Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dustin Brown Olympic Sized Observations of our misunderstood Friend

Watching the US Olympic team, mostly on tape delay or Tivo’d, has given me a bit of extra time to focus specifically on Dustin Brown and what he brings to a team and what he brings as a player.

Often criticized for not scoring enough or not being a true leader, watching Browns Olympic play has made me realize that while not being the scoring machine we would have hoped for-Brown has a couple of assets that while often misunderstood are invaluable to any team he plays. While not putting up big numbers during the Olympics it would be a falsehood to say he’s been invisible or not contributing. Here is what I have noticed in the Olympics and how it relates to Browns play in the NHL.

1) Skating Ability/Fundamental Play
2) Clean Hard Play Draws Penalties
3) Willingness to Drive the Net

Skating Ability/Fundamental Play

There are critical times during a game where simply being able to corral the puck, skate it up and dump it in could be the difference between winning and losing. This is the combination of skill set and hockey smarts that pay dividends when the game is on the line. While Brown will never be described as a world class skater like a Doughty or Niedermayer, he has the speed, power, and moves needed to deke when he needs to and power through when called for as well. How many times late in the game in both the NHL and the Olympics have we seen Brown take the pass from a Dman, find the open lane and either attempt to take the puck deep in the zone or simply dump the puck deep all the while maintaining control without the risk of a bad pass or risky play.

To me-this skill is a lot like having a good strong Dman on the PK who can consistently clear the puck. Think Matt Greene-on the PK he is strong enough to muscle players off the puck and 9 times out of 10 when he gets a chance to clear he can bet the puck will be cleared. Brown brings that same type of philosophy in that late in the 3rd defending a lead he as a forward can be counted on to consistently get the puck into the opponents zone-invaluable asset.

Clean Hard Play Draws Penalties

There have been all types of debates whether Browns hard hitting style should be backed up by dropping the gloves more often and getting more chippy in his approach to the game. I understand the argument but disagree.

Brown’s clean, but hard play means he is not going to be assessed the borderline penalty the way a Jerome Iginla or Corey Perry would and to a more brutal extent Sean Avery. Think about it-Brown is not known for dropping the gloves and he is not known for taking a stupid minor penalty when the whistle is blown. You don’t see talking trash, you don’t see him giving a facewash, you don’t see him going out of his way to shove someone with his stick.

Now while I find all of those things entertaining-Brown not taking part in these type of extracurricular acts mean that Officials will often give Brown the benefit of the doubt they would never give other players associated with that type of play. How many times on the Kings did Avery get called for a borderline penalty or given the second penalty to make matching minors even on the rare occasion he didn’t take a penalty? Like it or not Refs know players and players have reputations. Browns hit are for the most part clean-and we would see earlier in his career where he may have been assessed a charging penalty that we really don’t see as much.

Once again, it’s reputation-think Scott Stevens in his last couple of seasons. He was known as a clean, hard players who generally always got the benefit of the doubt as opposed to a player like Chris Pronger who is the polar opposite in the minds of officials. Not to say Brown is without his faults-his penchant for the occasional dive will work against him the same way for the same reasons.

Willingness to Drive the Net

We saw it during the first US-Canada matchup when Brown made a nice move on Doughty and tried to bring it strong to the net. Brown has just enough skill to make the move and give opposing Dmen something to think about while at the same time not going to the well with it every time in which the Dmen are expecting it. For comparison-think how many skilled players will bring the puck over the line and instead of driving to the net, opt for a curl move and wait for the forwards to catch up with the play. Think how many players will enter the zone and simply stay on the boards only to get rubbed out and cough the puck up to opposing team.

Having the ability and skill to go either way makes Brown unpredictable. Using Frolov as a comparison-we all remember Frolov’s sweet backhanded wraparound in the 2002 or 2003 Frozen Fury that beat Roy. We loved it, we thought it was great. Sadly, that was Frolov’s sole move for the nesxt couple of seasons that was so predictable Bob Miller called it regularly well before Frolov even tried it. I’m not criticizing Frolov, simply pointing out having a couple of different tricks up your sleeve and using them randomly is a valuable tool in itself.

As for the Olympics-Brown is his lines token goalie disturber. We have seen it before on the Kings, not to the extent of Ryan Smyth, but we know Brown will stand in front of the goalie and take abuse in attempting to distract the goalie. While Brown was held off the score sheet I counted at least 2 goals that he directly aided and abetted for lack of a better term.

In Summary, while Brown doesn’t bring the high flying skill set and point prowess of a consistent All Star, while Brown doesn’t have the true power forward build and willingness to fight aka Brendan Shanahan, and while Brown doesn’t have elite credentials and hockey smarts like a Pavel Datsyuk; Brown has a combination of all of the above that makes him an invaluable player and more importantly; a key contributor to any teams success.

No comments: