It is the end of an era in Los Angeles.
Last week, TSN’s Frank Saravalli first announced that Dustin Brown would no longer be the captain of the Los Angeles Kings, thus ending his eight-year reign with the ‘C’. This news has sparked a myriad of polarizing opinions but this writer believes that this will be beneficial not only to the Kings but for Mr. Brown himself.
In his first year as captain (2008-09), Brown netted 33 goals and 60 points in 78 games. However, Brown’s offensive numbers have declined since then to the point where this past season, he scored just 11 goals and 28 points in 82 games. Yet, while the Kings did finish the regular season with a franchise-high 48 wins, they were quickly disposed of in the playoffs, getting eliminated in five games by the San Jose Sharks. Needless to say, a change was in order. A major question mark for the Kings entering the off-season for the Kings is what they are going to do with Dustin Brown’s hefty $7 million salary which gives the team a cap hit of $5.875 mil. As beloved and as respected as the 31-year-old is, though, the Kings will most likely need to dump his salary should they hope not only to re-sign pending UFA Milan Lucic but to lock up the likes of Tyler Toffoli long-term or even acquire a bona fide blueliner. But few want to see Dustin Brown go and who can blame them?
He captained the Kings to two Stanley Cup titles, joining the likes of Hall of Famers Mark Messier, Steve Yzerman and Scott Stevens to lead a team to multiple championships since 1990. His leadership skills are second-to-none, which was most evident in 2014 when he won the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award. So, it is admittedly hard to fathom why the Kings have taken the captaincy away from Brown outside of testing him, to see how committed he will be next season — assuming he makes it that far.
In the first few years of his captaincy, Dustin Brown made a rebuilding team exciting to watch with bone-jarring hits, getting this writer out of his seat on more than one occasion. After registering a whopping 311 hits in 2008-09, Brown’s totals have steadily declined to where in the past two seasons, he reached career-lows with a still-respectable 234 hits (not including the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign). However, the consistency of Brown’s physicality and point production early on has wavered to a large degree in recent years, leaving many to believe that he should be traded. However, when Brown struggled in 2011-12, he picked his game when he needed to and helped win the Kings the Stanley Cup. The same struggles returned in 2013-14, but the same end result also ensued. Should he be in the lineup at the start of next season, Dustin Brown will find himself in a unique, not to mention unenviable, situation.
For salary cap reasons, there are fans who would rather see Dustin Brown leave town this summer despite everything he means to the Kings organization. From a business standpoint, this writer would like to see Dustin Brown go. However, there is that personal side of it where considering everything that he’s done not only for the Kings organization but for the fans and for the community, it is much easier said than done to simply be rid of someone of Dustin Brown’s legacy.
This coming summer will be a transitional one to say the least for the Los Angeles Kings and while on the surface it seems as if no other team will pick up Dustin Brown’s contract, crazier things have happened. So, if this is the end of the line in Los Angeles for Dustin Brown, this writer will not hesitate in giving him a proper and respectful send-off. If his career in Los Angeles is to continue, then we should have all faith that the now-former captain will use this news as a blessing in disguise to restore his once-exhilarating game.
Yet again, one can only hope.