Just over one month ago in Sochi, Los Angeles Kings’ captain Dustin Brown, who was representing his native United States at the Olympics, was benched by head coach Dan Bylsma.
Up until the semi-final against Canada, Dustin Brown had logged 10-15 minutes of ice time per contest for the US. But when they squared off against Canada in their much-anticipated rematch from 2010, Brown logged a grand total of 1:05 en route to a 1-0 loss.
When asked why he benched Brown, Dan Bylsma answered, “We were going with players we thought could score a goal,” according to Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski.
Worse, in their lacklustre 5-0 loss to Finland in the bronze-medal game, Team USA saw little of Brown who had a total of 4:48 of ice time. 1:43 of that was spread out over the final two periods.
Dustin Brown may not be a pure goal-scorer but in all fairness, neither are David Backes or Ryan Callahan, both of whom saw plenty of ice time for the US in the medal round, yet the team failed to score a single goal. Of course, at the time, it is fair to point out that Brown had struggled mightily for the Kings heading into the Olympic break. In the 58 games with the Kings in 2013-14 up to that point, the Los Angeles captain registered just 16 points. Give Brown some credit, though. While he did admit he wasn’t happy about Bylsma’s decision, he told Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times, “It’s the coach’s job to figure out the best chance to win if that’s what he thinks.” He added, “I’m a player, he’s a coach. That’s how it works.”
Nevertheless, it was an unfortunate situation for the Kings’ captain but on Thursday, he meets Dan Bylsma for the first time since the Olympics.
If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t anticipate any hard feelings as Brown and Bylsma are both consummate professionals and should keep their meeting amicable. But Dustin Brown, like most competitors, is very proud and with that, he will look to prove Bylsma that he was wrong in February for benching him. He may not score a hat-trick (although he has done that before when the chips were down), but definitely look for Dustin Brown to produce one way or another. Of course, whatever Brown does on the ice, it shouldn’t affect Dan Bylsma or his team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. After all, they are going to the playoffs, as are the Kings, and if these two meet again this season, it won’t be until the Stanley Cup Final. For now, the Pens are most concerned about their own quest to the playoffs and, just as importantly, getting an injured Evgeni Malkin back in time for the playoffs.
But even though Bylsma won’t likely be kicking himself if Dustin Brown should have an offensive explosion in the Steel City on Thursday, it may force him to think, even just for a moment, what could have been for Team USA in Sochi. Conversely, don't look for Dustin Brown to gloat should he have a big night. That's never been No. 23's style and that won't change anytime soon.
Would increasing the ice time for Dustin Brown have helped Team USA win their first Olympic gold since 1980? No one knows. But what is certain is that the Kings captain could have at least given the Americans a better shot in the medal round, even if he couldn’t light the lamp at will.
What’s done is done but for Dustin Brown but a sweet taste of redemption could be on the menu for Thursday evening.