On Thursday, April 29, 2022, hockey fans were left stunned when LA Kings forward, two-time Stanley Cup champion, and all-time leader in LA Kings games played, Dustin Brown announced his retirement following the conclusion of the 2022 NHL playoffs.
Just as the Kings were preparing themselves for the pre-game feast that they have as a group on road trips, Dustin Brown had emotionally told his respective team that he would officially end his 18-year career once the playoffs would end. The news got out, and Kings fans were desolated.
It was supposed to be a fun and meaningless final game of the season in Vancouver against the Canucks, but it ended up being one of the most emotional, painful, yet beautiful games the LA Kings have ever witnessed. In honor of Brown’s final regular-season game, now captain Anze Kopitar gave the captaincy to Dustin for one last ride with the “C” on his chest. People recall when Dustin Brown served as the captain for the Los Angeles Kings for eight years but was stripped of the letter in 2016 following a disappointing playoff run.
Dustin Brown was held pointless, but he had generated a few offensive chances and finished the night with 69% expected goals for. At the end of the game, Brown had received handshakes from the Vancouver Canucks, including his former AHL head coach Bruce Beaudreau and former teammate Tanner Pearson. He was also given hugs from his teammates and shared a heartfelt moment with longtime teammate and friend Anze Kopitar.
Forever Kings. 👑 pic.twitter.com/Tq8gNlnqs9— LA Kings (@LAKings) April 29, 2022
There isn’t a word to describe how much of an impact Brown had made in his time in LA, and how influential he was to Kings fans across the planet, and the growth of hockey in southern California. Today, we’ll go over how Dustin Brown’s 18-season legacy with the Los Angeles Kings will forever be remembered and cherished by all.
The Beginning of greatness
Dustin Brown was just a kid from Ithaca, New York, simply trying to make it into the world of hockey and fulfill his dream of playing in the NHL when he was drafted 13th overall in the first round of the 2003 NHL draft by the LA Kings. After spending three seasons with the Guelph Storm of the OHL, he was finally on his way to the big leagues and signed his entry-level contract. Following a 76-point season in the OHL, which saw him record 89 PIMs as well, Brown was given the opportunity to play in the NHL right out of the gate.
In the 2003-04 season, Dustin Brown appeared in his first 31 of 1,296 regular-season games and had 1 goal and 5 points. Here was his first NHL goal:
On November 22, 2003, Dustin Brown scored his first career NHL goal against the Colorado Avalanche. Ziggy Palffy scored his sixth goal of the season, and Cristobal Huet made 21 saves in a 2-0 shutout win for the @LAKings.#LAKings #GoKingsGo pic.twitter.com/dIef04qLHu— The Kingstorian (@Kingstorian) November 22, 2021
The point production wasn’t ideal, and it was obvious that some development was needed. The following season the NHL had its infamous lockout season, and Dustin Brown was sent down to the Manchester Monarchs– the Kings’ AHL affiliate at the time– where he tallied 74 points in 79 games, plus 96 PIMs. Safe to assume that Brown was ready for the challenge of the NHL.
In his first complete season with the LA Kings (2005-06), Brown was given bottom-six minutes and still recorded 28 points in 79 games. 14 of those 28 points were goals. He had also hit 80 penalties in minutes. The LA Kings had finally found their power forward who could score goals, make a huge hit, and drop the mitts whenever his team needed him to do so. He was doing this all as a 20-year-old.
The 2005-06 season came to a close, and Brown was in need of a new contract. The Kings had given him his wish, by signing the young player to a two-year bridge deal, which carried an AAV of $1.175m, on September 17, 2006.
Brown took that bridge deal to heart, as he had 46 points in 81 games the first year and 60 points in 78 games in the second year. He was the perfect high-scoring power forward that every team would’ve ever wanted, and he was doing all of this while being a 22-year-old. At this point, the NHL had found its newest nightmare and all other team’s greatest fear. Dustin Brown had arrived.
