After a year in which he led the Florida Panthers in goals and was named our 2012-2013 team MVP here at Panther Parkway, veteran forward Tomas Kopecky’s start to this season was hardly something any of us could have expected.
Rather than building on the success he had found last season, Kopecky began his 2013-14 campaign by going scoreless through his first sixteen games played. However, since snapping his scoreless streak on November 15th against the Minnesota Wild, Kopecky has gone on to earn nine points in his last 24 games played. Though the return of Kopecky’s offensive abilities has come as a relief to the goal-starved Cats, Kopecky has been doing most of his damage this season in areas that do not show up on traditional scoresheets.
Though he may not be lighting the lamp as often as he did last season, Kopecky has continued to perfect his role as a player that simply makes life harder for opposing skaters.
“The priority is on the defense,” Kopecky said after leading the Panthers to a 5-4 victory over the Nashville Predators on January 4th. “Last year I was playing on the first power play, and this year I’m not. Whatever helps the team win.”
And winning is exactly what Kopecky has been helping the Panthers do for the majority of this season thus far. Through advanced statistics as well as simply watching his play from the press box on a nightly basis, it’s clear that Kopecky deserves more credit than he is given both by scorekeepers and critics alike.
A Look at The Numbers
Through 45 games this season, Tomas Kopecky currently ranks 10th among Panthers forwards with nine total points (4G-5A-9P) while averaging 16:18 minutes of ice time per night. While these scoring numbers may not jump off the page or scream success, a closer look at Kopecky’s advanced statistics will shed some light on just how valuable the veteran forward has been thus far.
A closer look at several of Kopecky’s Corsi ratings and you will see that he is not only contributing, but playing his best when it matters most. For those who are unfamiliar with Corsi, it is basically a popular possession metric in the hockey world developed by former Buffalo Sabres goaltending coach Jim Corsi. Far more complex than a basic plus/minus rating, Corsi is the plus/minus amount of shots directed at a net while at even strength including blocked shots, missed shots, shots that hit, tipped shots, and so on. If a skater has a positive Corsi it means that he has had more shots directed towards the opponent’s net while he is on the ice at even strength then shots directed towards his own net during that same time. All ten players on the ice are used when calculating this statistic and anything above a CF% of 50 is considered good.
During five on five play in which the Panthers are leading or trailing by no more than one goal, Kopecky currently has a CF% of 54.1% – good enough for second among forwards on the team. During five on five play in which the game is tied, Kopecky leads all Panther forwards with a CF% of 59%. Basically, these statistics show that when the game is on the line, the team tends to control the flow of the game better when Kopecky is on the ice.
Though he and the Panthers’ entire special teams unit as a whole still continue to struggle on the penalty kill – currently 29th in the league at 75.7% – these even strength statistics show that Kopecky can flourish when given the right opportunity.
Outside of advanced metrics, Kopecky is also excelling in several under-appreciated hockey statistics. Although their powerplay has been rather anemic as of late, Kopecky continuously helps his team gain an extra attacker as he has drawn nine penalties this season – good enough for 3rd among Panther forwards. Kopecky has also done an excellent job of supporting his goaltender as Panther netminders have a save percentage of .937% when he is on the ice – best among Panther forwards who have competed in at least 20 games this season.
Though the shootout has become more loathed than loved in recent years, the fact remains that it has cemented itself as a crucial part of the arduous grind of the NHL’s 82-game schedule. Already blessed with having the NHL’s all-time shootout king in forward Brad Boyes, the discovery of Tomas Kopecky’s clutch shootout abilities is a fairly recent revelation for the Panthers.
On a team that often finds itself in overtime and shootouts, Kopecky’s recent success in shootouts has been immensely helpful to the Cats as his two game-winning shootout goals so far this season have earned the Panthers much needed extra points in the standings as they slowly climb towards a playoff spot.
“I’m just working with whatever strengths I have,” Kopecky said of his recent shootouts heroics. “I don’t have the moves like Barky (Aleksander Barkov), so I have to work with what I have.”
Although he won’t be jumping players like Jonathan Huberdeau and Brad Boyes in the shootout lineup anytime soon, Kopecky has become somewhat of a secret weapon for Panthers’ head coach Peter Horachek for when shootouts drag on into the later rounds.
Finally, one of Kopecky’s biggest contributions to the Panthers, both this season and in previous years, has been his leadership on and off the ice. An alternate captain who proudly wears the “A” stitched so neatly into his jersey, Kopecky has become one of the most passionate and vocal locker room presences for the Panthers.
Outspoken when it comes to helping teammates, Kopecky has fully embraced his veteran role on a team filled with young skaters and even a few potential future stars. A two-time Olympian and Stanley Cup champion, Kopecky’s legacy has already been etched into numerous trophies and history books. However, it is his exceptional qualities both on and off the ice that will resonate with the next generation of Florida Panthers for years to come.
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