Dustin Brown celebrates with Drew Doughty, Brayden McNabb, Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik (Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Los Angeles Kings are reportedly set to strip Dustin Brown of the captaincy and hand over the ‘C’ to someone else. There are a few options for captain, but Anze Kopitar should be the one to carry the Kings into the future.
Dustin Brown still has six years and $32.5 million remaining on his contract with the Kings, but it appears as though he’s about to spend the rest of his days in Los Angeles without the captaincy.
TSN’s Frank Seravalli reported Friday afternoon that Brown, 31, has been told he won’t be the Kings’ captain next season and that Los Angeles plans to “go in a different direction” with the captaincy moving forward. Brown, the 15th captain in Kings franchise history, has worn the ‘C’ for the past eight seasons and took on the role just three seasons into his NHL career. It’s his no longer, however.
There are likely a number of factors involved in the Kings stripping Brown of the captaincy, but the foremost is certainly the downturn in production he has seen over the past several seasons. Brown was named captain following a 33-goal, 60-point season in 2007-08, but he hasn’t been able to recreate that production since.
Brown has come close, with point totals in the mid-50s from 2008-09 to 2011-12, and he chipped in 18 goals and 29 points in 46 games during the lockout shortened campaign, but that appears as though it may have been his last hurrah as a top point-getter for the Kings. In the past three seasons, Brown has scored 15, 11 and 11 goals, with his highest point total being the 28 he achieved this past season. Brown has also seen his ice time slip from that of a productive top-six player to a bottom-six player.
There’s no doubt the Kings had some successful years with Brown wearing the ‘C,’ including the two Stanley Cup victories in 2011-12 and 2013-14, but the Kings missed the post-season in 2014-15 and were eliminated in the opening round of the 2015-16 playoffs by the division-rival and Western Conference-champion San Jose Sharks.
With Brown removed as captain, the Kings can go a few directions. It’s possible they go with a system of four assistants, similar to what a few teams have done in the past few seasons, but it seems much more likely a new captain will be named. And when looking for a new captain, there are only two real options: Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty. If you were to handicap it, though, it’s Koptiar who has the best chance of donning the ‘C’ next season.
Doughty is a good candidate, no doubt, but he didn’t wear a letter for the Kings during 2015-16 season, which makes it unlikely he’ll jump right into the captaincy. Doughty is one the Kings’ stars, to be sure, and a player who Los Angeles would probably like to keep in black and silver for the long haul. But with Brown relinquishing the captaincy, it seems more likely they move Doughty to an alternate captain than it is he makes the jump all the way to the captaincy.
Kopitar, though, is the face of the Kings. In January, Kopitar signed a monster eight-year, $80-million deal with Los Angeles, and while there’s no rule stating your team’s star and highest-paid player has to be the one to wear the ‘C,’ Kopitar seems like a fit for the job.
A skilled two-way center, Kopitar led the Kings in scoring with 25 goals and 74 points, played nearly 21 minutes per game and already had a leadership role as an alternate captain. And while Brown has been the captain for the past few seasons, Los Angeles has felt like Kopitar’s team. He’s an all-situations player that will be the heart and soul of the franchise moving forward. There are other options, sure, like Matt Greene or Jeff Carter, both veteran players who play a part in the leadership structure, but either would only be keeping the captaincy warm for Kopitar.
Whatever the Kings are to achieve over the next several seasons will revolve at least in part around the play of Kopitar, regardless of whether he’s the team’s captain. Giving him the ‘C’ will only make that official.