Some say that the arrival of star forward Anze Kopitar had helped Dustin break out, but there was no doubt that Brown was fully responsible for his own skill and production. Either way, the NHL had discovered its newest deadly duo, and it was a treat to see complete dominance from the two players for so long. Kings fans knew they had something special, and with Rob Blake retiring as captain following the 2007-08 season, a new era of Kings hockey had dawned upon us.
The Captaincy, will to win, and the kickoff of success
Because of Brown’s skill, success, two-way physical presence, and leadership, he was named the 12th captain in franchise history. After being rewarded with a six-year contract extension with a total value of $19.05 million and an AAV of $3.17 million, Brown was finally locked up for the long run, and the Kings were sold on him being the captain.
Dustin Brown was said to be the heart and soul of the LA Kings, considering how he constantly left everything out on the ice. He could hit, stand up for his teammates, create the perfect offensive and defensive play, and even score a clutch goal here and there. Brown was named a captain at the young age of 23, making him the youngest American-born captain in NHL history. The silent leader had finally been rewarded for his constant grind, and it looked promising since this was only the start to countless years of success the Kings would see while having Brown as their captain.
In his first season as the leader, Dustin notched 24 goals and 53 points in 80 games played. It wasn’t as good as the previous year, but he had solidified his defensive game and had increased his physicality in all three zones of the ice. He may not have scored as high as expected, but he had rounded out his game, making him a much more dependable player.
The 2009-10 season emerged, and it was time for a fresh start. The Kings finally came out of their tortuous rebuild, as they made the postseason yet lost in game 6 of the first round. Dustin Brown had 24 goals and 56 points in 82 games and went on to have 5 points in 6 games in the playoffs. Sure, the Kings didn’t get to the point where they wanted to be, but it was a sign of promise and progress.
2010-11 was another successful regular season for the Kings, but they saw the same exact result in the playoffs. Brown had 57 points in 82 games in the regular season and two points in six games in the postseason. Kings fans were disenchanted and were in need of some success, and they were treated to a delight the following season.
The Championships and the discourse that followed
Dustin Brown’s LA Kings were once again in the Stanley Cup playoffs following a 98-point season. They barely squeaked in, but they were in. Brown recorded 54 points once again, as well as 53 PIMs and 22 goals. He had done his job of being a two-way power forward all season, and the battle for the playoffs inaugurated.
Dustin Brown helped out the LA Kings staggeringly by having 20 points in 20 games in the playoffs and used his physical skill to power through the competition. His hit on Henrik Sedin in round 1 of the playoffs was easily one of the most memorable moments in his career. That set the tone for the playoffs and helped the Kings power through and eventually win the holy grail.
The LA Kings were crowned champions of the league after defeating the New Jersey Devils in six games. On home ice, the Kings had finally won their first of two cups after 45 years of no success. As Brown was the team captain, he was given the privilege of receiving the cup first.
The former first-round pick touching the cup first out of anybody on that entire team made Dustin Brown the first LA King to ever hoist the Stanley Cup. And you bet that it was arguably the most memorable event in Kings’ history.
“You never know, you get to the dance, you never know what can happen. That’s why we f—n’ play,” said Brown just moments after the final horn ran, giving the LA Kings their first Stanley Cup in history.
The following season saw the Kings fail to win the cup, but they did manage to make a decent push in the playoffs by making it to the western conference finals.
2013-14 was another glorious year in LA Kings history. The Kings once again made it into the playoffs and won their second Stanley Cup in 3 years as the underdogs. While Brown’s regular season saw him record the least amount of points (27) since his rookie season, he was a huge help in the playoffs, with 22 PIMs and 14 points in 26 games. In the same exact way, the captain was the first to collect the trophy and raise it high above his head.
“Both times that I’ve lifted the cup, I’ve been able to pass it to a person who’s never experienced it before,” noted Dustin in an interview ensuing his second championship. A true leader, Brown insisted on passing it to veteran players who haven’t held the trophy in their lives. First, it was Willie Mitchell in 2012, then it was Robyn Regehr, who was hurt in the second round and didn’t get to play in 2014.
