Dustin Brown, captain of Kings’ Stanley Cup wins, set to retire

Dustin Brown captain of Kings Stanley Cup wins set to

Dustin Brown, whose fearless physicality and commanding leadership as the Kings’ captain became cornerstones of their Stanley Cup championships in 2012 and 2014, will retire at the end of the playoffs, the club announced on Thursday. He’s scheduled to provide background on his decision at a news conference on Friday at the team’s El Segundo practice facility.

Brown, 37, is in the final year of his contract. He indicated in an interview last week with The Times that he hadn’t decided if he would play another season, given his reduced role and dwindling effectiveness on the ice.

“To be honest, I’m not really sure yet. It’s still one of those questions that I want to take some time away from it,” he said last week. “I don’t think those are decisions you want to make during the ups and downs and just the day to day. There’s good days and bad days. Just want to take my time with it.”

The time was right on Thursday. Brown, still a mentor and leader in the locker room but relegated mostly to playing right wing on the third line, has nine goals and 28 points in 63 games this season. He was expected to play in the Kings’ regular-season finale Thursday night at Vancouver, which would be his 1,296th NHL game — all with the Kings — and extending his own team record. The Kings clinched a playoff spot on Tuesday, their first postseason appearance since 2018.

In addition to ranking first in franchise history in regular-season games played Brown ranks sixth in goals (325), eighth in assists (387), and seventh in points (712). The native of Ithaca, N.Y., ranks sixth all-time in NHL games played by American-born players and 35th in points among American-born players. He was chosen 13th by the Kings in the 2003 entry draft, which was notable for the many stars it produced. Another member of that class, Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, played his final NHL game last Sunday.

At his peak, Brown was a physical force. He set the tone for their run to the Cup in 2012 with a thunderous hit on Vancouver forward Henrik Sedin in Game 3 of the first-round playoff series between the eighth-seeded Kings and top-ranked Canucks, paving the way for their five-game win in that series and their romp through the next three rounds. Brown and teammate Anze Kopitar, longtime linemates, shared the playoff scoring lead with 20 points each in 20 games.

Brown had been appointed captain of the Kings in 2008. However, then-general manager Dean Lombardi stripped him of the “C” in the summer of 2016 as Brown struggled and the team went through a difficult post-championship rebuilding process. Brown’s influence on his teammates remained strong, though, even as his production slowed. He relished being a mentor to the young generation of players who are putting their imprint on the team and was a reassuring presence to linemates Alex Iafallo and Blake Lizotte after he returned from a monthlong absence due to a finger injury and helped the Kings battle for a playoff spot.

“Dustin Brown understands pressure and he understands what it takes to get to the next level and he’s certainly showing it,” team president Luc Robitaille said last week. “We know he’s been really good in the room, too, with the young guys, bringing in some stability. And obviously that line has made a big difference the last couple games, and we do expect the same moving forward. I’m real happy that he’s able to come back and really make a big difference on our team.”

Asked last week before the Kings clinched a playoff berth whether reaching the playoffs this season was essential to increase fans’ belief that the organization was headed the right way, Brown had an interesting perspective. “I’d probably extend that to we need to make the playoffs so some of our players start believing it too,” he said. “Organizationally we’ve been talking about a rebuild and retooling but there comes a time when it’s no longer a rebuild and it’s time to go. … We’ve kind of done this before but I was in a different stage of my career and you look at things differently. It’s definitely good for everybody.”

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