Yesterday we posted comments from Kings forward Anze Kopitar after specifically asking if he was injured during the team’s playoff run this year (Why not start the end-of-season conference call off with a bang, right?).
Basically, the Slovenian center confirmed our earlier reports that he wasn’t injured. So, what exactly was going on that saw his offensive production dry up over the last two months then?
During his portion of the team’s call, Dean Lombardi weighed in with his thoughts on the subject…
“Is he banged up? Yes,” said the GM. “I think it’s just another case, like the team, it’s just a microcosm of all the things we talk about. It’s a different mindset, not only for a team, but clearly your players and clearly your top players.
“This kid came out of nowhere. He’s on the west coast here, and until he scored that goal against St. Louis coming across there, people didn’t know who he was. Heck, maybe the other teams didn’t even know who he was. But this year, one of the byproducts of him and Doughty and Quick, they get circled. Now, OK, you’re going to draw the toughest assignments. You’re going to draw Pietrangelo and Bouwmeester on the back end. So, just like the team faced different challenges, individuals faced different challenges. Yeah, it was harder on him, just like it was harder on the team.
“But then I come back to, wait a minute, this kid is like Drew and so many others. He is far from having maximized his potential. And like I said about every one of those kids, yeah, some of them are going to take a little longer to figure it out. But deep down, they’re a great group of kids. They care about each other, and deep down they’re all competitors. And I have no doubt he’s going to figure it out. He just had a different challenge that he never experienced before in his career, and I’ve got the utmost faith [that he’ll eventually start to think] ‘I realize what this is all about, and if I’m going to be a top, top player in this league a long time, that goes with the turf.’ And they’ve got two things going for them. This group – I’ve been around a while, and people underestimate this, but in this day and age, we all see it with all these sports, we’ve got all the drama and everything else. When you have 20 guys who give a damn about each other and are competitors, you’ve really got something special. That’s what these guys are. Kopi knows not only does he want to do it, but I know he also wants to do it for the guy sitting next to him, and I think that goes for all of them.”
Lombardi also provided some more general comments about the team’s overall health when asked ‘how beat up’ the Kings were right now…
“Like any other playoff team…there were numerous guys who weren’t made public, they were banged up. But I think you start throwing out the names of all these guys who got hurt, and I think it sends a bad message. Unfortunately the playoffs, as we’re learning, that’s part of their learning. Learning to play hurt versus injured. Clearly these guys, and the one thing I can say, I guarantee you all 20 of those guys understand that concept. But I’m not in favor of putting out a list and saying, ‘Look at all these guys who were hurt.’ It sounds like an excuse. And the only thing that matters, is that their teammates know who is hurt, and how badly they’ve showed they wanted to win this thing and play through hurt, and some of them were injured, let alone hurt. But, and it’s not because I’m trying to keep injuries from you, or (saying) ‘upper body injury,’ I just don’t think that’s what this team is all about. They’re not looking for excuses in any way.”
Additional notes and quotes from Lombardi and several Kings players can be found at the links below.
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