Multiple outlets have reported today that Dustin Brown will no longer be the captain of the Los Angeles Kings. It's not that strange for players to be stripped of the captaincy in the modern NHL (it's happened to Roberto Luongo, Patrick Marleau, and Joe Thornton in the past few years), but it is a bit strange to see it happen to a captain who won two cups in the past five years.
I'm of two minds about this move. On the one hand, I don't want to get too worked up about the captaincy because I don't think it's all that important. First, I think many analysts give undue weight to the importance of a strong leader to a winning team. The captain is the face of the team so it's only natural to give him a lot of credit when the team wins; but I suspect skill and randomness are vastly greater factors in determining the outcomes of hockey games.
But even if you value leadership a lot more than I do, you'll surely agree that leadership, whatever it is, is not a letter on a jersey. Dustin Brown can continue to be an example of competitiveness and professionalism to younger Kings players whether he is captain or not; and the same applies to whoever replaces him as captain.
On the other hand, though, this move does feel like the Kings are blaming Dustin Brown for their lack of success over the past two years, which seems very unfair. It wasn't Dustin Brown's fault that the Kings went 1-7 in shootouts last year, or that they happened to draw a first round matchup against a top three team in the NHL this year, or that adding Luke Schenn and Rob Scuderi was Dean Lombardi's idea of reinforcing the blue line.
I was happy to have Dustin Brown as the face of the organization. He strikes me as a good person, albeit prone to a dirty hit every once in a while. Fortunately, Kings will probably replace him with Anze Kopitar, who also seems like an upstanding guy. The team's leadership should be just fine going forward. But while the captaincy may not be that important to me, I'm sure it was quite important to Dustin Brown. Losing it probably felt like a slap in the face to him. I'm surprised the Kings didn't show more loyalty.