I hope Dustin Brown relishes his role as captain of the Los Angeles Kings because he has earned and is solidifying that position for now and the future with his late-season play, especially his performance in the playoffs.
Brown scored the game-winning goal (fourth of the series in three games) in the third period last night and delivered a clean, bone-crushing hit on Vancouver's captain Henrik Sedin in the second period—a hit that could have turned the tide of the game and led the Kings to the 1-0 win.
Kings defenseman Drew Doughty told Rich Hammond of lakingsinsider.com his opinion of whether or not the hit was a turning point in the game:
"I don't know. It was definitely a big hit by Brownie. That was one of the better hits I've seen in a long time. To do it on a star player, their best player, is just an even keyer part. It definitely gave us some momentum, to show that our leadership was showing the way to go. We've all just got to follow that."
Unlike his teammates, I have not always been a staunch Dustin Brown supporter.
I have always thought Brown was a good, solid player, but was never really sold on him as an impact-type player.
Yes, I know he adds value to the team with his physical play, but I have to admit when Brown was allegedly being shopped around at the NHL trade deadline, I wasn't disappointed or fearful the Kings would part with Brown because we needed scoring, and Brown wasn't exactly filling up the score sheet.
I thought Brown could be traded for a player who could add more scoring, and possibly more value to the Kings than Brown provided.
Not only that, but I thought that maybe Brownie, if he remained on the team, should have been stripped of his captaincy because he was too quiet, not enough of a leader and frankly, not producing enough to be the captain.
I thought we had a better choice in the more vocal Mike Richards, who was the captain on the 2010 Stanley Cup runner-up Philadelphia Flyers.
At the trade deadline, Brown's stats bore out my skepticism about Brown.
Before Feb. 25 (two days before the deadline), Brown had scored 14 goals and had 17 assists for a total of 31 points in 61 games.
Not exactly the kind of scoring you want from a top-six forward.
Amid the trade speculation, Brown's game turned a corner. On Feb. 25, Brown had a hat trick and an assist against Chicago and went on a tear for the rest of the season, scoring eight goals and assisting on 15 others for 23 points in the remaining 21 games.
With his late-season performance helping the Kings get into the playoffs, my opinion on Brown's value was rapidly changing.
The Kings captain has now stepped up his game another notch in the playoffs—on the score sheet and with his tide-turning hits—and he, along with goaltender Jonathan Quick, has been the difference in the the 3-0 series lead.
Count Richards as another who is sold on Brown and his leadership.
Richards told Hammond:
"He does everything. He not only leads by example in all areas, but he says the right thing at the right time in the dressing room. He’s always the most physical player. He scores huge goals for us. He steps up at times that he needs to. He’s everything that you would want in a leader, and more."
I have to humbly say I vastly underrated Brown's value, and I know I'm not the only one who's admitting they were dead wrong about Brown.
Count me now as one of the staunch Dustin Brown supporters who is relieved we didn't lose him and one who would be devastated and shocked if Brown isn't the captain of the Los Angeles Kings for many years to come.