NEW YORK, N.Y. – Dustin Brown is a couple of years older and might have some more grey hair than when the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012.
According to his teammates, not much else has changed about their captain.
“He’s a soft-spoken guy, he’s not going to be rah-rah-rah,” defenceman Willie Mitchell said. “He has his own identity, and that’s what I really respect about him is that he doesn’t try and be someone he isn’t. He’s just himself and goes about it that way.”
Brown, himself, typifies the Kings. When he didn’t produce up to expectations in the regular season—15 goals and 12 assists in 79 games—Los Angeles finished third in the Pacific Division.
In these playoffs, though, Brown had five goals and eight assists going into Wednesday night’s Game 3 of the Cup final. That’s not the stuff of Conn Smythe Trophy fame, but it’s one piece of the Kings’ post-season run.
Coach Darryl Sutter said he and Brown discussed the subpar regular season and managed to put it into the proper perspective.
“The only thing that made the difference then was making the playoffs. Where he was going to make the difference was for our team to make the playoffs and then be a forceful player at playoff time,” Sutter said. “The type of person he is, that’s deep down what he wanted. Nobody was more dissatisfied with his regular season more than Brownie was. It’s good to see him have some success.”
To a man, Brown’s teammates know the 29-year-old didn’t have the best regular season. There’s no masking the stats, which were his worst since 2005-06.
Winger Justin Williams said Brown “could have wilted and went away and said, ‘This isn’t my year, pack his bag.’ Instead he said, ‘I’m going to do this, play whatever role I need to play and help this team.'”
Also to a man, Sutter and his players talk about Brown exemplifying the Kings’ “identity.” Mitchell knows that the most from his years as an opponent.
“He’s a guy you hate to play against,” the 37-year-old said. “You hate to play against him just because he competes. It’s hard. He always finishes a check and that’s what you want as a captain: Someone who just goes out and leads the charge and leads the way.”
In 2012 Brown became just the second U.S.-born captain to raise the Stanley Cup. In those playoffs he was almost a point-a-game player as Los Angeles went on a rampage to the first title in franchise history.
Goaltender Jonathan Quick shined the brightest, but Brown led.
“Both playoff runs, playoff games, you see what Dustin Brown is all about, the physicality, his attitude,” centre Jarret Stoll said. “He can make plays. He can be on the power play, penalty kill. Sometimes he’s a quiet guy, but he leads by example, he leads on the ice, which is probably the most important part of leading anybody, any team.”
That’s what players mean when they say someone “sets the tone.”
“I think he’s done a good job being the identity this team is built around: hard, physical forwards with some skill. Very tough to play against,” defenceman Matt Greene said. “He was the driving force behind that. He delivers. He plays his game.”
Off the ice, in the locker room, Brown is more reserved, Mitchell said. There are other players around to be the motivators.
According to forward Dwight King, that locker-room dynamic hasn’t changed much in the past two years.
“Overall I think his personality, the way he approaches the guys in the room, is very similar,” King said. “He’s a very calm, quiet guy. He does lead a lot by example, and that’s big for him.”
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