Change can sometimes be perceived as a bad thing in sports — hockey included. A lot of times it’s automatically assumed that if you’re making a change it’s because there’s something that needs to be corrected.
But for the Los Angeles Kings, one of their first changes of the offseason might be for a few different reasons.
It was reported in late-May that Kings forward Dustin Brown was no longer going to have the captain’s “C” starting next season. The organization added that they were going to “move in a different direction.”
Brown was taken by L.A. with the 13th overall selection at the 2003 NHL Entry Draft and made his debut with the organization that following season, where he notched five points (1-4—5) in 31 appearances.
Overall, the New York native has appeared in 884 NHL regular season games and has registered 470 points (218-252—470) along with 574 penalty minutes.
But what Brown probably will always be best remembered for is being captain of the team since 2008, which is currently the longest tenure of any captain in Kings history. And in that time, L.A. has brought home two Stanley Cup championships.
Arguably, the highlight of his captaincy came during the 2011-12 season when Brown played in all 82 regular season games that season and notched 54 points (22-32—54) in that span. He would go on to post another 20 points (8-12—20) in 20 playoff games as the Kings would just go on a tear through the postseason en route to their first title in franchise history.
Brown would go on to have another strong offensive year the following season, posting another 29 points (18-11—29) in 46 regular season games in the lockout shortened 2012-13 campaign. But just one year later, decline in his game was evident as he only scored 27 points (15-12—27) in 79 games.
And over the span of the last three seasons, he has recorded just 82 points in the regular season. A far cry from the player who averaged 56 points annually from 2009 through 2012. His ice time has also seen a drop as his production dipped. After averaging 20:10 during the 2011-12 season, he finished the the 2015-16 season with an average ice time of 16:10.
And despite some deep postseason runs by the Kings in recent seasons, his playoff production has also seen a drop-off, too.
The forward who averaged a point per game during the Kings’ impressive 2012 run has since notched 19 points (9-10–19) in 49 playoff contests, while arguably his biggest (and only) key moment for L.A. since 2012 came on June 7, 2014 when he scored the game-winning goal in double-overtime of a 5-4 win over the New York Rangers in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.
While there’s a lot more to being a captain than scoring points or being a team leader in the scoring department, it appears to be obvious that General Manager Dean Lombardi and his staff are concerned that Brown’s play and lack of impact on the scoresheet could be quieting his voice in the dressing room. And if there’s one thing that a captain cannot have it’s a minimized voice among the team.
It’s also quite possible that the Kings got some inspiration from their Northern California rivals in San Jose when mulling a possible captain’s switch.
While the decision to take the “C” off Joe Thornton’s sweater created some uproar from the veteran forward at first, it appears to have benefitted the team. L.A. could be looking for a similar reaction.
It’s not so much that the Kings need a new captain. As of right now, many would consider L.A. to still be a very good team.
Head Coach Darryl Sutter will be back under a new contract, Jonathan Quick remains a steady force in goal, while stars Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty are still mainstays in the lineup.
There’s a good chance that management is just looking for a different voice, a different leader among the players. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, some teams go through this and right now management feels like Brown’s time is up.