EL SEGUNDO AND LOS ANGELES, CA — To his credit, Los Angeles Kings winger and captain Dustin Brown will be the first to tell you that he is not having a good 2013-14 season.
“I mean, I could be a hell of a lot better,” Brown said on January 3.
That Brown has scored just nine goals and has contributed a meager six assists for 15 points in 45 games, which includes just one power play goal, is evidence enough of that fact.
Head coach Darryl Sutter recently discussed Brown’s problems.
“Brownie’s game has been a struggle from day one, right from last Spring,” said Sutter. “It’s like whenever Brownie has a good game, everybody always [says], ‘oh, jeez, that’s Brown,’ and they look at the [scoresheet], and it says that he got eight hits, or scored two goals, and they’ll go ‘yeah! Hopefully that’ll get him going.’”
“He’s got to get his game in order,” added Sutter. “It’s very simple. He’s got to get in order what his identity is. His minutes have [gone] down, and that’s affected our team. He’s preparing for the Olympics, to represent his country, and he wants his game in order, as well as the role he plays on our team.”
“He’s a role player on our team, and our record since Christmas is reflective of our role players. Our role players haven’t played very well.”
How has Brown gone from a top six forward to a “role player?”
“He’s not playing as assertive of a game along the wall, and going to the net, for sure,” Sutter noted.
“I think my physical play has probably been just about the same as it’s been as it’s been every year,” said Brown, who ranks third in the National Hockey League with 154 hits. “It’s holding onto pucks, offensively, making it harder on the defensemen, driving on the outside, getting to the net more, and holding onto the puck.”
“I haven’t been holding onto the puck nearly as much as I normally do,” added Brown. “The longer I can hold onto it—that’s the type of team we are, too. [Center Anze Kopitar] is our best player, and he probably has the puck more than anybody on the ice, every game. The more I hold onto it, the better I can be.”
Especially now, with the Kings earning just a 2-6-1 record over their last nine games, and having a lot of trouble scoring, getting Brown going offensively would provide a huge boost.
“If I can pick my game up and elevate my game, and I’m sure there’s other guys who feel the same way, our team is going to get better,” he noted. “For me, it’s just about getting my game back, and a lot of it is just details for me. So I’ve just got to focus on those from game to game and be ready to go.”
The tough part is not just identifying the problem. Rather, it’s figuring out the cause, a necessary part of finding solutions.
“It’s one of those things,” said Brown. “Part of being a pro is trying to figure it out. It’s just been one of those years where my attention to detail and focus hasn’t been there, for whatever reason. That’s one of the things I need to key in on—the details of it.”
Brown indicated that he is feeling more optimistic about his game.
“I’m definitely feeling better about my game, overall,” he said. “But it’s not about my last game. It’s about my next game.”
“I was in a pretty bad funk,” he added. “I don’t know if it was mental or physical, [or] a mix of both. It’s one of those things where, if you knew the answer, you wouldn’t be in it. After Christmas, I feel like I’ve been playing better.”
Although the book is still out on whether Brown is finding his game or not, Sutter emphasized that his sub-par play is not due to lack of effort.
“I don’t like being critical of Brownie because Brownie gives you what he’s got.”
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