The Dustin Brown Problem

USATSI_9238968_154158418_lowresIt was way back on Friday that reports emerged out of Los Angeles that suggested Dustin Brown was to be stripped of the Kings’ captaincy.

Brown is/was the longest-serving captain in franchise history and it could be argued that he was responsible for one of the most successful eras the Kings have ever experienced. They won the Stanley Cup twice on his watch and made the post-season with regularity, except in 2015.

But an early exit this season has made Los Angeles evaluate itself from the inside out and that has led to some finger-pointing, with Brown’s captaincy one of the issues to contend with.

The word around the campfire is that the 31-year-old from Ithaca has been underachieving, especially in light of the monstrous contract extension he picked up in the summer of 2013. The contract deals out an average annual value of $5.875 million a season until the end of the 2021-2022 season. That’s one of the team’s costliest deals, with only Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty making more.

This season, Brown managed 28 points – including 11 goals – in 81 regular season games. In the post-season, he posted an assist in five games and only clocked three shots on goal. In 884 career regular season games, Brown has 470 points.

The argument could be made that the intangibles make his contract more worthwhile, but stripping him of the captaincy seems to fly in the face of this theory.

He does bring experience to the Kings, but the statistics hurt. Brown hasn’t had a 50-point year since the 2011-2012 season. This dip in production has coincided with diminished ice time and a well-documented tendency to shoot the puck from bloody well anywhere. Unfortunately, Brown can put all the mustard on the wrist shot he wants but he still has trouble finding twine.

And now, the writing is on the wall.

Brown is not alone in the world of horrible contract and captaincy quandaries. Goalie Roberto Luongo went through it in Vancouver and we all know how that went.

That’s not to say that the Kings will look to ship off Brown because that’s a rather impossible feat, especially given the change involved. But something has to give in Los Angeles and the club has to believe stripping him of the valued “C” is a step in the right direction.

Maybe Brown turns it all around in 2016-2017. Maybe having the pressure off allows him to free up his play, sink into a third line role, play some decent hockey. Or maybe he falls further and tumbles down the depth chart, becoming a very expensive albatross for the Kings for years to come.

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