He also indicated his relationship with the organization has been strained moving forward following leaks in the Kings’ decision to give Anze Kopitar the captaincy.
Brown was named team captain in 2008 and has led the group to two Stanley Cup championships. He is the only American captain to win multiple Stanley Cups and one of two US born players to captain a team to a championship
Earlier in June, the Kings announced Kopitar would become the team’s new captain.
“I’m not going to say it’s rosy but at the end of the day my responsibility and my job and what I ultimately care about is performing and playing well for my teammates. That wasn’t ever not the case,” Brown said. “I don’t want to let my teammates down first and foremost because those are the guys you go to battle with and those are the guys it affects the most. That’s kind of my focus and my perspective.”
Brown said he understood the decision and respected it, but didn’t appreciate how news of this choice leaked to media while he was going over particulars with the Kings on the leadership transition.
“I’m pretty sure my wife and my friends don’t have people’s numbers to leak it to and they wouldn’t leak it. It was just disappointing how it unfolded from my perspective,” Brown said. “We were kind of going through the process of figuring it out and it wasn’t like a 15-minute meeting and that was it. I probably talked to (general manager) Dean (Lombardi) for 20 minutes to two hours five or six times. It was a process and it leaked kind of in the middle of that process. Quite honestly I thought they should have addressed it then and it was a pretty awkward and stressful 2-3 weeks.”
The 31-year-old Brown’s drop in production was an important factor in giving the captaincy to Kopitar.
Brown’s role has been marginalized to a mostly third-line spot the past three seasons and during that stretch he has averaged 12.3 goals per-year.
This past season he scored 11 goals, after changing his diet and workout habits the prior summer. According to Naturalstattrick he held a 58.73 5-on-5 score-adjusted CF% and plus-3.31 score-adjusted CF% Rel.
Lombardi said he hoped this choice would help Brown rediscover his game without the weight of the captaincy. Brown seemed to disagree with that notion.
“That’s probably part of the idea. I think a lot that goes into being a captain. Like I said, I enjoyed the responsibility. Whether I have a ‘C’ on my chest or not, I’m always going to put pressure on myself to be better. I’m not OK with just being OK and if you are then you’re out of this league pretty quickly,” Brown said. “This is maybe them trying to get me to a place where I’m not worried about the young guys or all the stuff you kind of have to worry about a little more when you’re the captain and now I can focus on my game a little bit more, which is the idea. It’s a tough pill to swallow but it’s a decision that was made by management. My job is to be a better hockey player.”
Brown, who has has six years left on an eight-year $47 million contract for the salary cap strapped Kings, understands he has probably been trade bait of late and his name will continue to pop up in rumors.
“From my perspective I think they’ve tried to trade me and were unable to come to a deal. Whether that was last week, three months ago or five months ago or a year ago, I couldn’t tell you, but it’s one of those things where at the end of the day, that’s their job to figure out if they want me to be a part of this team,” Brown said. “My job is to play hockey and my focus, it’s always been my focus. I’m never really worried about whether I’m going to be a part of this team. I’ve always believed I’m going to be a part of this team.”
Part of the healing process with Brown started already with a meeting with Kings coach Darryl Sutter.
This past year, Sutter had been critical of Brown.
Brown noted that the conversation with Sutter should have happened a long time ago, and he feels that a lot of the air between the two has been cleared.
“At the end of the day the conversation allowed me an Darryl to get on the same page, where I was coming from and he was coming from. In regards to my role that was his call. I’m a player and he’s a coach. I don’t control the type of role I’m in,” Brown said. “It’s my job to do whatever I’m assigned to the best of my ability. I think the meeting was more to air some things and move on. It was one of those things where we needed to reconnect and I needed to hear some things from him and he needed to hear some things from me and that’s what happened.”
The next steps for Brown with the Kings are unclear. The team hasn’t announced alternate captains yet but judging by the tone of the conference call it would appear Brown’s time as an official part of the leadership group is over.
Brown did praise Kopitar, noting the superstar center would make a “great” captain.
“I’ve been locker and stall mates with him since he came to this league and he’ll be fine in this situation and I have all the faith in the world that Kopi is deemed the guy now but from my perspective I wasn’t happy with this decision,” Brown said. “But I’m a player and these are decisions for management to make and we’ll see where it goes.”
Because of the term left on his contract, along with the Kings’ salary cap issues, a buyout of Brown is unlikely. The expansion draft next summer is a possibility, but would the Las Vegas franchise take Brown at a $5.875 million salary cap hit for five more years?
Brown still believes he has some good hockey left in him and a bounce-back season could happen. He certainly doesn’t see himself as old and washed up.
“I just remember when I was named captain where we were at as a team, it was not a pretty picture,” Brown said. “I think what I’ve been able to accomplish with the help of a lot of my teammates has been pretty great and I felt I’m still able to do that. I’m not 37 and on my way out. I’m a good hockey player and I gotta get back to playing good hockey.”
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