Prior to the Olympic break, many fans in La La Land where wanting, nay, expecting captain Dustin Brown to be shipped out of town - and as much as its pains me to admit, yours truly was leading the charge. Before leaving for Sochi, Brown had played in 58 games with the Kings in 2013-14, scoring 10 goals and adding seven assists. The lack of production from the 29-year-old was cause for concern - or was it?
This season was the first of Dustin Brown's 8-year, $47-million extension with the Kings so naturally, fans expected more out of him than what they were getting. A trade may have seemed viable on the surface but given the length and the figures of his brand-new contract, moving Dustin Brown would have been much harder than initially anticipated.
Between November 7 and December 21, the Kings were rolling. In their 22 games during that stretch, the silver-and-black lost just twice in regulation. Even more impressive, the Kings were without their MVP from the prior few seasons Jonathan Quick for most of that stretch, who was nursing a groin injury. Naturally when the team's doing so well, the subject of trading players away is left on the back-burner. But when they start losing, that's a much different story.
From December 23 to January 5, the Kings lost five-straight. Then, after going 4-1-1 immediately following said losing streak, it appeared as if the Kings were back on track. But after a controversial finish in Detroit that ultimately saw them fall in the shootout to the Red Wings, the Kings not only couldn't win, they couldn't score. Since said loss in Detroit on January 19, Los Angeles lost eight of their next nine scoring just three times in the span of six games, being shut out three times including in their long-anticipated outdoor game versus the hated Anaheim Ducks. It was bad enough watching the Kings lose, but it was worse watching them playing so lethargically - and while many of the players deserved their share of blame for not picking up the slack, the captain of the team was not immune to the collective criticism. Whether it's fair or not, certain responsibilities come with wearing the 'C'.
Despite winning their last game before the Olympic break versus Columbus, fans in Los Angeles were thrilled for the upcoming Winter Games. While they wanted the break for their team to get the rest they so desperately needed, there was an ulterior motive as American fans wanted for Team USA to win gold, having lost the chance in overtime four years earlier.
Team USA got off to a great start and in the preliminary round, Dustin Brown scored twice for the Americans, albeit both goals came at the tail end of two US-perpetrated routs. Nevertheless, Brown found the back of the net and upon his return to the KIngs, notched points in four of his next five games. In fact, Brown notched points in the two games since returning from Sochi - first in Denver and the following night in Calgary when he scored and added an assist. It may seem hard to believe but said in Calgary provided two firsts of the season for the native of Ithaca, New York. Not only it was Brown's first point-streak of the season but his multi-point game on the campaign. If this seems like it's happened before, it has.
While two goals and two assists in five games is good, it isn't anything to get too excited about. Nevertheless, it's a good start for not only Dustin Brown but the Los Angeles Kings as a whole who, just over a month ago, couldn't seem to buy a goal. The eternal optimists of the Kingdom (bless their hearts) habitually pointed out the latter stages of the 2011-12 season when the same Dustin Brown had struggled so much during the year that there was serious talk of him being trade. But just a couple of days before the deadline, Brown scored a hat-trick against a Chicago Blackhawks team the Kings had a considerably difficult time winning against. It was Brown's first hat-trick of the season but it was enough to call off any and all potential deals. Brown not only remained a King but he elevated his game for the remainder of the regular season and again in the playoffs. While he wasn't as influential in the Cup Final versus New Jersey, he did more than enough to help lead the Los Angeles Kings to their first-ever championship crown. Said optimists knew something good was going to happen and while I was cognizant of No. 23's contributions two years earlier, I was admittedly worried that he couldn't do it again. So far at least, I've been proven wrong.
The most frustrating part of supporting the Los Angeles Kings is spending most of the season watching a team get by with a dearth of offense, albeit a defensive clinic and a show in goal. Still, while the old adage is accurate that defense does win championships, it is frustrating to watch so many players so capable of scoring doing anything but. However, with Sochi in the rearview mirror and less than 20 games to go in the regular season, fans, experts and coaches alike are starting to see, like every season, what separates the men from the boys so to speak. Dustin Brown may be heading in the right direction but so are Justin Williams and Mike Richards, two players who have been to the big dance before they got to Los Angeles and know what it takes not only to win but last in what's known as the most grueling of the playoff tournaments of the four major North American sports. Even Alec Martinez is turning it up, same with Jake Muzzin who fans have been at wit's end since October it seems, even earlier.
In no way are the Los Angeles Kings prepare to start planning another championship parade but the recent surge of Dustin Brown is certainly reminding fans of the spring of 2012, how the captain dealt with the possibility of being traded to lifting Lord Stanley's mug over his head.
Like most seasons, 2013-14 has been a rollercoaster ride for the Los Angeles Kings. They started strong, were faced the unthinkable and unenviable situation of going forward without Jonathan Quick - but they did, and successfully at that. Then, they found themselves on a few losing streaks before forgetting how to score altogether. But the latter part of the regular season, as proven by this team so many times, is when the silver-and-black shine the brightest - and that especially includes the captain.
What can Brown do for you? The calendar says March. You tell me.