At the start of November, Anze Kopitar was leading the league in goals and points, and was getting serious consideration for post-season awards. Everyone expected great things from the young Slovenian, and this was seen as the breakout season that everyone knew was coming. Allan Muir’s November 20th piece for Sports Illustrated was typical of the kind of praise that Kopitar was getting around the league:

Much has been made of a concerted effort over the summer to improve Kopitar’s conditioning, and that’s clearly played a large part in a fast start that sees him leading the league in scoring with 32 points. Never the most physical player despite his 6-4, 220 frame, he is also starting to assert himself down low, winning battles along the boards and doing a more effective job of positioning himself and protecting the puck. Those elements, along with a total commitment to his defensive responsibilities, have made him the focal point for a team finally on the cusp of respectability.

The talk about conditioning actually originated with Kopitar’s G.M., Dean Lombardi, who made comments similar to those he recently made about Jack Johnson toThe Sporting News’ Craig Custance:

“His first two years, he was in brutal shape. This is the first year he made a conscious effort in the summer to get in shape. Bottom line. This is what we forget with a lot of these kids who break in early. They’re so far away in a lot of ways from having developed their bodies.”

Now, Kopitar’s production has (just) dipped below the point-per-game threshold, and people aren’t talking about him as a Hart trophy candidate any longer. What happened?

Regression to the mean happened.

Kopitar has 20 goals on the season, but they haven’t been scored at an even pace; he managed 10 in the season’s first dozen games. In the 39 games since, he’s managed the other 10. The reason has everything to do with luck, in this case expressed as a fluctuation in shooting percentage. Here are the numbers:

  • First 10 goals: 34 shots, 29.4 SH%
  • Next 10 goals: 122 shots, 8.2 SH%

Neither of those reflect Kopitar’s established level of ability, although the bottom number is closer. In the three seasons preceding this one, Kopitar established himself as a 12.6% shooter on just over 600 shots, with his season-to-season totals fluctuating between 10 and 15 per cent. To start the year, Kopitar was scoring at more than double his normal rate.

Additionally, his linemates were as well. Of Kopitar’s goals, six came at even-strength, and he was on the ice for 13 even-strength goals altogether, and his line had an even-strength shooting percentage of 15.7%. Since then, that has dropped by a full third, down to just under 10.0%.

In short, nothing happened to Anze Kopitar, because he was never as good as his stats line indicated early on. Shots went in. Now they aren’t. Over the full season, Kopitar’s shooting percentage is now 12.8%, just a hair above his career average of 12.6%.

Comments (11)

  1. you are saying i need to drop this guy off my fantasy roster?

  2. Are you in my league? If so, then yes.

  3. Over the last 4 seasons he is only 33 points below the point per game mark, and on pace for his second 30 goal season since breaking into the league. It’s hard to say he is slumping when he is a point per game, I’m sure many teams would rather his slump then say Jarome’s right now

  4. Regression to the mean isn’t the same as a slump Kyle. What Jonathan is saying is that Kopitar was playing out of his mind (and/or getting lucky) to start the year, and now he’s playing more at his usual, sustainable level. Relatively speaking that might be a slump, but really it’s more like he was hot, now he’s not. And I think we can all agree that the true definition of a slump is Iginla right now (only 2 assists in last 10 games).

  5. Kyle – that’s just it. He’s a point-per-game guy, maybe a little better than that, for now and pending some massive (non SH% powered) breakout. He’s not really slumping, he’s just getting back to what he actually is.

  6. does LA have a set up man for anze? maybe they shouldve kept cammi hed compliment kopitar pretty well and probably increase kopitars point production significantly. this is crazy but what about matt stajan from toronto? his point total is mostly assist and he can dish pretty nicley do you think he might be able to help increase kopitars points at all or do they have someone doing that job already? matt stajan jumped to mind because LA could probably get him for nothing.

  7. excuse the terrible grammer and spelling mistakes :D

  8. Bruce – Kopitar’s a centre, and his wingers (when healthy) are Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams.

  9. I can’t imagine being short one of his “regular” wingers for a large chunk of the season helped, but man, those percentages don’t lie. Damn.

  10. Kopitar’s production went down the minute Williams and Smyth got hurt. Although over the season his numbers would have dipped anyway if his two linemates had stayed healthy he probably would have been in the 80-90 point range because they complimented his game so well because both Williams and Smyth crash the net and create second and third chances.

  11. should i trade for eric stall?

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