13th overall selection in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Two-time Stanley Cup Champion (2012 and 2014) and 8 years as Captain of the Los Angeles Kings. The list of Dustin Brown’s accomplishments at the NHL level is indeed very impressive and noteworthy; especially when considering his career totals:
As the above stats indicate, this a player who made a strong impact for the Kings early in his career and was a key figure in the team’s two championship seasons. However, Brown has seen a somewhat significant decline in production since the lockout shortened 2012-13 season. In the seasons since, Dustin Brown has never again cracked the 20 goal or 40 point marks and has also at times struggled to maintain a positive plus-minus rating. These factors have seemingly led him to fall somewhat out of favor with Kings team officials. Indeed, in the years following the Kings’ Stanley Cup victory in 2014, Brown has been criticized at times for subpar play, stripped of the team’s captaincy, and has been the subject of various trade and contract buyout rumors.
Interestingly, Dustin Brown is still a member of the Los Angeles Kings despite several front office and coaching changes made by the team during the 2017 off-season. However, two questions still remain of the former Kings captain: are his best years behind him and will he still be able contribute positively to the Kings lineup? The answer to both questions is yes…
Perhaps a bit of historical comparison is in order to understand the previous statement. From the late 1980’s to the late 2000’s, Trevor Linden was considered one of the NHL’s standout players. The Medicine Hat, AB native had served as the Vancouver Canucks captain during many of the team’s most competitive years and nearly willed the team to a victory over the New York Rangers in the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals. During the first half of his career, Linden was a constant 30+ goal scorer and considered one of the stronger two-way forwards in the NHL. His point totals would dip strongly in the 2nd half of his career, but he was still considered a great asset around the league due to the intangibles he brought to the ice on a nightly basis. Indeed, it was Linden’s compete level, leadership qualities, and reputation as a great teammate that kept his career moving and ultimately led him to be celebrated as a story of triumph and success upon his retirement in 2008.
Starting to sound familiar? The main difference here between Dustin Brown and Trevor Linden is that the latter unfortunately was never able to win a Stanley Cup. Brown, on the other hand, captained the Kings to two Stanley Cups before he was 30 years old. Thus, the two players’ career paths appear to be fairly similar as Brown is also considered to be a great leader and teammate by many players and observers throughout the league. The point here isn’t to say that Brown is better than Linden or that his later years will turn out exactly the same as Linden’s, but rather the idea is that a drop off from the 1st half of an NHL career isn’t necessarily the death sentence that some would make it out to be.
Why is it then that some observers have wrote off Brown as a player who cannot contribute positively to the Kings or any team he may play for in the future? Yes, it’s true that his near 6 million dollar yearly salary cap hit is definitely a bit high for the point totals he contributes. It’s also true that this is a player who is now firmly in the 2nd half of his career and one who is very unlikely to ever score at the previous pace he set.
However, it must be stated that while his best years are indeed behind him, this a player who most definitely still has value in his game. Dustin Brown has very rarely missed any significant amount of time due to injury even while consistently being among the NHL’s leaders in hits (ranked #27 in the league in 2016-17 with 190 hits). As also evidenced by his 36 points in the 2016-17 season, Brown still has the ability to score and produce an adequate amount of offense for any team he plays for now and in the future.
While it cannot be stated for certain that the rest of Dustin Brown’s career will be successful or highly regarded, it is a bit odd that some would write him off as “finished” or of lesser value at this point in his career. His career totals, good health, leadership abilities, and intangibles suggest that there is still a quality NHL player to be had and one who will still be able to contribute for a number of years. All things considered, Brown may even once again be a key ingredient to a future Stanley Cup Championship team.