In late May, the Los Angeles Kings made an executive decision by stripping Dustin Brown of his captaincy as the news was first broke by TSN’s Frank Seravalli via Twitter. The decision ended the 31-year-old’s eight-year reign with the C and on June 30, the now-former captain spoke to the media about said decision.
Via a media conference call, it was evident — and understandably so — that Brown wasn’t happy about the team’s decision to take the captaincy away from him.
“It was a tough thing to go through,” he stated. “If I was okay with the decision, then it was probably 100 percent the right decision. [But] it was a tough pill to swallow. There are a lot of emotions that kind of go through it, but at the end of the day, it was really out of my control because this is a management decision, not like the players voted on it, or anything like that. Quite honest, it would’ve been a lot harder had it been my teammates doing this.
“I think, first and foremost, I was very proud of what we, as a group, have accomplished while I’ve been captain of this team,” he continued. “We won the Cup twice, so it was a really tough process. It’s one of those things where I’m a player, and this is a decision management chose to make…I don’t see eye-to-eye with this decision, but I respect it.”
The decision to change captains certainly caught Brown off-guard.
“Did I ever see this coming? Not really,” the former captain said. “I think I’ve done very well in this position. We’ve struggled the last couple of years, but I think that’s a by-product of a lot of things. I don’t think this one change represents what needs to happen here for us to be successful, but management felt that this was one of the things that needed to change.”
Despite being unhappy with the decision, though, Brown did make it clear that he is in full support of the club’s new captain, Anze Kopitar.
“I can’t say I agree with it, honestly,” Brown added. “In saying that, I think Kopi is going to be a great captain. I’ve been locker room stall mates with him since he came into this league, and he’ll be fine in this situation. I have all the faith in the world in Kopi being the guy now.”
In addition to losing his captaincy, Brown touched on his relationship with head coach Darryl Sutter, whom he admitted that he had some friction with for quite some time.
“At the end of the day, the conversation [between Brown and Sutter] just allowed me and Darryl to get on the same page.
“I needed to hear some things from him, and he needed to hear some things from me. This probably should’ve happened a year ago.”
Unfortunately for Brown, he finds himself in a bit of an awkward situation. Despite ending his captaincy, the Kings did not buy Brown out this past month, indicating that, among other things, they still want him. Of course, whether or not the rumours are true regarding the Kings’ plans to let their former captain be claimed in the upcoming expansion draft, that is still a year away. For the time being, Dustin Brown is a King, but that may not necessarily mean that the club wants him.
“From my perspective, I think [the Kings] tried to trade me, but haven’t been able to come to a deal, whether that was last week, three months ago, five months ago, or a year ago, I couldn’t tell you,” Brown told the media. “But it’s one of those things where, at the end of the day, it’s their job to figure out if they want me to be a part of this team, or if they don’t, find a way to move me.
“But my job is to play hockey, and that’s always been my focus. I’ve never really worried about whether I’m going to be a part of this team. I’ve always believed that I would be a part of this team.”
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Dustin Brown was unhappy about being stripped of the Kings’ captaincy. It also shouldn’t come as a surprise that Brown, in spite of his displeasure, acted like the consummate professional he is.
While it is no secret that his offensive production has declined in recent years, Dustin Brown still deserved better from the Los Angeles Kings.
While this writer certainly respects the club’s decision to make a significant change in an effort to better themselves on the ice, the Kings could have handled this differently. Buying him out following the end of his captaincy would have sufficed or even emphasized that players don’t necessarily need to wear the C to be a leader. Of course, for all this writer knows, the latter has already been established. Nevertheless, despite his struggles in recent years, no one can take away the fact that Dustin Brown not only helped the Kings win two Stanley Cups but lead a team from league basement-dwellers, so to speak, into a championship-winning club in such a short period of time. Not many captains can say that about themselves. In fact, speaking of the Kings’ two Cup wins, since 1980, only nine other players have captained teams to multiple Stanley Cup wins. The list is as follows:
Denis Potvin, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier, Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic, Scott Stevens, Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby.
Only the latter two are not in the Hockey Hall of Fame and that is simply because they are still active. Nonetheless, Brown is in some very exclusive company and his contributions to the Kings cannot go unnoticed. In fact, during the 2012 playoffs, Brown put up Conn Smythe-like numbers, reminding everyone that, while reaching the top of the mountain is a collective effort, his contributions would not be ignored.
Like most fans, this writer will certainly be interested to see how Brown fares on the ice next season without the C but, just as importantly, how he will fare off the ice.
At the end of the day, though, Dustin Brown proved in said conference call why he was the Kings captain for so long. Despite being disappointed by the Kings’ decision, Brown was a pro, which is what most, if not all, expect from the 31-year-old.
Brown’s honesty was refreshing and, in this writer’s opinion, he found a good balance. While Brown was honest in his feelings, he showed everyone that he is a team player, showing full support for his successor, the aforementioned Anze Kopitar.
Whatever the future in Los Angeles holds for him, this writer can say without reservation that he is more of a fan of Dustin Brown than he was before. He has struggled on the ice, granted, but said difficulties do not change the type of man Dustin Brown is: a consummate professional who was born to lead — regardless if he sports a letter on his chest or not.
One more thing is for certain, though. When Brown’s tenure in Los Angeles does end, the Kings should immediately make a plan to raise their former captain’s No. 23 to the rafters. After all, for everything that Dustin Brown has done for the organization — in addition to the community — it is the absolute least the Los Angeles Kings can do.