LA Kings: The evolving role of Dustin Brown is critical to rebuild

LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports)
LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports) /

Former LA Kings captain Dustin Brown is off to one of his best starts in years while playing an instrumental role in the team’s rebuild.

Brent Seabrook, Zach Parise, Brent Burns, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler: all players who were selected after Dustin Brown in the opening round of the 2003 NHL Draft. It’s always interesting to think in hindsight and wonder how the LA Kings would have fared with any of the aforementioned names instead of Brown.

In the risk of sounding biased, though, this writer wouldn’t change a thing.

He’s gone through his share of offensive slumps, survived a few trade rumors, and even battled on after losing the team’s captaincy. Through it all, though, Dustin Brown has persevered, representing the LA Kings like a badge of honor — and this unusual season is no exception to that.

After opening the scoring on Thursday in Arizona, Brown collected his eighth goal of the season, officially marking his best start to any campaign. He is now, as of Saturday morning, just two games shy of 1200 for his career and, even at 36, is showing very little sign of slowing down.

At the Kings’ ‘State of the Franchise’ event a few seasons ago, Dustin Brown had admitted that he was at a point in his career where he was putting process ahead of results. While he has not lacked in the latter, the Ithaca, N.Y., native nonetheless places a good deal of gravity in the former.

Following practice on Friday, Brown spoke with the media about how he’s felt this season and how he’s adapted in becoming a continued contributor to the Kings’ success.

“You adapt and you grow as a player,” the veteran noted. “You know, I still care about my point totals and our team point totals. I’m still competitive in that nature, but I know there’s games when I’m not going to produce and that I can find other ways to help this team win. I’m probably am not as hard on myself in those types of moments.”

One example of this was an opportunity from Thursday night’s win. En route to the Kings’ victory over the Coyotes, Brown had a chance to regain the lead on a beautiful set-up pass from Anze Kopitar. However, while he had netminder Darcy Kuemper beat, the same could not be said for the post, ringing the shot off the iron to keep the game deadlocked.

“Hitting the post last night would bug me three, four years ago,” Brown admitted. “But at the end of the day, I did my best I could on that play, that two-on-one, and put it in the rear-view mirror. I think I’m much quicker to hit the reset button nowadays.”

The former LA Kings captain elaborated on what helped him shift his mindset.

“As I got older, I probably understand what makes me a good player and a little bit more,” Brown continued. “I think every player kind of goes through this progression as they get older. They figure out what works better for them, and I worked at it. Just trying to figure out what I needed to do to be a better player, and sometimes, it’s not always– in this game, a big part of is mental and how you approach it in your own head in between your ears.”

Overall, Dustin Brown has had his share of adversity (see some of the reasons above), but playing for the same team, much less still being in the NHL, after 18 years is no accident. The 36-year-old could have easily thrown in the towel, so to speak, multiple times over that stretch. But, he didn’t. And it wasn’t enough to be complacent.

“So, I went through some tough times, a few tough years where a lot of people doubted me, and probably I doubted myself a little bit, but I looked at it as a challenge,” Brown elaborated. “You just kind of plug away, and now I’m on the backside of my career now, and part of it’s that I’m just trying to enjoy the game and have fun playing the game because I know it’s not going to last forever.”

Brent Seabrook may have helped the Blackhawks win three Stanley Cups, Ryan Getzlaf may have helped bring the first Stanley Cup to California, and Ryan Kesler may have helped turn the Canucks into a perennial championship contender. Given the choice of any three of these players, though, this writer would have still chose Dustin Brown.

An instrumental figure in not one, but two crucial rebuilds, Brown has found ways to make the LA Kings a competitive force, whether it meant dishing out some big hits, creating plays or even scoring a few tallies. His contributions nearly a decade ago have resulted in captaining the Kings to two Stanley Cup titles — the only U.S.-born captain to accomplish the feat.

In fact, since 1990, only seven other players have captained teams to multiple Stanley Cups: Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier, Scott Stevens, Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic, Jonathan Toews, and Sidney Crosby. Aside from the latter two, who are en route, the former five are Hall-of-Famers. So, while his career may not possess the same Hall-of-Fame caliber that the aforementioned have, Dustin Brown is nonetheless a celebrated leader who will go down as one of the greatest LA Kings of all-time.

Yet, while it won’t necessarily be for his Cup wins or for his longevity, Brown stands above the fray for his resilience, for testing his own character, and overcoming a multitude of obstacles that have stood in his way throughout the course of his Kings career.

It is not the numbers that make him as effective, or as admirable, as he is, and that’s okay. There is so much more that makes Dustin Brown so respected and so revered, and, quite frankly, that is all that the LA Kings leader needs.

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LA Kings Schedule

Riding a three-game winning streak and a four-game point streak, the LA Kings look to extend their winning ways on Saturday when they close out their two-game set in Arizona against the Coyotes.