While Jonathan Quick made his return to the Los Angeles Kings’ lineup on Saturday night, he wasn’t the only netminder to reappear after missing time due to injury. After being sidelined with a lower-body injury since December 22, Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo returned to his team’s lineup against the Kings at Staples Center. For the first forty minutes, the netminder looked like the Luongo of old. But then, in the early stages of the third, something changed.
Having developed a somewhat dubious distinction of not being able to find the back of the net in recent outings, the Los Angeles Kings were desperate for a goal. Despite peppering Luongo with 35 in the first two periods, they could not solve Team Canada’s projected No. 1 netminder at next month’s Olympics.
Trailing 1-0 with just over a minute gone in the third, captain Dustin Brown came through, scoring to tie the game. On the play, however, Brown collided with Luongo who was down for a few moments. The Montreal-born backstop did get up however and was able to finish the game, albeit in a losing effort. No harm done… right?
When the Canucks played the following evening (Sunday) in Anaheim, Roberto Luongo was not in uniform because apparently because Brown bowling him over resulted in the netminder reinjuring himself. Unfortunate, yes. Brown’s fault, not a chance. But don’t tell that to Vancouver GM Mike Gillis who blamed Brown for Luongo’s absence from the Vancouver lineup on Sunday. It’s not clear how serious Luongo’s injury is but the Canucks GM apparently thinks less enough of Brown to think he would actually try to injure another player. After all, Brown did injure San Jose’s rookie phenom Tomas Hertl, even though the replay clearly fails to show any intent on the Los Angeles captain’s part.
But what was clear as day to anyone watching on Saturday night was Canucks forward Mike Santorelli shoving Brown into Luongo and while Physics class was never my highlight in high school, I do know that given the lack of space between the two players, it was physically impossible for Brown to get out of harm’s way without seriously injuring himself. That’s what happened when he collided with Luongo.
It certainly isn’t any secret how devastatingly physical Dustin Brown’s game is. But does Dan Gillis not remember Scott Stevens? The Hall-of-Famer, like Brown, was a devastating hitter during his playing days. He may have injured a few opponents along the way and, as a result, opposing fans could have called Stevens nearly every name in the book. “Dirty”, however, was not one of them – and the same applies to Dustin Brown whether anyone likes it or not.
While he made no indication that Luongo's injury is minor or that he's day-to-day, Mike Gillis was nonetheless frustrated with Brown as well as the rest of the Kings for constantly crashing the net. Of course, if Gillis had been paying attention to the Kings' play over the last couple of weeks, he'd know that they were a team which had serious trouble scoring - and when a team can't score, they look for different ways to light the lamp. Crashing the net is a common method. Surely if Gillis thought of such a technique during his playing days, he would have done a little better than 33 goals in 246 career games.
Earlier today, Dennis Bernstein of The Fourth Period (@DennisTFP) tweeted a quote from Los Angeles head coach Darryl Sutter who, in reaction to Gillis's accusation of Brown, said, "That's wonderful but honestly it's bullsh*t." I couldn't have said it better myself.
For someone who exposed former NHLPA director Alan Eagleson as a fraud, I expected Mike Gillis to be a hell of a lot smarter. Alas, I was mistaken. Blaming Dustin Brown for an injury which evidently was not his fault is a very convenient out. The Canucks have every right to be upset at the news of Luongo's injury but to point fingers is simply infantile. Gillis is taking the same route that San Jose GM Doug Wilson took when he blamed Brown for Tomas Hertl's injury. Both men - I admit it's a stretch calling them "men" but nevertheless - resorted to calling Brown out through the media instead of handling their situations like adults and confront Brown or the Kings organization directly.
Since he first came into the league, Dustin Brown has played the game hard - and why wouldn't he? This is hockey, not ballet. If Gillis, Wilson, biased media, fans or experts, want to condemn Dustin Brown for simply playing the game with intensity, then they should all stop bragging about how hockey's the best sport because of how tough it is. After all, Brown's play is a perfect example of how tough a sport hockey is. But if people don't like it, they can take their ball (or puck, if you will) and go home.
It was only a little under two years ago when experts essentially laughed at the prospect of the Los Angeles Kings beating the Vancouver Canucks in the playoffs. Much of the Vancouver media and organization were the same way. But when the Kings shocked the hockey world by eliminating the Canucks before ultimately winning the Stanley Cup, something changed. No longer were the big, bad Canucks cocky. Instead, they were vulnerable. Because they had been exposed, they became bitter and now that the Kings have beaten them for already the third time this season, the Canucks need something, anything, to knock the Los Angeles Kings down a few pegs. Good luck with that.
To be perfectly honest, I'm surprised there haven't been any anti-American conspiracy theorists who suggest that the American Brown injured the Canadian Luongo only weeks before the Olympics. But Mike Santorelli, who shoved Brown into Luongo, is Canadian. So, there goes that argument.
Overall, this is flat-out ridiculous. It's bad enough that Mike Gillis has made a tactless accusation against Dustin Brown but, hopefully I'm wrong, now this will likely pave the way for the Canadian media to single out Brown as a bad guy. This means that for a little while, east-coast journalists will pretend to know what they're talking about if they stay up a little past 10:30 EST.
A word of advice to Mike Gillis: spend less time blaming others and more time building a farm system so you'll be ready for these types of unfortunate situations. Talk to (Kings GM) Dean Lombardi about that. He knows what it takes to win.