Kings center Anze Kopitar met with the media at the team’s training center today following his exit interview with management. Early on in the discussion, Kopitar revealed he will soon join Team Slovenia at the IIHF World Championships because, after all, “It’s kinda hard to say no to your Dad.”
Below are additional highlights from the chat, which follow a 2014-15 campaign in which Kopitar recorded 64 points (16 goals, 48 assists), his fewest in any full season since putting up 61 points during his rookie year …
On the feeling at the end of this season compared to losing in the first round to Vancouver or San Jose in 2010 and 2011?
“It’s tough for me to talk about the San Jose series because I didn’t play Vancouver. Back then we were all obviously excited that we’d made it into the playoffs and then maybe even after the series, it was a lot of positive thinking because we did take the next step. Obviously it still didn’t feel great because we did get delimited, but at that point we were thinking about the next step next year. This year was a very empty feeling. You know what you play for. You know what’s at stake. You’ve been there before and we know how it feels in the end. It was disappointing. We had high expectations. We failed to meet our goals and expectations.”
On the balance looking at the big picture and realizing the team didn’t make the playoffs, and if the Kings going 3-15 when games went longer than 60 minutes this season is perhaps just bad luck:
“I think there’s times where you have to take a step back to take a couple steps forward so hopefully that’s the case with us. We can sit back and realize what we lost and come back stronger next year. The goal is going to be the same. The goals are not going to change and the expectation and the potential we have in this room, we know we can do it pretty much any year with the talent, the team, the character, I guess the experience too. We know we can do it. It’s a matter of putting it together and playing consistent hockey and that’s what we were lacking this year. I don’t think we were consistent enough and that’s why we came [up] short.”
On his potential contract extension that many expect to come this summer:
“Obviously, I’d like to stay here. Being here is very special for me. It’s a special place. But we haven’t started talking yet. In an ideal world, yes, I’d like to get it done. We’ll see when the two parties come together.”
On what the year was like for him, in general, and if it seemed longer:
“I wouldn’t say longer because it went by pretty quick, looking back now. Fatherhood was the highlight of the season. The hockey thing itself, I had a slow start and maybe didn’t feel as comfortable on the ice as I did later on. I thought I finished pretty good and put up some numbers late, but I think it was the start that I have to correct and look back at and see what I can do better. All in all, the numbers were down and I have to correct that.”
On what caused the slow start to his season:
“Part of it was we had a couple short summers. Sometimes it takes a few more weeks to get going and it’s sometimes it’s tough to get going right away. That was certainly the case. So, I don’t think I’m going to have trouble doing that next year, just because of the long off season and the bad taste in the mouth just because we didn’t make the playoffs. I guess we’ll see what happens next year. I don’t think it should be a problem.”
On if he has a nagging upper body issue?
“It was an issue when it happened. Maybe I wasn’t a hundred percent when I started playing, but it went away pretty quickly. It wasn’t bugging me.”
On where he thinks he may have hit the wall [referring to Darryl Sutter and Dean Lombardi saying the team was gassed]:
“I did not feel the greatest in Edmonton and Calgary [on the last road trip]. That Vancouver game was a big one for us and we came out just a bit short. The Edmonton game was obviously a tough one to swallow and it was a quick turnaround too. You can tell the guys maybe weren’t as energized or whatever. The will was there. You can never question that with this group. We wanted to do it. Maybe we just did lack a little bit of gas in the end and we didn’t make it happen.”
On if there was a point near the NHL All Star break he and/or the team decided they were ready to make a playoff run:
“We didn’t really have to talk about it. We knew what we had to do. Did we have a meeting about it? It was with the coaches it usually happens and we came back and they put together a plan. There were 35 games left in the season and we have the best of seven series, so that’s how we broke it down, but everybody knew what we needed to do just to catch up, but we came up a bit short.”
For Kopitar’s thoughts on the possibility of playing without Jarret Stoll and/or Justin Williams next season (as well as comments from Dustin Brown and Darryl Sutter on the same subject, click here. We also have a lot of interesting comments from Dean Lombardi’s end-of-season media session posted here.
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