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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dustin Brown’s Wake-up Call — Kings Might Make the Playoffs

The Los Angeles Kings had a very dismal year until just before the trade deadline, but since that time they have improved significantly. Let’s discuss the reason for their poor play up until February 25th (two days before the trade deadline), the reason for their improved performance, the goaltending of Jonathan Quick, and their last five games and chances of making the playoffs.

The Kings offensive output for most of the season has been terrible and I blame it primarily on laziness. Kopitar carried the team for the first two months or so and then he joined his teammates in a slump. The Kings have just 178 goals this year and that is second worst in the entire league next to the Wild who have 164. The Penguins have 259 goals, the Bruins 251, the Flyers 248, the Red Wings 239 and the Senators 236. Due to great goaltending, the Kings have surrendered the second fewest goals in the league, 165. Only the Blues have allowed fewer goals, 151, and they are first in the league with 106 points (one point more than the Rangers but the Rangers have one game in hand). In the Kings 3-0 road victory over the Flames this past Wednesday, Quick tied a team record of nine shutouts! Bernier has one shutout this year and that gives the goalies a team record of 10. Quick has been the best and most consistent player for the Kings and he is the primary reason why the team still has an opportunity to make the playoffs. 

In my opinion, the Kings could have and should have prevented the desperate situation that they are now in, playoff-wise. Kings President and General Manager Dean Lombardi should have made some changes back in December or early January to shake-up the players to see who wanted to stay in Los Angeles and earn their paychecks. He could have started by sending a couple of regular players down to the minors and if that wasn’t successful he could have went forth with a couple of trades. If the players don’t want to give 100 % and are taking life in LA and their positions on the Kings for granted, then they need to be moved out. Make the players fight for their jobs because this is professional hockey and the fans deserve to watch players that give it their all.

Captain Dustin Brown was one of the main players at fault because it is his job to inspire his teammates by word and action. He was failing in his role as captain and as the trade deadline was drawing near he was rumored to be trade bait, and rightfully so because he was not committing himself and giving 100 percent. Well, the Kings made a deal on February 23rd (four days prior to the deadline) that did not involve Brown. They traded Jack Johnson and a conditional 1st Round pick in either 2012 or 2013 to the Blue Jackets in exchange for hard-to-please but talented Jeff Carter. The Kings next game was two days later in LA against the Blackhawks and Carter would make his debut as a King. Meanwhile, the trade winds regarding Brown were still blowing. Would he make it past the Monday deadline and remain captain of the Kings? 

In the game against the Blackhawks it was not Carter who would “steal the show,” but rather, it was a transformed Dustin Brown. Brown scored a hat-trick and also added an assist in a 4-0 victory.

After the game Brown stated (Associated Press):

"I've been a King my whole career, and I expect to be a King beyond the next few days," Brown said. "With all the rumors flying around, it's my responsibility to prepare myself to be the best I can. Tonight felt good."

Including the Blackhawk game, the Kings went forth to win 11 out of 16 games, including three wins over the Ducks, two over Nashville, two over the Blackhawks, and wins over the Red Wings, Blues, Wild, Sharks and Flames. Brown accumulated 16 points during the 16 games, while Carter had nine. Kopitar, Williams and Doughty also improved significantly. 

Brown has played all 77 games for the Kings and sits in third in team scoring with 20 goals and 28 assists for 48 points. However, 16 of those points have come in the last 16 games so it is clear to see that he has put forth more effort since trade rumors were swirling and since Jeff Carter joined the team. Carter has 9 points in his 16 games with the Kings.

Clearly, Brown was fearful of having to move his family from LA to another city and he was also fearful of losing the “C” from his jersey. He did not want Carter to get the spotlight. I like Brown as a person and it is too bad that he allowed himself to under-achieve and to not provide the inspiration that he should have to his teammates. His improved play has been out of desperation and not out of love for the game and desire to win the Stanley Cup. That is pretty sad. I prefer players who are on a mission to win the Stanley Cup and do whatever it takes to try to achieve the goal. These types of players “infect” their teammates and make everyone better. It is possible that Carter can help give that desire back to Brown because it is no secret that Carter wants a Stanley Cup.

Playoff Chances

The Kings have played 77 games and have 88 points. As of Thursday evening after the San Jose and Phoenix game, the Kings are clinging onto the eight and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Coyotes beat the Sharks 2-0 so they are now in seventh with 89 points in 78 games, while the Sharks are in ninth with 88 points in 78 games. The Sharks will meet the Kings twice more and that will likely decide who is going to be playoff-bound and who is going to be golfing. 

In their remaining five games, the Kings will also play Edmonton twice and Minnesota. The Kings have actually have trouble with Edmonton so it is not as easy as it sounds; however, Edmonton is without Hall and that can only help. 

TJ Stanley