Anze Kopitar looked out of sorts after Dustin Brown was moved down in the LA Kings’ lines, leaving concerns for the future.
For nearly two decades, the LA Kings have had two cornerstones in Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown firmly penciled in along the team’s top line. Brown, 37, has had a lackluster start to the 2021-22 season, tallying just two goals and five assists through the first 19 games.
The former Kings’ captain led the team in goals (17) a year ago, primarily propped up by his team-high nine powerplay goals. However, Brown has been a non-factor on the man advantage this year – and at 5-on-5 – and was recently dropped to the third line to both take some of the pressure off him and, hopefully, get him going.
However, dropping Brown in the order has hurt Anze Kopitar’s play lately as he is riding a five-game goalless streak.
The 34-year-old got off to a red-hot start, tallying a hat trick in the season opener against the Golden Knights but has just two goals over his last 11 games. The lines have consistently been put into the blender, trying to find the right combination of players to create offense, an ongoing problem for the last few seasons.
Taking a closer look at Kopitar’s production with and without Brown brings up a level of concern beyond this season:
Kopi looked lost without Brown, which makes me somewhat concerned if the latter isn’t back next year.
Looking at actual production (GF%) vs expected (xGF%):
– Kopi w/o Brown (5v5): 27.3 GF% vs 50.8 xGF%
— Ryan Sikes (@ryan_sikes10) November 26, 2021
And it’s not just over this recent stretch. Looking back at the last five seasons:
- Kopitar w/o Brown: 42.9 GF% vs. 51.6 xGF% (1067:13 TOI)
- Kopitar w/ Brown: 60.0 GF% vs. 53.8 xGF% (1343:55 TOI)
– Data via Natural Stat Trick
Brown, of course, will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, assuming he remains with the club all year. The only way he gets moved is if the Kings are in “sell mode” once again, but it’s far too early to picture any scenario of that magnitude.
With the organization since 2003, the curtain is closing on Brown’s time with the Kings, but it isn’t easy to know when that moment is.
But with Kopitar under contract for another two seasons beyond this year, he’ll be expected to be a mentor for the younger players on this roster. There is a level of concern for just how productive he will be if Brown either walks in free agency or retires.
For the time being, Brown was bumped back up to the first line in Friday’s practice, with the likelihood that he remains there after a brief trial and error.
But it’ll be interesting to see if Kopitar can develop some chemistry with Viktor Arvidsson, Adrian Kempe, and/or Arthur Kaliyev – players that will presumably be around for the remainder of his tenure.