The Los Angeles Kings have kicked off the 2017-18 campaign positively, going 2-0-1 in the first three starts.
The franchise cleaned house after last year, pushing out general manager Dean Lombardi and head coach Darryl Sutter; opting to move Luc Robitaille into the role of team president, promoting Rob Blake to the GM seat, and handing John Stevens the coaching reins.
Given the favorable returns, albeit early on, NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman was asked during a Friday morning radio hit on Calgary’s Sportsnet 960 what the Kings are now and if Sutter moving on gives them some room to breathe.
“I think there’s that,” began Friedman. “If you look at Pierre Turgeon, the Kings made it very clear in the offseason that one of the jobs they were going to hire was an ‘offensive coordinator.’ They wanted new ways to think and news ways to attack. And they were a real grind-it-out, three yards and a cloud of dust team when Darryl coached them. And it worked for them for awhile. They won two Stanley Cups. People can’t complain about it. But then it got to a point where they just – even when they were winning Stanley Cups, they didn’t score as much as their talent dictated. And I think they’re just searching for ways to get the offense going a little bit.
“Now, as you take a look, you’re not going to get your offense going if you don’t get some of those guys going. Kopitar had a bad year last year. But to me the Dustin Brown one is really fascinating because it was very clear that he and Darryl Sutter did not see eye-to-eye on his role. And I know Brown was really frustrated. And I think there was a time when he thought he was going to be in Las Vegas and he was going to be somewhere else. I think he has a no-trade to Canada. I think it was possible that L.A. and Ottawa, when they were talking Phaneuf last summer, Brown and/or Gaborik’s name came up.
“But what they’ve decided to do is instead of saying, ‘Okay, we can’t trade this contract. What are we going to do with it’ (they instead said) ‘We’re going to put this guy in a position to try to succeed.’
“There’s an executive who has a great saying and I really like it. It’s ‘When you have a problem, you can either trade it or you can solve it.’ And he said his preference is always to try and solve it.
“And for a long time I think the Kings’ theory on Brown was ‘Let’s trade it.’ And then what happens is you make a change, you realize you can’t trade it, you have a new GM, a new coach, and you get to the point where you say, ‘If we can’t trade it and we don’t want to buy it out, we’ve got to solve it.’
“And that’s what the Kings are looking at doing. ‘Is there a way we can fix this.’
“And all of the sudden Dustin Brown is back on the top line, he’s back playing 20 minutes a night, which he hasn’t done in four years, and the early returns are – as you guys saw – very good.
“Now, three games doesn’t make a season. But it looks as if that’s the plan for the Kings right now.”
Brown has three goals and two assists through three games, and had eight shots on goal during Wednesday’s overtime loss against the Flames – during which he collected three of his points.
Over his past four campaigns, Brown hit point marks of 36, 28, 27, and 27 with average time on ice totals of 16:00, 16:10, 16:31, and 15:50 in that same stretch.
This season Brown is skating in the 19:33 range on average thus far.
A main sticking point in the Kings’ efforts to trade the 32-year old winger in the past, aside from lack of production, has been his contract.
Brown has another five seasons left on his eight-year, $47 million deal, which comes with a pricey $5.875 million cap hit.
Friedman mentioned his belief that Brown’s contract “has a no-trade to Canada,” and the forward does have a modified no-trade clause, through which he can list eight teams to which he can’t be dealt.