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2015-2016 Season Review: Dustin Brown

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What could be worse than missing the playoffs after winning the Stanley Cup? Let's ask Dustin Brown!

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Brown Player Card Eric K.
Key Numbers

  • 10.9 Shots/60 at 5-on-5: Dustin Brown did a lot of shooting this season at even play. His near 11 shot per 60 mark was highest on the Kings. Only eight skaters with at least 500 minutes 5v5 shot at a higher rate, and those names are some very elite company like Tarasenko, Ovechkin, and Pacioretty. The problem was his 4.08 shooting percentage, which was 29th worst out of 352 skaters. Marian Hossa is surprising company at 4.14 shooting percentage.
  • 33.7' average shot distance: (note this number pulled from behindthenet.ca is different than the one from Corsica, but the relative numbers to his team and the league tell the same story). One of the biggest likely reasons for Dustin's lack of success is his increasing average shot distance compared to his earlier career. At nearly 34 feet, it's one of the longest average distances for forwards in the NHL. For comparison, Dustin's average shot distance in the 2009-2010 season was 30 feet. This is part of the identity crisis that Dustin is going through as he struggles to live up to the power forward glory days of just a few years past.
  • Plus 1 penalty differential: Penalty differentials, or even penalties drawn, is still an overlooked stat. That's too bad, because Dustin Brown used to be the best penalty drawing player in the league. Now, Brown is just average when it comes to the Kings. In 2009-2010, Dustin Brown was a plus 34 in penalties drawn! If teams convert on an average of 15% of their power plays, this decline costs the Kings almost 5 goals per season. So what changed? Age related decline and simple benefit of the doubt based on reputation are the likely culprits here.
  • +3.4% Corsi Rel (5v5): Let's get positive, shall we? Dustin had one of the best relative possession stats on the Kings. When he was on the ice, the Kings were nearly equally as good creating more shots as they were suppressing more shots. The trouble, of course, goes back to how many of those shots are going in.
  • 35.25 Million: Dustin Brown is on the Kings' books for another six years at just over 35 million total. Given three consecutive seasons under 30 points for Dustin, there's no way to make that number look pretty.

Assessment

This was never going to be an easy season for Dustin Brown. At the start of the season, he was captain of a team that had just missed the playoffs after making it for five consecutive seasons. What's worse, they had won the Stanley Cup the year prior. Anything less than a deep playoff run would be disappointing for the captain whose production had been severely declining.

Much to his credit, Brown did everything that was asked of him. He dedicated himself to vigorous training, and a whole diet change, to get himself to peak fitness. He certainly looked fantastic entering this year, and he fell down a lot less this year by my totally scientific guesstimates. These improvements arguably showed up on the stats sheets in several ways. Brown was driving play like he had in the 2012 through 2014 seasons, and his shot volume was fantastic. His shot selection sucked, however, and he probably had a bit of bad luck tossed in. His ability to take so many shots was probably correlated with the fact he took them so far out, too.

One factor that likely reduced his numbers was that Dustin Brown more often played without Anze Kopitar than he did with him. Kopitar is good at helping his teammates put up points, but this was likely the best outcome for both players despite their past successes. When they were on the ice together, the Kings owned just 46% of the scoring chances in a game. Put either of them on the ice without the other and that number jumps over 55%. Getting paid for first line minutes when that seems to be the worst thing for your team is a bad omen indeed.

Highlight

This play was quintessential Dustin Brown. A big open ice hit knocks the puck loose and suddenly gives the Kings momentum in the play. The theatrics of the hit draws Brenden Dillon to play the man rather than the puck. Tanner Pearson finds himself plenty of space to skate and bury the overtime winner. This is the play we'd be looking at as the turning point had the Kings managed to climb back into their series against the Sharks. Now, it's just an interesting footnote.

Lowlight

Poor Dustin Brown had his season bookended by lowlights. It all began in the season opener when his bizarre stand-up charge through Logan Couture at the season opener probably should have gotten him suspended. The Kings concluded the year with their worst playoff performance in a long while, with a large share of the questions being directed Brown's way. To top it off, he was stripped of the captaincy, which spurred some very frank words of frustration as his eight year tenure came to a close.

The Future

It is no secret that the Kings have explored options for moving Dustin Brown. Supposedly, the Kings have told Brown that his contract is simply untradeable. It is certainly understandable if Brown has soured on Kings management because of their decision to remove him from the captaincy. Now we have to wonder if the conditions are even conducive to Brown having a resurgence and helping his team. If he is not in a position to help his team, how will he demonstrate value to woo any takers?

What's more, we can't assume that Las Vegas would automatically take him in an expansion draft. There are other high priced veterans out there who are likely to go unprotected that are on deals that expire sooner (e.g. Rick Nash, Scott Hartnell). The Kings have suggested that a buyout is not on the table. It seems that the only positive outcome would be a reclamation of former glory for the captain that magically heals all ailments with management. In reality, the Kings have ostensibly done nothing to encourage Brown's return to usefulness with this move, and they have done a lot to make conditions hostile for him on the only NHL team he has called home. It's hard to see how any of this would make his contract attractive to other teams. But hey, maybe Lombardi has some obscure notes about the team bonding together to spite of management.

Grade

Dustin Brown is a near-perfect third liner, and he is a very useful penalty killer. The problem is that he is paid to be a first liner. As much as I love his drive and dedication, the end result deserves a C.