2014 Season Review: Dustin Brown
LA's captain enjoyed another controversy-free season
dCorsi Chart (from @MimicoHero)
Brown was an effective two-way player. He posted good possession numbers on Kopitar's wing (59.4%) and also did quite well with Jarret Stoll on the third line (57.7%). One of the huge benefits of the Gaborik trade was that it allowed Brown (and later Justin Williams) to reinforce what had been a lackluster bottom six. Brown generated 9.35 shots/60, the third highest rate on the team and the third best mark of Brown's career (trailing only 2008-09 and 2012-13).
Brown's 37 penalties drawn and +11 penalty differential were both first on the Kings. As impressive as those numbers are, they're not what Brown has produced in the past, and I suspect referees are starting to give him less benefit of the doubt. Brown drew an ungodly 60 penalties for a +35 differential two years ago - to put that in context, the NHL leader this season in penalty differential (Matt Duchene) was just +24. For the record, I don't think it's all diving. Plenty of players take every opportunity to dive, and none of them come close to matching Brown's penalty-drawing track record over the past several years. His utter shamelessness is of course part of it, but his agitation, speed, and willingness to try fancy stickhandling moves are all factors. Anyway, he continued to help the Kings out by drawing 13 penalties while taking only 7 in the playoffs. He's very good at this.
Brown's zone entries numbers show an involved and effective neutral zone player. His 50% carry-in rate exceeds the team average of 44% and compares well to fellow wingers Carter (48%), Toffoli (48%), and Williams (46%). Brown did have a relatively high number of failed entries (23%) - probably a consequence of frequently trying to stickhandle into the zone rather than dump the puck in.
After receiving his first suspension in 2012-13, Brown did not get into trouble with the Department of Player Safety this year. He also avoided ruining the rookie season of any of the NHL's bright young stars, which is always a plus.
Well, Brown didn't really score. Which is awfully concerning, considering that his mammoth contract extension doesn't actually start until next year. Some of the scoring decline is attributable to a decrease in ice time, especially on the power play, as the team around him improves. But if we look at just his 5v5 points/60, we can correct for that. It's not a pretty picture. (For context, 2.07 pts/60 is a median first liner, 1.72 a median second liner, 1.46 a median third liner.)
Dustin Brown 5v5 pts/60, 2009-2014
That looks bad. But the good news is this is probably a shooting luck blip. As I mentioned above, the underlying numbers are strong; the shot rate is still high and his lines are controlling play. But Brown shot a much lower percentage than he usually does (6.6%), and his linemates shot a much lower percentage than they usually do (5.9%), and when those things combine it looks pretty ugly.
I wouldn't bet on Brown quite returning to his scoring prime, given what we know about forward aging, but a reasonable bounceback to a decent second line scoring level seems likely. See this article for more on Brown's scoring.
Lundqvist's confidence never recovered after this goal. He conceded the cup-winning goal to Martinez just two days later. Not a coincidence.
Roman Emperor Comparable: Caracalla
It's debatable which of Rome's many terrible emperors did the most long-term damage to empire, but I have little doubt that Caracalla (ruled 209-217) was the worst human being ever to occupy the throne. Caracalla murdered his brother in front of their own mother to gain sole rulership over the empire. He then used that power to terrorize his people. His penchant for traveling the empire spreading cruelty led the 18th century historian Edward Gibbon to call him "the common enemy of mankind." In one famous incident the citizens of Alexandria put on a play satirizing the Caracalla's brutality, and the emperor responded by ordering his soldiers to slaughter the city's inhabitants. In another underhanded move Caracalla offered to marry the king of Parthia's daughter, only to have the unsuspecting Parthian wedding party massacred upon arrival.
Anyway, this all sounds like the kind of stuff Dustin Brown would do. The Alexandrians know your pain, Tomas Hertl.
Brown's contract means he's going to be in LA for some time. His scoring is likely to recover from his recent slump so I'm not worried about the next one or two years. Beyond that, though, this contract is probably going to start looking bad and LA would do well to move it (ideally after his shooting luck rebounds a bit) should the opportunity arise.
I'll give him a B, which is probably higher than most. But I like his underlying numbers and I don't want to penalize him too much for what was basically bad luck. If his lines keep putting up extremely low shooting percentages in the future I'll start to worry; as it is, this was probably just an unfortunate blip for a pretty decent player.
Grade Dustin Brown's season.