Dustin Brown spent eight seasons as the captain of the Los Angeles Kings, helping the team to two Stanley Cup championships during that time. He scored 54 points in 2011-12, the fifth consecutive campaign of at least 22 goals and 53 points, but since has seen his performance decline. Brown did tally 18 goals during the strike-shortened 2012-13 season but in the three full seasons since he’s averaged just 0.35 points-per-game. That performance regression in part prompted the Kings to remove the “C” from Brown’s sweater in order to give it to Anze Kopitar.
The Kings did look to move Brown this summer but with six seasons remaining on a contract that calls for an AAV of just shy of $6MM, there wasn’t much interest. Brown was critical of the decision, particularly in how the situation was handled, but the 13-year veteran has handled his business like a pro this season. In fact, as Josh Cooper of Yahoo writes, not having the responsibilities of the position any longer allows Brown to focus on playing hockey and his play has improved this season as a result.
“I’m not taking the game home with me, which in years past was a difficult thing not to do, partly because I … just as a competitor you want to take everything personally. Now I’m kind of detached a little bit from it, which is a good thing. So I get to come to work every day and do my job. It has been much easier to leave it here, which has been much healthier.”
Brown has six points in 20 games, a per-game average of 0.45. That prorates to a full, 82-game total of about 37 points. Brown has been part of an effective third line with Devin Setoguchi and Nic Dowd and for the first time in a long while he says he is enjoying the game:
“This is probably the first time I’ve had fun playing hockey in a couple of years. I know in saying that we play a game for a living. But I always say no matter if you’re playing a game or whatever you’re doing in life if you’re not having fun it’s tough to do.”
Even with the uptick in production it’s unlikely Brown will ever again be worth his cap charge. But the Kings must nonetheless be pleased to see even a moderate improvement from their former captain.
Elsewhere in the Pacific Division:
- Dylan Strome has tons of skill and plenty of hockey instincts. But Arizona GM John Chayka and team bench boss Dave Tippett believe the one thing holding him back at this point in his young career is a lack of physical maturity, as Craig Morgan of Arizona Sports writes. Strome was recently returned to the Erie Otters of the OHL after a seven game spin at the NHL level. He tallied just a single assist and was a minus-5 while averaging 13:41 of ice time per game. Strome’s struggles represent one of the issues regarding Canadian junior players. His development won’t be helped by returning to the OHL as he’s simply too good for that level. But as we’ve seen, he isn’t physically ready for the challenges of the NHL and he can’t be sent to the AHL to play against other professionals due to the rules in place. However, as Morgan notes, Strome will be eligible to represent Canada at the upcoming Word Juniors, which as Chayka points out, will allow him to serve as a leader on the Canadian squad: “I think that’s important to be in Canada for him,” Chayka said. “He should be a big part of that team; a big part of that leadership group.”
- Kris Russell has his critics as a player, particularly among the analytical community. Yet the Edmonton Oilers, who signed the veteran defender late in the offseason, are pleased with what he has brought to the table, as Robert Tychkowski of the Edmonton Journal writes. The numbers that matter most to the Oilers is the team’s won-loss record when he is in the lineup versus when he is out. Edmonton is 9 – 3 – 1 with Russell playing and just 2 – 5 – 0 when he does not play. While he isn’t putting up big counting numbers, in the opinion of bench boss Todd McLellan, Russell has helped add stability to a unit that has been below-average over the last several seasons: “I don’t think it’s coincidence. I think he does bring enough stability back there that he has an impact on the outcome of games.” Russell had to wait through the summer before landing a deal with Edmonton but if he continues to impress Oilers management, the team could look to lock up the 10-year vet before he hits the free agency next July.