EL SEGUNDO, CA — In the 2011-12 season, the year the Los Angeles Kings won the first Stanley Cup Championship in franchise history, forward Dustin Brown scored 22 goals and added 32 assists for 54 points in 82 games. To top it off, he tied center Anze Kopitar for the league lead in playoff goals and points with eight goals and twelve assists for 20 points—he also tied defenseman Drew Doughty and Kopitar for the league lead in playoff assists—helping lead the team to that first Stanley Cup win.
But over the next four seasons, Brown never reached the 30-point mark, even in 2013-14, when the Kings won their second Stanley Cup Championship.
Brown had to endure a boatload of criticism, some of it justified, much of it inaccurate, unfair, and even cruel, mean-spirited, and classless. But no criticism was more pointed or harsh than his own.
“Throughout my career, I’ve always been my toughest critic,” he said. “When things didn’t go well, I was really hard on myself. You go overboard with it and it locks you up. Mentally or physically, that isn’t good. That was probably the biggest thing.”
Easing up on himself—not taking the game home with him worked wonders last season, when he scored 14 goals and added 22 assists for 36 points in 80 regular season games.
Sure, that’s a far cry from his 2011-12 numbers, which is what many of his detractors pointed to—many still hold onto that criticism. But if you were expecting Brown to return to that form, your expectations were badly misplaced.
Indeed, by the time Brown helped lead his team to that first Stanley Cup Championship in 2012, he was already 27 years old, and was an eight-year National Hockey League veteran who played a very physical, hard-hitting style of hockey, a style that often resulted in him leading the league in hits. But that style is one that also takes a toll on players, and Brown was no exception.
To be sure, Brown was no longer physically capable of playing the same style of hockey that he had played for years, even before he made it to the NHL. As such, his game suffered. That led to his harshest critic to come down hard on him, and it took a season or two for him to figure things out and adjust.
“I stopped caring as much, in a good way,” he noted. “If I had a bad day at the rink, I could go home and reset—not think about it, and then, come in the next day and let it go. That was a big part of it. Especially when you’re playing every day and you don’t really get a mental break, that was really important for me.”
“I think it was my attitude and my approach,” he added. “I had a more positive attitude. I tried to come to the rink and have a good time, regardless of where we were playing or how we were playing. I always had an ‘it’s a new day’ type of attitude, and I think that helped.”
Although many point to the fact that Brown is no longer the team captain as being as a big factor in his turnaround, last February, Brown said that while that helped, it was a secondary factor—a very distant second.
“[The responsibilities of being captain are] a lot to take [on],” Brown said in a February 2017 interview. “But the biggest thing is that I don’t take the game home as much, which is a really important thing. One of the most important changes for me this year is not taking the emotion of what happens here home with me and having a mental break when I’m not at the rink.”
Brown indicated that he has maintained the same attitude and that he is continuing with the tough, rigorous summer workout regimen that he started a couple of seasons ago, hoping that he’ll pick up right where he left off last season, at the very least.
“Every year, you kind of hit the reset button,” he observed. “You get a fresh start in camp. You just try to get off to a good start. That’s all about what you did during the summertime. Everyone makes a big deal about the beginning of training camp, but nowadays, everyone comes in now in good shape. Everyone is ready to go, so it’s just about doing the work on the ice.”
“A lot of it is just staying positive,” he added. “It’s a long season. There’s going to be patches throughout the year when we’re not playing well. We have to find ways to climb out of that quicker. If you look at last year, it’s one thing to play badly for a few games. But when you get on yourself, and it extends to six games, and you’re on the outside looking in.”
Brown also talked about his new head coach, John Stevens, who he sat down with over the summer.
“[He told me] that I’m a big part of this team, that he expects me to bring all my intangibles, and be prepared to play every night,” he noted. “The biggest thing is that he’s pretty honest and direct, and that’s good for us. We’ve got guys who are all in different parts of their careers. We’ll have a better focus on what we need to do each and every night.”
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings winger Dustin Brown. Photo: Gann Matsuda/FrozenRoyalty.net.
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