Posts tagged Dustin Brown
Posts tagged Dustin Brown
In the last decade, nearly half of the National Hockey League clubs have vied for the Stanley Cup. Over a 10-year stretch from 2001-2011, 14 different teams have made at least one appearance in the championship series. New Jersey, Colorado, Detroit, Carolina, Anaheim (Ducks Mighty and otherwise), Tampa Bay, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and Vancouver have all made it to the end.
I guess this shows parity is alive and well in the NHL. So there’s really no reason to be surprised a “team that’s come out of nowhere,” the Los Angeles Kings have become 2012’s dominant playoff club.
Still, there was plenty of doubt that the Kings would even make the post-season. While some folks liked the club to be a potential Stanley Cup threat at the start of the year, a big mid-season swoon had L.A. among the dregs of the Western Conference. When things were bleak, General Manager Dean Lombardi, rumoured to be on the hot-seat himself, went and made some big moves.
In December, the Kings axed head coach Terry Murray and replaced him Darryl Sutter. Revisionist history is easy, but at the time, many questioned why a goal-starved side would hire a guy who’s perceived as another Jacques Lemaire defence-at-all costs type.
And true, goals did not come easy for the Kings under Sutter, any more than they did under Murray. But I think we have to say now: The best was yet to come.
In February, at the trade deadline, L.A. acquired forward Jeff Carter from Columbus for a 1st-round pick and Jack Johnson. Another curious move at the time, as Carter, along with Mike Richards (who was traded for by the Kings in the summer) were thought to have been run out of Philadelphia for poor attitudes.
And while Carter is a one-time 40-goal scorer and two-time 30-goal man, his play for the Blue Jackets was so uninspired, there was no guarantee he would turn things around in So-Cal. And again, during the duration of the regular season, he didn’t make much of an impact.
But the Kings keep the puck out of the net. And if defence and goaltending wins championships, then Los Angeles certainly had a legitimate shot at winning the first title in franchise history.
The side was second best in goals against this season, boasting the fourth-rated penalty kill. While netminder Jonathan Quick (deservedly) gets plenty of credit, L.A.’s defensive corps is underrated. We all know about Drew Doughty’s skills, but it’s the other 5 guys who I’ve really learned to appreciate this post-season. Willie Mitchell is playing out of his mind. Matt Greene reminds me of Ken Daneyko. I guess there’s a reason Pittsburgh hasn’t won a Stanley Cup since Rob Scuderi left. Slava Voynov and Alec Martinez both seem to make plays as needed, keeping mistakes to a minimum.
Up front, the addition of Carter has created great balance among the Kings forward group. Sutter is rolling four lines, such an advantage in the grind of the NHL Playoffs.
For me, of the teams that made the Stanley Cup final four, if I could take one player from any of them (excluding goaltenders) to start a franchise with, it would be Anze Kopitar. Sure, Ilya Kovalchuk is among the league’s top snipers and Brad Richards is marvellously talented, but for a 200-foot game, it’s hard to find many better than the Slovenian. Kopitar makes Dustin Brown and Justin Williams look good on a regular basis. And while Brown is a terrific player (and having a Conn Smythey-like playoffs), swap him out for Jarome Iginla and Iggy would easily score 50 a season playing along with Kopitar.
Carter, Richards and Dustin Penner (who plays great every fourth spring and makes Kevin Lowe want to sign him for $5 million a season) form a fine second line. Then the third line consists of Jarrett Stoll (having a great series against Phoenix) Trevor Lewis and Dwight King.
Now, for those of us who watched King play for the Lethbridge Hurricanes, we always thought if Dwight could ever put it all together, he’d dominate. Some nights in the WHL, that happened, and King was such a force, using his tremendous size and formidable skill to terrorize the opposition. However, there were other nights where he was missing-in-action and it made you wonder if he could ever become consistent enough to take his game to a higher level.
In the Western Conference Finals, King is showing Phoenix, when he’s at his best, he can make a huge impact. Playing up to his size, the Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan product is also lighting the lamp (four goals in the first three games of the series). For King, this may be the next step that puts him on the path to becoming one of the NHL’s top power-forwards. Let’s hope so, because it’s so enjoyable watching him play this way.
All together, the Kings stifling defence, plus now potent offence has turned the squad into a juggernaut. Sutter has come in and slowly groomed a team that is peaking at the right time. While he may not make a great general manager, I don’t think anyone can question Sutter can get the most out of a team when he’s behind the bench.
Barring an epic collapse, as you read this, Los Angeles will have made the Stanley Cup Finals. Whether New Jersey or the New York Rangers qualify from the east, in my eyes the Prince of Wales Trophy winners enter the finals as the underdogs. The Kings are that good right now.
In today’s NHL if your team sucks one season, wait one year. It just might win the Stanley Cup.