He has been, for all intents and purposes, the scapegoat of the Los Angeles Kings. While his teammates certainly have nothing bad to say about him, there are many fans who do when he doesn't deliver on the ice. I certainly couldn't judge said fans since I am guilty of the same thing, and even I admit how grossly unfair that is. But Dustin Brown has found ways to help his team win and this past June, he was instructed by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to hoist the Stanley Cup for a second time.
After scoring 18 goals and 11 assists during the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign, Dustin Brown signed an eight-year extension to stay in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, fans weren't big fans of the new contract after he suffered career-lows in assists (12) and points (27) through 79 games this past season. But as I said, the Kings captain has found ways to win - and if he wasn't lighting the lamp, he was chipping in in another way. In this case, the 29-year-old turned it up on the physical side.
At 6-feet, 204 pounds, Dustin Brown has never been the biggest player. But as the classic Mark Twain line goes, “It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.” This past season, Brown dished out 246 hits, good enough for first on his team, second in the West (behind only St. Louis's David Backes) and ninth in the league. In fact, sticking with the hits department, Brown averaged 256.4 hits over the last five years. Needless to say, the Los Angeles Kings know where to rely on their captain should nothing else come to fruition.
But while his offensive numbers were disappointing during the regular season, Brown's playoff numbers were better. While he did score just six goals and eight assists, the native of Ithaca, New York, did, in all fairness, played in 53 fewer games. Better, of those six tallies, two of Brown's goals were game-winners - two more than he had during the regular season. Whichever season we are talking about, at least Dustin Brown wasn't deemed a liability on the ice, accumulating +7 ratings in both the regular- and post-season.
Physically, Brown's game was just as good in the playoffs. In his 26 games, he recorded 125 hits while averaging 722.4 over the last five postseasons. In fact, to prove how clutch the Los Angeles captain is, he averaged 3.11 hits during the regular season. During the playoffs, that average jumped to 4.81. You can draw your own conclusion from those totals.
Since he does possess the enviable ability to be clutch and generating so many hits that statisticians couldn't be blamed if they lose count, opposing teams and fanbases have not been shy when expressing their disdain for Dustin Brown. Heck, if Brown played any other team, I'd detest him too - and I mean that in the most respect way possible. After all, he is a physical player with more intensity than he knows what to do with, but Brown also wears the C for the Los Angeles Kings with immense pride both on and off the ice with his thankless work in the community - and that's something his team nor his fans take for granted.
I certainly can't promise you that I will never be hard on Dustin Brown again should he find himself in another offensive slump. I wish I could, but I can't. Having said that, I, like countless Kings fans, am fully cognizant of what No. 23 brings to the table and, most importantly, how he elevates his game when fans or pundits talk of trading him. He showed his resiliency in 2012 and again in 2014 - and both ended with the same result: winning the Stanley Cup.
Speaking of the latter, Dustin Brown became just the fifth captain since 1990 to lead his team to multiple Stanley Cup titles. Chicago's Jonathan Toews accomplished the feat last spring, while the previous three were Mark Messier, Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman. Most players could only dream of being in that kind of company. Dustin Brown doesn't have to dream about that, because he's living it - and by God, does he deserve it.
His regular season was disappointing offensively, but Dustin Brown did redeem himself in the playoffs. So, while I can't give him an A, I certainly can't go too low. But whatever his totals are next season, fans of the Los Angeles Kings will nonetheless be excited to see their captain back when the puck drops to open the 2014-15 campaign. I know I'll be.
Overall grade for Dustin Brown: B