Will the Real Dustin Brown Please Stand Up?
This isn’t the first time fans of the Los Angeles Kings have seen this pattern and, assuming he stays put, it won’t be the last. When he’s on his game, captain Dustin Brown is a tour-de-force for the Kings. If he’s not scoring, he’s dishing out the punishment physically. But if he’s not doing that or scoring, he’s setting up the timely goals. Unfortunately, Dustin Brown hasn’t been doing any of that as of late – and patience is wearing especially thin because of it.
To blame the Kings’s recent struggles solely on Dustin Brown would be nothing short of ludicrous, not to mention grossly unfair. With that said, though, it is fair to say that the silver-and-black would be in better shape if their captain was contributing in any one of the aforementioned ways.
In 46 games last season, Brown scored 18 goals and added 11 assists. This season, the 29-year-old has played in 55 games and has just 10 goals and six assists to show for it. Brown is, however, a +4 so far this season so you can’t say that every area of his game needs improvement. Even with that said, however, the minute contributions of Brown this year are simply unacceptable.
I do appreciate that, just a few weeks ago, the Los Angeles captain was riddled with a flu bug so severe that he admitted to never feeling that sick before in his life. But if his recent illness is in any way affecting his play these days, I’m not buying it. I don’t mean to sound insensitive nor am I even a doctor but if Dustin Brown’s sickness was that severe, then he should’ve sat out a while longer. If Brown’s reasoning was that he didn’t want to miss any time because he’s a warrior and wants to be on the ice, then I certainly admire his gumption. But Dustin Brown has done very little to help his team compete, much less win, this season.
Half-jokingly, I referred to my criticism of Brown in seasons past saying that my words should serve as a lesson in reverse psychology where No. 23 will feel the heat so much that he’ll start scoring, hitting and helping his team win. Hey, it's happened before. Case in point: February, 2012. The last time I was so critical of Brown’s play, in fact, came only a couple of weeks before his name popped up in trade rumours late in the 2011-12 season. Then, the night before the trade deadline, Brown scored a hat-trick against the visiting Blackhawks, remained a King and became an integral piece to his team’s Stanley Cup puzzle. Of course, as high of an opinion as I have of myself at times, I do seriously doubt that my words have that much of an impact. However, when I do think of the positives in Dustin Brown’s game, there certainly isn’t a shortage of proof.
Even before the Kings became a playoff team, Dustin Brown livened up the bench (and the stadium) with a series of bone-jarring hits in addition to lighting the lamp. Brown was so productive up front that following his rookie campaign of 2005-06, he never scored less than 41 points in a season. That streak ended last season but in all fairness, the year was shortened by the lockout. But to me, this season feels like the straw that broke the camel’s back – and if it isn’t that, then said camel is in dire need of a few Robaxacet before the evening’s through.
While I’ve never been a big fan of comparing players to those from other teams, when I look at the captains of the last four Stanley Cup champions, it seems like, as painful as it is to say, that Dustin Brown just isn’t in the same class as Jonathan Toews, Zdeno Chara or Sidney Crosby. Of course, I am basing that solely on the last few weeks. While that does seem harsh, and I’m not denying otherwise, we all know what Dustin Brown is capable of. During said Cup run in 2012, the suddenly-daunting Kings’ offense had their captain front-and-center. Even when his offensive game dropped off in the Final, Brown scored twice in Game 6 leading to Los Angeles’s ultimate win. But a few weeks earlier, his devastating hit on Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin not only brought the Staples Center faithful to their feet but it was an instrumental moment leading to Los Angeles’s opening round upset of the hated Canucks.
Being one of the few current players chosen by former GM Dave Taylor, Dustin Brown has proven that his team’s former GM and captain did hit the jackpot a few times despite his lacklustre track record at the draft and in the trades department. Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick, the two other Taylor products, could certainly attest to that.
There is no denying what Dustin Brown means to the Kings, their rabid fan base and the Los Angeles community. Not only does Brown give so much back to his community but as we saw on TSN’s special ReOrientation earlier this month, the native of Ithaca, New York is not afraid to admit that he is openly willing to accept homosexual players as a part of his team. There is a laundry list of the good Dustin Brown brings to the table both on the ice and off – but like I already mentioned, patience is wearing thin due to what he hasn't been doing on the ice.
At this point, they may not be in as dire a situation in terms of staying in the playoff picture but the Los Angeles Kings need a shake-up whether it’s up front, on the blue line or behind the bench. As far as I’m concerned, no one named Kopitar, Carter, Quick or Doughty should feel immune to the potential changes coming in LA-LA Land. Dustin Brown is no exception.
He’s given us so much in terms of his contributions towards his team’s success. But with those high moments have come a few too many dry spells for the just-named alternate captain of the US Olympic team.
Should he be traded, I will realize that such a move needed to be done, albeit I would be reluctant to see him go. On the other hand, if Dustin Brown remains a King both this season and beyond, then I want to see a lot more out of the captain. Either way, I close with just one last thing to say:
Will the real Dustin Brown please stand up?