It was for Mike Brown
a simple enough bit of math.
“I was standing at the calendar,” he said. “Three games. First the Flames, then the Rangers. Then…damn.”
Then the Anaheim Ducks.
Suspended for three games because of his check to the head of Phoenix Coyote defenceman Ed Jovanovski, the Leafs stocky winger will miss playing his most recent ex-team tonight at Air Canada Centre.
It was put to Brown that maybe he should not be jazzed to play the NHL team that gave him his best chance in the NHL and deployed him in 103 games.
“Yes,” he grinned under his Fu Manchu, “but they are also the team that didn’t want me.”
No arguing with that. Brown was and forever will be on the fringe of the roster. He has negligible scoring ability thanks to hands that have been hardened into something like plaster. But he chases the puck relentlessly and his speed and willingness to offer up his body has made him a valuable penalty killer. The Leafs, 25th in the league on the penalty kill, could use more than a little of what Brown brings to the table.
It’s just that sort of thing that got him into trouble. Brown missed 19 games when he blocked a shot by former Leaf Pavel Kubina. He lasted one game (the play on Jovanovski didn’t draw a penalty), before being sent by the league to the hooskow.
“The funny thing is I felt great,” he said. “I had been really working on my legs and my wind. Maybe I had too much energy.”
Brown has no prior record. He insists the play was accidental.
“I was just playing physical. He’s a lot taller than me and his head was at shoulder level."
The suspension is just another in what has been a season of struggles for Brown. If he could stay in the lineup his worth would become evident.
Let’s see, a stocky fighter who is far from a heavyweight but is nonetheless willing to take on whatever heavyweight crosses his path.
Brown might have a little Tie Domi in him but whereas Domi cannily made himself into a brand, Brown’s public identity has yet to catch fire.
He senses sophistication in the Toronto crowd. “They recognize the little things, the little plays. And when you do something well, clear the puck on a penalty kill, you can really feel they have your back.”