Let’s Talk About Dustin Brown

Dustin Brown (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)
Dustin Brown, who has captained the Kings since 2008, has been stripped of the ‘C’ in Los Angeles.  (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

There is a different feel to the Los Angeles Kings these days. Failing to make the playoffs in 2015 followed by an exit from this year’s playoffs in the first round, after just five games, has most feeling it’s time for some changes in Los Angeles.

As of yesterday, the first domino for those changes may have fallen and that domino has to do with who wears the ‘C’ for the Kings.

According to reports, the Kings have told Dustin Brown that he will no longer be the team’s captain. TSN’s Frank Servalli first broke the news, saying the Kings ‘want to go in a different direction with the C’.

The most common argument tossed around in the anti-Brown circles is the fact that Brown’s production and role on the ice doesn’t match up with his salary. Well, let’s take a look at how that came about.

What Can Brown Do For Himself?

In the summer of 2013, Brown inked an eight-year, $47 million contract extension. Brown was fresh off a Stanley Cup championship in 2012, a trip to the Western Conference Final in 2013 and had five consecutive seasons of 20-or-more goals and hit 18 goals in the 46-game regular season after the lockout in 2013.

Is there a better time to work out a new contract?

Brown took advantage of his play and his team’s success when he could. Brown had one more year on his contract from 2008 through 2014 at a $3.175 million cap hit. But why wait? Take advantage of your stock as a player, and in more ways a leader for your team, and make some money.

The following season, and final season of Brown at $3.175 million,  he led the Kings to their second Cup in three years and put up 15 goals and 27 points in the regular season. Awesome, still earning that paycheck.

Then Brown’s cap hit jumped up to $5.875 million. Then The Kings missed the 2015 playoffs. Then the Kings put together a respectable 2015-16 season and stumbled down the stretch but ultimately made it back into the post season. Then the Kings got steam-rolled by the San Jose Sharks and were eliminated from the playoffs after five games.

Not the best way to earn your first two paychecks.

Back when the Kings won their first Cup in 2012, Brown finished the season with 54 points, the season before that 57 and before that 56. Brown even hit 33 goals and 60 points in 2008. However, since 2013 Brown has grabbed 27, 27 and 28 points where he posted career lows in goals, at 11, the last two seasons.

Not good for a pay raise to kick in as your production goes the opposite direction. But again, can you blame Brown? He wanted to work out a contract early and he did. I’m sure he would have liked to float around the 55-point mark and not slowly fall down the depth chart. But you couldn’t predict this nosedive in production and the dollar figure attached to Brown now is salt in the wound.

All in all, Brown is tied to a horrible contract. But in the end, hockey at the NHL level is a business and how men make a living and provide for themselves and their families. Brown can’t be blamed for cashing in when the opportunity presented itself.

Taking a step back and looking at the big picture, people are probably more mad at the contract than they are with Dustin Brown.

(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
Dustin Brown is the only American NHL captain to twice captain a team to a Stanley Cup (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

Loyalty vs. Production

Now that all that is taken care of, let’s look at the loyalty and leadership issue, or non-issue for that matter. In the past, and even now, when news around Brown, whether it be a trade rumor or talk about his poor play, came about it was almost instantly met with some variation of a statement asserting Brown’s leadership, role in the locker room or the fact you can’t put a price on what he does “behind the scenes”.

Yes, all that is true. Yes, Brown did lead the Kings to two Stanley Cups. Yes, Brown has been the captain in Los Angeles since 2008. But if Brown didn’t have the ‘C’ on his chest every night and his production was like this would it be a big deal if people wanted him out of Los Angeles. No.

Now let’s figure out what exactly happens to Brown. This isn’t as tricky as it seems because of one thing, money. This is where Brown’s contract, which has served as a catalyst for a lot of his negative light, will save him when it comes to staying in Los Angeles.

Simply put, nobody wants his contract. The Kings don’t even want it which is why we’re here. That’s a whole lot of money tied to someone putting up under 30 points a season. Kings Insider Jon Rosen had this to say on the matter: “Brown hasn’t spoken publicly since the team’s playoff ouster, so this may seem somewhat incomplete, but barring any unexpected developments, it’s expected that he’ll return to the Kings in 2016-17 for the third season of his eight-year contract.”

This will buy Brown some time to right the ship in Los Angeles. Maybe giving the ‘C’ to someone else will take some of the pressure off of Brown’s shoulders and help him turn things around. To be honest, things couldn’t get much worse. Now we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out.

But one thing is for certain, just over five weeks since the Kings skated off the ice at Staples Center after that game five defeat, they are without a captain and moving into a summer of change.