Cherished memories were made, and tears of joy were let out. Nobody will ever forget these moments when Dustin Brown, the captain of the Los Angeles Kings, led his team to two Stanley Cups in only three years’ time. Everyone will pass, and has passed, these moments to their children, and their children will pass it on to theirs.
But the fun wasn’t evergreen.
Following multiple playoff disappointments and three straight seasons of sub-30 point seasons for Dustin Brown, he was stripped of his captaincy by then-head coach Darryl Sutter. Long-time teammate and friend, Anze Kopitar, was given the “C.” Sutter’s idea of a captain was that he had to produce and show up on the scoresheet. Brown was having issues doing that, and Kopitar was the undisputed star in LA.
“I felt like I’ve done a very good job of leading this team. The last couple of years have been disappointing for all involved, and we all have to do a lot of work to get back where we want to be,” Brown expressed in an interview after his “C” was taken away. He wasn’t happy, and neither were Kings fans. Sure, missing the playoffs in 2014-15 sucked, and yes, getting knocked out in 5 games in 2015-16 hurt as well, but it wasn’t fair that the man who helped the Kings win two cups and was the first and only captain in franchise history ever to win the cup was robbed of the captaincy.
The 2016-17 season wasn’t great, either. Brown had somewhat of a bounce-back season as he tallied 36 points in 82 games, but the Kings had missed the playoffs altogether, and it was a sign that things were about to fall apart.
2017-18 was the final year that the Kings were “competitive,” as they did make the playoffs but proceeded to get swept by the Vegas Golden Knights. Brown had a huge season, as he scored 28 goals and 61 points in 81 games. Since then, the Kings entered a heavy rebuild, and Dustin Brown remained a part of it throughout. During the painful three years that the Kings suffered greatly, Brown sat through it all and never gave up. Brown had 117 points in 142 points in the rebuilding seasons.
The pain of the rebuild troubled us all, but in 2021-22, we were treated to a wonderment.
The hope and the finish
The LA Kings weren’t expected to make the playoffs by anyone. In the eyes of hockey fans, they still weren’t done rebuilding. That was proven wrong once the Kings clinched a playoff spot in late April, and we’re off to the playoffs for the first time since 2018.
As LA was getting ready to play the final game of the regular season and set themselves into playoff mode, we were starstruck with the news that Brown would conclude his career after the playoffs. That’s when things got emotional. Kopitar handed over the captaincy to Dustin Brown for the final game of the regular season, and while the Kings lost, they lost to a score of 2-3.
The playoffs are yet to kick-off, but we all know who the Kings are playing for in the playoffs this year: Dustin Brown. After 18 seasons and 2 cups, one thing we all know is that you shouldn’t misjudge the LA Kings in the playoffs. Exactly ten years ago, Dustin Brown held the cup over his head after beating the New Jersey Devils in 6 games. Nobody predicted that the Kings would come out victorious, yet they did.
This year, the young group (and the seasoned veterans) will do their best to recreate that playoff run to commemorate Dustin Brown’s career. If they pull it off, we don’t know yet. But we sure as heck can hope they do—what a way to end such a terrific career that would be.
After 1,296 career games, 325 career goals, 712 career points, 738 penalties in minutes, 2 Stanley Cups, eight years as a captain, 18 seasons as an LA King, one silver Olympic medal with team USA, one-time all-star, NHL all-time leader in hits, and one time Mark Messier Leadership Award winner, Dustin Brown is finally calling it a career. The man we have all adored watching him terrorize the enemy, the captain, and leader of our Stanley Cup-winning team, will end his career after 18 memorable and historical seasons as a member of the Los Angeles Kings.
He came into the NHL as a King, and he’ll also exit as a King. True to his team through ups and downs, Dustin Brown was, and is, the true leader to Kings nation. Even though his career will conclude relatively soon, we will never forget the effort, blood, sweat, tears, and pain he went through for this organization. From the bottom of millions of Kings fans across the entire planet, thank you for 18 outstanding years, Dustin Brown.
(Main photo credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)