When the Los Angeles Kings host the Colorado Avalanche tonight, it will mark Dustin Brown‘s 1,000th regular-season game, all with the Kings.
It’s remarkable that Brown, 33, is experiencing a serious career renaissance right around the time he hits a significant milestone, becoming the 30th player to play at least 1,000 games with one team. Interestingly, his 1,000th game comes shortly after the 1,000th contest for teammate Marian Gaborik.
The Kings mic’d up Gaborik for the occasion:
This milestone seems like a useful catalyst to take a look at Brown’s interesting career so far.
A Swiss Army Knife with sharp edges
When I think of the good elements of Brown’s game, a word that pops out is “versatility.” It’s something Kings coach John Stevens keyed in on, too, as you can see in this NHL.com story.
“You look at the course of his career, he’s been an all-situation player,” Stevens said. “He’s been a very effective penalty killer, been a really good net-front guy on the power play. I think Brown just redefined his game. Any good player has an identity, and Brown just really reminded himself what his identity is.”
Maybe his edge has dulled in this area just a bit, but Brown has frequently been one of the most effective NHL players when it comes to drawing more penalties than he takes. It’s something that’s been discussed for years now, and you can see the numbers at sites such as Corsica Hockey.
Naturally, not all of that comes from a high hockey IQ. Brown developed a tendency to embellish for calls, which only added to his ability to agitate.
He’s also been a hitter who blurs the line between legal and illegal, even if he walks that line well, considering the rarity of his suspensions. Either way, he’s a villain in the eyes of plenty of hockey fans.
Ultimately, he’s been effective during his best days with the Kings, combining drawing penalties and delivering a volume of hits with solid scoring, as he’s generated five 20+ goal seasons, including a peak of 33 in 2007-08. (Brown might deserve a virtual extra 20+ season considering 18 goals in 46 games from the most recent lockout-shortened season of 2012-13).
A microcosm of the Kings
There was the good with Brown, and then there was the downside.
For quite some time, Brown was – believe it or not – quite a bargain, much like Jonathan Quick was when he won his first Stanley Cup (Quick carried a $1.8 million cap hit in 2011-12). That’s something people sometimes forget about GM Dean Lombardi: he was able to secure some bargains, but eventually the team had to pay up, and they made dear mistakes.
Brown was a 20+ goal, versatile forward making $3.1M per year, until he became a guy who is making $5.875M each season, seemingly forever.
His trajectory feels, in some ways, in parallel to the Kings as a whole. Perhaps it only makes sense, then, that he’s revitalization is coming during the same season that L.A. is experiencing a new wave of hope.
Coming into tonight’s game, Brown has 244 goals and 534 points in 999 regular-season games. Brown’s likely most interested in noting his two Stanley Cups, and you might be surprised to realize he was a point-per-game guy during one of those runs (20 points in as many playoff games back in 2011-12).
His occasional villainy might keep this from being a “feel-good” story, but it’s also a reminder that some athletes might have a little more in the tank than we think at times.
Heading into 2017-18, many probably would have predicted that Brown’s 1,000th game would mainly prompt nostalgia for his days of effectiveness. Instead, one must wonder if he can keep this going at reasonably high level in 2018-19 and beyond.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.