Leading is what Brown does. He wears the ‘C’ and sets the tempo, usually though physical play that hasn’t endeared him to other fan bases.
Now, he leads the Kings into a 48-game title defense, as Los Angeles returns nearly its entire team from the Cup victory.
We spoke with Brown this week about the Kings’ potential Cup hangover in a lockout-shortened season; deal with teams that hate him; why Anze Kopitar isn’t a superstar yet; and what it’s like to have his team confused with the Sacramento Kings. Enjoy …
Who came into camp in the best shape?
The player in the best shape, to everyone’s surprise, was Drew Doughty. They always question his condition and his shape. For a lockout, for him to come in that quickly, was the most surprising shape. But practicing and playing games are two different things. I’m sure everyone in the league is going to be [running] short shifts in the early part of the season.
Is this the year Drew Doughty wins the Norris?
Drew’s already been nominated once. He’s got the attitude that he wants to get better and wants to be that guy. He’s another guy that doesn’t get credit. His numbers may have gone down in the last two years, but he’s been shutting down the other team’s top guys.
How do you feel the lockout is going to affect you guys, with regard to a “Stanley Cup hangover”?
BROWN: We’re going to enjoy the banner raising. That’s something I think we earned as a group. But ultimately I think we just want to play hockey again. That’s the feeling I have with our team. Everyone talks about the banner raising, and that excitement. But in the room we’re just ready to get going and close that chapter.
What’s going to be the biggest challenge in a 48-game season?
Being healthy in a shortened season is one of the big things, that the players take care of themselves the right way. But for our team, it’s the details. If you get off your game, it’s important to get back on track as quickly as possible. Last year, I think we had 10 games where we didn’t play well. You do that in a 48-game schedule … there’ll be so much more pressure on a game-to-game basis. It’ll be like the last 20 games for us last season. We performed well, and we made the playoffs.
Anze Kopitar is one of the best players in hockey, but always seems like he’s left out of that conversation. You think he takes another leap forward this year?
I think he still can get better as a player. I think he doesn’t get enough credit because he plays on the West Coast. You look at the so-called go-to players in the league from a marketing standpoint, and they all play in the East, because it’s easier to market those teams and those players. But you go deeper and deeper in the playoffs, you get recognized more and more.
Because of your physical play, you’ve become a rather loathed player among Phoenix Coyotes and Vancouver Canucks fans. Are you comfortable being the villain, because you seem like a nice dude?
Obviously, it’s one of those things. If you’re hated by other teams’ fans, it means you’re doing something right. The way I play, I assume that you hate me until I’m on your team. I’ve played against players like that. Mike Richards was a guy I hated playing against. Now that he’s on my team, I love him to death.