After eight long seasons, Brown’s time as the captain of the Los Angeles Kings has come to an end.
The Kings selected Brown 13th overall in the 2003 NHL draft and named him captain shortly after the start of the 2008-09 season. He was just 23 years old at the time, becoming both the youngest captain and the only American captain in franchise history.
During his first year as captain, the Kings missed the playoffs for a franchise-worst sixth consecutive year. The following season, however, Brown and the Kings snapped that streak, ushering in a new era of success in Los Angeles.
This feeling never gets old. Kings captain Dustin Brown raises the Stanley Cup for 2nd time in 3 years. pic.twitter.com/dSVG6I4bvX— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 14, 2014
Brown led the Kings to the 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup Championships, becoming the first Kings captain and the second American captain to hoist the Stanley Cup. In addition to his success on the ice, Brown was also recognized for his leadership abilities and involvement with the community. He received the 2011 NHL Foundation Player Award for his charity work and the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2014, which recognizes superior leaders and contributing members to society.
Under Brown’s leadership, the Kings enjoyed great success. After winning the Stanley Cup in 2014, however, the Kings failed to reach the postseason in 2015 and lost in the first round to the Sharks this past season. While the Kings’ slump can be attributed to numerous factors, an obvious hindrance was Brown’s steep decline in offensive production.
After exceeding both the 20-goal mark and the 50-point mark from 2007-08 to 2011-12, Brown has begun to lose his offensive touch. During those peak years, Brown scored a total of 131 goals and 149 assists for 280 points. Brown even led the team in goals during two of those seasons. That, though, is no longer the case.
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In the last four years, however, Brown has failed to reach the 20-goal mark or surpass 30 points. His shot efficiency has also decreased. In 2007-08, the average shooting percentage in the NHL was 9.4%. Brown had an impressive 15.9% shooting percentage, which dropped to 5.0% this past season.
While Brown is more known for his physical play, his offensive skill also factored into his success as both a teammate and the captain. Thus, Brown’s decline in productivity was glaring, especially since the Kings failed to make the playoffs after winning a championship and experienced a disappointing first-round exit this season.
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As the Kings acquired more talent, Brown began to get lost in the shuffle. For instance, he was once a big contributor on the power play, but has seen less and less time on the man-advantage each season. He averaged just one minute on the power play per game this season.
This decline in power play time is related to his overall decline in offensive production and effectiveness. During the 2006-07 season, Brown scored a total of 17 goals, with 13 of those goals coming on the power play. As his opportunities on the man-advantage decreased, it affected him offensively. Brown scored just two goals on the power play in 2015-16 and notched just 11 goals the entire season.
To make matters worse, his physical play has also decreased dramatically. In 2009, Brown drew an average of two penalties per game. Last year, however, Brown managed to draw only .47 penalties per game.
@anexanhume @SirJDL Penalties Drawn/60 since 2009:— HCol Rudy Kelly (@rudykelly) June 13, 2016
As a captain, this can’t happen. A captain has to be a leader both in the locker room and on the ice. No one denies Brown’s commitment to the team, but his play has not lived up to the franchise’s expectations for a captain. And it seems that the right man for the job is Anze Kopitar.
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Kopitar has been an alternate captain since 2008. While this does not require the same amount of responsibility or pressure as the captain, he still has gained valuable experience leading the team by example.
In addition, Kopitar has become a superstar in the NHL and has led the Kings in scoring during the last nine seasons. He even led the league in postseason points during both of the Kings’ championship seasons. In 2016, Kopitar scored 0.91 points per game, while Brown tallied just 0.34 per game. Kopitar is not only an offensive powerhouse, but he also has tremendous defensive abilities, evidenced by his three nominations for the Selke Trophy.
Kopitar has always been a dependable two-way player. In particular, during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons, The new captain posted elite possession numbers, including a Corsi for percentage of 61.3 and 61.9, respectively.
Anze Kopitar is pretty ok at hockey. He has improved Voynov, Regehr & Mitchell’s corsi by 11+ percentage points each. pic.twitter.com/pyPTvEZNt1— Roberto Paredez (@BlobertP) January 7, 2014
According to ESPN, from the start of the 2012 season to Dec. 28, 2015, Kopitar led the league in Corsi percentage with 59.9. During this stretch of time, the Kings averaged a plus-10 shots on goal differential per 60 minutes of even-strength hockey. The Kings had better puck possession than opposing teams when Kopitar was on the ice.
Unlike Brown, Kopitar has maintained both his offensive and defensive production throughout his career. During the last two seasons, Brown’s leadership and reliability were called into question, as he continued to falter on the ice. Brown’s job as the captain was to withstand the storm, but he instead found himself in the eye of the hurricane.
Dean Lombardi: “It’s time for Kopitar to take over. He’s bred for it. He’s trained for it. It’s his turn.”— Greg Beacham (@gregbeacham) June 16, 2016
Brown has spent his entire career with the Kings and helped them to essentially rebuild their franchise, turning it into a winning organization. Still, the pressure of being the captain could have contributed to his individual struggles on the ice. Brown’s contribution as a leader will surely never be forgotten, but it appears as though it is time for yet another new era of Los Angeles hockey – with a new captain at the helm.
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