For a young team, why not a young captain?
And for the Kings in particular, what better young player to serve as captain than Dustin Brown?
Brown, who celebrates his 24th birthday next week (Nov. 4), was named captain earlier this month, filling the vacancy created when last year's captain, Rob Blake, signed with San Jose. He is the youngest captain in franchise history, joining a fairly impressive list; the last five players to serve as captain are Dave Taylor, Wayne Gretzky, Luc Robitaille, Blake and Mattias Norstrom.
In a sport where the captain's position is both a formal one (the captain carries a C on his jersey, er, sweater to denote the position, since it includes communication with the officials) and one with a distinguished history of leadership, it's clear the title resonates with the native of Ithaca, N.Y.
"I was excited," Brown says, recalling the announcement of his captaincy. "I looked forward to it. Me and Terry (Murray) had meetings this summer about it. I told him I wanted to take on that responsibility, that challenge. ... I'm excited about being here, and being a big part of this team and where we're going. So when that happened, it was obviously a huge honor and a lot of excitement. But at the same time, you're a little bit nervous. I mean, I've been a captain before" -- in youth hockey -- "but it's a little different at this level.
"Very few people get to wear a letter, let alone a C, in this league, so it's an honor."
And, he says, a responsibility -- "making sure people are on time, making sure everyone's prepared. A lot of logistical stuff, the way we dress, making sure everything's ready, how it's supposed to be."
Murray likes Brown as a captain because of what he embodies on and off the ice.
"He certain has got some instinctive leadership, and his heart and gritty play is a great way of showing leadership for me, for this young hockey club. We want to play the style of game that he plays -- hard work, heavy player, he's a physical player, he scores those goals that are hard-work goals.
"And the other side of it, off the ice, he has a great deal of compassion for the young guys, and for this organization. He's been here now for five years, came in as an 18-year-old, and really has a great handle on what it's like as a young player, to come into this game and onto this team, and experience it. So he's passing that along. He's helping young guys out, he's talking to them all the time."
There are certainly plenty of those players around, given a roster that includes 18-year-old Drew Doughty, 19-year-old Oscar Moller, 20-year-old Wayne Simmonds and six other players younger than Brown -- one of them, forward Anze Kopitar, one of the two assistant captains. (Defenseman Matt Greene is the other.)
"We have a lot of young guys here that haven't been in the league that long and might not know exactly how everything works," says Brown. "It's not only me. We have plenty of guys in here who can help out. It's kind of a joint effort, really."
If there's one part of the captaincy that didn't come naturally, it was serving as the on-ice liaison between the team and the referees.
"I'm used to it now," Brown says, "but I remember the first couple games, I kind of forgot I'm the one who has to go over there. Now, it's almost I do it instinctively."
In the process, he's expanding his circle of acquaintances.
"Before, I could probably name four or five referees'," he says. "Now -- I don't know 'em all yet, but I'm starting to get to know them pretty well. So now it's a little different. You kind of know them more personally."
Murray doesn't want him knowing them too well, though.
"The important thing ... is not to go to the referees too often," says the coach. "You just can't get into that kind of a habit because they stop listening after a while.
"But I think as you go through a game and you see as a team you're working hard, you're really trying hard, and you're getting, maybe in your mind, the odd penalty that you don't think you should have had, that it's good for the captain then to skate over to the referee and say, 'Look, we're really trying. We're working hard and really trying and just need a level playing field here.' And that's all he needs to say. I don't want him to get into being, quote, a whiner."
A leader? Well, that's a different thing all together.
"He's saying things in the locker room between periods that's the right stuff," says Murray, "about digging in and doing the right stuff in the system and sticking with it, and working on our game. And I really like everything that he brings to our team.
"He is a good captain, and he's going to be a tremendous captain."
First or second? Monday's 4-3 loss to Detroit was the Kings' first shootout of the year, and as such the first time to see what Murray's philosophy is on the great coaching choice of the tiebreaker: Do you want to shoot first or last?
Murray came down Monday on the side of going first. Dustin Brown and Oscar Moller were stopped, Pavel Datysuk and Henrik Zetterberg scored, and the Red Wings came away with the extra point.
"It is a philosophy," said Murray. "I've seen it go both ways. I like to go first. We have confidence in our players that we can get out and get the lead and put some pressure on teams. It didn't work tonight, but it will in the future."
The odds will be better, of course, when the opponent isn't one quite as talent-laden as the Red Wings.
"They've got some pretty good players they can put out in the shootout," noted forward Patrick O'Sullivan. "Shootouts are fun when you win, but when you lose, it kind of stings a little bit."
Good feelings: The Kings may have lost, but saw much to like in the way they played. For example, there was the basic concept of driving hard to the net, which paid off directly in goals for Moller and Kyle Calder, and indirectly in the Alexander Frolov goal that gave L.A. a 3-2 lead. (As he drove, he tried to making a crossing pass, but it went off a Detroit player and into the net.)
"We're trying to get that mentality solidified," said Murray. "It's starting to come -- get pucks to the net, drive to the net, and look for loose pucks. And two goals ended up being that. ...
"It's starting to come, and we'll keep patting away at it."
In the bigger picture, the team felt good about the way it competed, even though it squandered a lead late in regulation on a fairly egregious giveaway by Denis Gauthier.
"I really believed at the end of the night that we felt we deserved to be on the same ice with that team," said Murray. "They're the Stanley Cup champions and they've been one of the premier teams in the league for the last dozen years. ... In general, we played well. We showed a lot of competitiveness, we worked very hard, we showed intelligence, we found people at the right side on the checking side of the game."
Said forward Patrick O'Sullivan, "I think after the first five, 10 minutes, we settled into our game and saw that we were going to be able to compete with them, and we gave them a pretty good run. ...
"Overall, I think we have to be happy with the game, and we can build on it."