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On the Job Training

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
Dustin Brown, one of the hardest hitters in the game, was named team captain some 18 months ago.

After 18 months on the job, Dustin Brown arguably had his biggest, most important public moment as the Kings’ team captain last weekend.

  Brown Highlights

The media wanted answers after Saturday’s loss to the Dallas Stars, and Brown sat at his locker, his face bloodied and bruised by an in-game high stick, ready to give answers.

Brown, visibly agitated, spoke in his usual polite, measured tone but spoke with passion as he stressed the need for greater urgency during the final games of the season.

"Quite frankly, it’s just a lot of (b.s.),'' Brown said. "I think we need to take a look in the mirror, as individuals and as a team. We can’t be expecting to play like this in a couple weeks. Obviously our goal is to make the playoffs, but if we play like this, we’re going to be four and out. We need to take a look in the mirror as a team.''

Whether he knew it or not, in that brief interview Brown took a major step forward as captain. Once a meek, fresh-faced rookie, Brown is now the unquestioned leader of the team, its heart, the one trying to push it to the playoffs for the first time in his career.

The closer the playoffs get, and the tighter the Western Conference standings get, the tougher Brown’s job becomes. He must continue to play well on the ice himself, but also – with the assistance of other team leaders, young and old -- must hold things together in the locker room during trying times, such as the Kings’ recent 0-3-1 slide.

You won’t catch Brown complaining about his lot in life, though, because this is what he’s been waiting for, and it’s been a long way. Six years, in fact.

Brown entered the league as an 18-year-old rookie in 2003. That season, the Kings were playoff contenders in March but ended the season with a dreadful 0-9-2 slump.

Brown has never played in the postseason, and other than his rookie season, and a late-season stretch in 2006 before the Kings fell out of the playoff race, he has never even played a meaningful game in late March.

Trying to figure things out after an 0-3-1 stretch isn’t a ton of fun, but it’s a lot better than being able to plan one’s vacation in March, as has so often been the case for the Kings.

"This is a long time coming," Brown said. "When I was coming in as an 18-year-old, I didn't really understand it. We had a good team my first year and we didn't make the playoffs, and it was like, `Oh, we'll get `em next year.'

"For guys like Dewey [Drew Doughty] and Simmer [Wayne Simmonds], they haven't really experienced that, the year after year of losing. Kopi has gone through it, and some of the guys here have experienced it, Fro [Alexander Frolov] a year before me. I think it's a long time coming for guys like that, but it's also really good for a lot of the guys who haven't been around as long to understand that it's not every year that you get in the playoffs. I've been waiting for this opportunity for years now, and I'm just real excited about it."

Brown also knows, though, that his challenge is much different this year. Being the captain of a losing team, a young team expected only to grow and improve – such as the Kings were last season – is much different than being the captain of a winning team.

Continue to Part II.

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