Conference, saw a third playoff-less season in five years, posted their lowest point total over an 82-game season since 2007-08, and had a coaching change that failed to lead to improvement.
General manager Rob Blake began the slow process of turning around the franchise’s fortunes in the summer by drafting Alex Turcotte fifth overall, buying out Dion Phaneuf’s contract, and hiring Todd McLellan as head coach.
Anze Kopitar was one of a number of Kings who experienced a down year offensively. Coming off a 2017-18 season where he won the Selke Trophy and was a Hart Trophy finalist, the captain saw his goal total drop from 35 to 22 and points from 92 to 60. The sooner the season could end so they could turn the page and move forward, the better.
We spoke with Kopitar at the NHL Player Media Tour in Chicago last week about the Kings’ down year, working with McLellan and more.
Q. Why did last season go so poorly for the team?
KOPITAR: “Everything went wrong, pretty much. We were battling some injuries early on — not that that’s an excuse but it certainly doesn’t help. Then we just had a poor start and we couldn’t pick ourselves up, really. The coaching change… the change didn’t do what we kind of needed and wanted. It was a rough season, for sure. I think in the end everybody was glad that it was over so we could step away a little bit and recharge and get ready for this year.”
Q. It was a down year for you offensively. What can you attribute that to?
KOPITAR: “Just a combination of everything. There’s no secret that I have to be and can be a lot better than I was last year. I will be better this year, for sure. Wearing the ‘C’ and being the captain of the team, a lot of it falls on me and I’ll take the responsibility, too. My game was not where it needed to be, but this is in the past now, we’re looking ahead and looking to see what we can do better.”
Q. This will be your 14th season. What do you see when you look back at where the league is right now compared to when you came in?
KOPITAR: “It’s been a little bit since my first game. The league has changed a little bit, definitely has gotten smaller and faster. I’m just trying to keep up as an older player now. The league is still very fun and being out in LA we still think we have the pieces to get back to where we want to be.”
Q. What do you know about Todd McLellan that excites you for the future?
KOPITAR: “Todd’s a very upbeat guy from what I’ve experience so far with him. We were on the phone quite a bit and met a couple of times. He’s got this energy about him that he brings in the room and makes his presence felt, which is what we need. That can translates onto the ice for us.”
Q. When you meet with a new head coach before the season what kind of messages do you want to convey to him about what the team is all about?
KOPITAR: “I think first and foremost it’s building the relationship. Me being one of the leaders, he’s probably going to talk to me quite a bit and I’ll try to talk to him as much as I can, too. It’s just building the relationship and pointing out the stuff that was done good and pointing out the stuff that needed to be a lot better. It’s a two-way street in the dialogue. At the end of the day we’re all just trying to get better and that’s where we’re pointing everything towards.”
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.