I’ve already used several Anze Kopitar quotes for stories that were built over the last 24 hours, but there were a lot of interesting reflections during Monday’s media availability that I haven’t used yet and wanted to share. Topics ranged from his own personal evaluation to potentially losing several integral parts of prior Stanley Cup teams and what exactly happened on the Western Canada road trip.
On whether he will be playing at the World Championships:
Yeah, it’s kind of hard to say no to your dad when he’s the coach. [Reporter: Dad has a little leverage on you?] A little bit.
On getting to rest before the World Championships begin on May 1:
Yeah, I certainly don’t have to rush and he knows and we’ve kind of chatted already. I can pretty much take some time off now, a week or so, and just gather really and recharge a bit. There’s still plenty of time for me to go and skate with the team. I think there will be one exhibition game, too. So that should be enough.
On how missing playoffs compares to being eliminated by Vancouver and San Jose:
Well, it’s tough for me to talk about the San Jose series because I didn’t play. Vancouver, I think, back then we were all obviously excited that we made it into the playoffs and maybe even after the series there was a lot of positive thinking because we did take the next step. Obviously it still didn’t feel great because we did get eliminated. But at that point, we were thinking about taking the next step next year. This year was a very empty feeling. You know what you play for. You know what’s at stake and obviously you’ve been there before and we know how it feels in the end. To come up short this year was disappointing obviously. We had high expectations and we failed to meet our goals and expectations.
On what it would be like if some players are not on the team next year:
Obviously you want to see everyone come back just because we did gel as a group. We became really tight. It’s going to be tough if the guys don’t come back. Obviously with Willy and Stolly and whoever the case may be, I love the guy, tough to see him go, but I guess when you look at the bigger picture, it is a business and they have to do what they think is right for them and you’ve got to respect their decision. It’s not like I’m not going to like them anymore. It’s just going to suck that we won’t be playing, if that happens, we won’t be playing together.
On where Jarret Stoll makes the biggest impact on the team:
Just everywhere, he’s one of those louder leaders. You can definitely hear him everywhere. It’s probably the exact opposite from me and Brownie. He and Greenie are the exact opposite from me and Brownie. That’s the thing that makes this group special. Everybody can just be themselves and go about their business and be so close to everybody. It’s special. If you miss a couple guys, it’ll be a tough one to swallow but that’s the way it is.
On whether this season felt longer than normal for him:
I wouldn’t say longer because it went by pretty quick. Looking back now, obviously 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. I think it was the start that I have to correct and look back at and see what I can do better. But I guess all in all, the numbers were down and I’ve got to correct that.
On what contributed to his slow start and what allowed him to overcome it:
I think part of it too is we had a couple of short summers. So sometimes it takes a few more weeks to get going and sometimes it’s tough to get going right away and that was certainly the case. I don’t think I’m going to have trouble doing that next year just because of the long offseason and the bad taste in my mouth just because we didn’t make the playoffs. I guess we’ll see what happens next year, but I don’t think it should be a problem.
On whether he had lingering problems from his upper-body injury early in the season:
Well, it was an issue when it happened. Maybe I wasn’t 100-percent when I started playing, but it went away pretty quick. It wasn’t bugging me, to answer your question.
On when he felt like he hit a wall:
I did not feel the greatest in Edmonton and Calgary. That Vancouver game was a big one for us and we came up just a bit short and then the Edmonton game, that was a tough one to swallow. It was a quick turnaround, too. But you could tell the guys maybe weren’t as energized or whatever. The will was obviously there, you can never question that with this group. We wanted to do it, we maybe just did lack a little bit of gas in the end and we didn’t make it happen.
On whether the team decided after the All-Star break to make a run:
Well, we didn’t really have to talk about it. We knew what we had to do. To your question, did we have a meeting about it? It was with the coaches that usually happens. We came back and they put together a plan. It was 35 games left in the season and we had the five best-of-seven series. So that’s how we broke it down. But everybody knew what we needed to do just to catch up and we did that but came a bit short.