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.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.