Dustin Brown has six goals and 11 points in nine playoff games this post-season. (Getty Images)
When Dustin Brown was named captain of the Los Angeles Kings in October of 2008, he was coming off a career high 60 points and had established himself as one of the league’s top hitters. Nearly four years later, that career high still stands. He has yet to reach the 60-point plateau a second time, but there is every reason to believe he’ll do it next year.
The 27-year-old has taken a huge step forward and it didn’t just start when the puck dropped on April 11 to kick off the post-season. Brown’s metamorphosis began in February. The arrival of Jeff Carter and his ability to spread out the offense has taken some pressure off the likes of Brown and Kopitar. Whatever the reason, Brown has taken his game to the next level. Since Feb. 21 he has 36 points in 32 games. He is also a plus-23 in that span, including a league-leading plus-9 in these playoffs.
Despite the improved offensive output, Brown did not let his physical game suffer. His 293 hits put him second in the league for 2011-12, while his 39 hits place him fifth for the post-season.
Brown has been paired alongside Kopitar with mixed results in the past, but this latest attempt has paid huge dividends. While Carter is reunited with Mike Richards on the second line, Brown is flourishing with Kopitar and Justin Williams.
To be fair, Brown has had 20- and 30-game hot streaks in the past, but not while playing such a complete, physical game at both ends of the ice. Given that he’s just entering his prime, there is every reason to believe he’ll blow past 60 points in 2012-13. Since he’s coming off a 54-point season (which is all that some sleeping GMs will know in September when they go over their sheets), you may be able to pry him off somebody at a good price.
VERMETTE GETS COMFORTABLE
Antoine Vermette has been a pretty steady player over his career, but twice he was the victim of a team in turmoil. In 2008-09, nothing was going right for the Senators. He was a casualty of that, getting dealt to Columbus. This past campaign, the Blue Jackets were in turmoil (to put it politely) and he was again on the move, this time to Phoenix. Aside from those two seasons, Vermette has established himself as a 47- to 65-point player.
After a slow start with the Coyotes (pointless in six games), he has returned to that range of production. His 18 points in 26 contests since pro-rate to 57 points, which is about where I see him ending up in 2012-13.
ANOTHER YEAR FOR JAGR?
It is likely we’ll see Jaromir Jagr back for another campaign. Where he plays is another matter entirely. Regardless, it’s clear his aging body is breaking down and it’s too much to expect him to play 75 games again. He also tires, proven by dwindling production from February through April. Here we are in May and the 40-year-old has just one point in his past five games and just one goal in the post-season. In fact, if you go back 26 games you will see he has just two goals in that span.
Having a linemate like Claude Giroux will help, so if Jagr re-signs, I would expect 70 games and 50 points. On any other team though, 45 points would surprise me.
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