Under Pressure: Dustin Brown

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This is part of Los Angeles Kings day at PHT…

Four years ago Dustin Brown was one of the most important players on the Los Angeles Kings roster and one of the best power forwards in the NHL.

He not only played an extremely physical game (one that always seemed to anger and enrage his opponents), but he was also a forward that you could count on to play almost every game and chip in at least 25 goals and 55 points every single season. Every team in the NHL wants a player like that. 

He is not that player anymore.

There are still some elements of that player (the physical play, the durability), but the production has almost completely vanished over the past three years.

There was no slow decline in that production, either. It was a sudden fall off a cliff that started with the 2013-14 season when he managed just 15 goals and 27 total points, the lowest totals of his career since the 2005-06 season (his first full year in the NHL). Because the Kings were on their way to their second Stanley Cup victory in three years (and because Brown had a great playoff run) it was easy to overlook the sudden drop in regular season production and maybe just write it off as a bad year that he might bounce back from.

The trouble for the Kings is his performance in the two years that followed has pretty much been identical. And that is not good.

Along with that drastic drop in production, the Kings also removed Brown as team captain this summer and instead gave that honor to center Anze Kopitar.

What makes all of this so problematic for the Kings is Brown still has six years remaining on a contract that carries a $5.875 million salary cap hit through the 2021-22 season. That is a huge investment on a player that is now on the wrong side of 30 and whose production has plummeted.

When you dig below the goal and point totals you can still find some positive contributions that might suggest he could — and perhaps should — be better.

He is still a top possession player and manages to get a fair number of shots on goal (more than 2.5 per game). Usually when you see underlying numbers like that, along with the dismal 5 percent shooting percentage that Brown carried last season, that is a player you might point to as somebody that was just a little unlucky and is a strong candidate to bounce back.

But Brown has been shooting under 7 percent for three years now, and of the 220 forwards that have registered at least 300 shots on goal over the past three seasons only J.T. Brown, Nathan Gerbe, and Trevor Lewis have converted on a lower percentage than Brown 6.1 percent during that stretch.

It seems very unlikely that he is just simply running on a three-year stretch of bad shooting luck. This might just be the player he is and will continue to be going forward.

And with still six years and $32.5 million remaining on his contract, as well as the fact he has already lost his spot as team captain, there is going to be a lot of focus on that production.