Foxy's tales: Dustin Brown grows into captaincy; Jonathan Quick still learning to thrive as go-to guy
Jim Fox is a former Kings forward and the award-winning color commentator for Kings telecasts on Fox Sports West. He played for the Kings from 1980 to 1990 and ranks eighth on the Kings’ all-time scoring list. You can get more insight from Jim and about the L.A. Kings at www.lakings.com.
When Dustin Brown joined the Kings, he was not one of the players that you would think ahead and label as captain material. As loud as he was and is on the ice, he was just as quiet and introspective off the ice. Like many young players, he had many more things to worry about than thinking ahead about the day he would become captain of the team. He was selected the captain before last season, and at the time, many people -- including myself -- were not sure if he had the type of personality that players usually have to handle that responsibility.
At a prospect camp during the summer of 2008, he took a big step when he was asked to address a group of young prospects. He made everyone feel comfortable because he shared his feelings and experiences of when he was one of the new guys on the block -- how he was shy and rarely felt comfortable taking a leadership position with the team because he was not a polished communicator and usually got extremely nervous and uncomfortable when he had to address teammates or the media. But he let everyone know that he had grown out of that and that he wanted them to understand that if they were uncomfortable, it was only normal and not to think about it too much.
He talked about how everyone was needed to help the team continue to grow and get to the position of competing for a playoff spot. By letting everyone see into his past weaknesses, he became a leader every one of those young men could look up to. That speech caught the attention of everyone who witnessed or heard about it, including Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi.
Now, more than a year into his captaincy, he seems not only more comfortable with this responsibility but looking forward to the extra duties.
When I asked him what needed to be addressed after the Kings dropped two games in a row before their 5-2 win over Carolina on Wednesday night, he didn’t talk much about style of play or tactics -- he talked about an area he feels he can help control. His message was about staying positive and relying on each other because he feels this is a “good team.”
He looked me in the eye and made me believe that he truly believes what he is trying to sell to his teammates. It was the type of message that a captain has to learn how to sell, and he sold it to me and it appears he sold it to his teammates.
Jonathan Quick did not start for only the second time this season, coming off a sub-par performance during a 4-1 loss to Chicago in the first game of the current trip. Last season, everything went right for Jon. He took over in the middle of the season and played well enough to earn the confidence of his teammates and solidify his spot as the Kings’ No. 1 goaltender entering this season.
He has 10 wins so far this season, but his overall play has not been as solid as last season. There is no doubt that he has the physical attributes to be a solid starter for years to come, but he is still relatively young in his position and is going through some growing pains. It is only natural at this stage. There is a big difference between joining the team during a season as opposed to starting the season as the “go-to guy.”
One area in which he will have to adjust is how to keep his sharpness when he has less time to practice, or at least less time to work on things, because he is playing just about every night. When you are the backup goaltender, you have a lot of time during practice to focus on working on your weaknesses, the fundamentals and the technical parts of the game. As a No. 1 guy, you are still constantly working on technical issues, but you need to conserve some energy, saving it for when it really counts -- the games.
This is probably more about time management than talent, and because Quick has proved in the past that he has the talent, he may now be learning how to manage things -- something he didn’t have to address in the past.
Kings goaltending coach Bill Ranford pointed out that the team's early-season schedule, combined with concerns about team health, have limited practices and that this has prevented him from spending quality practice time with Quick to work on his fundamentals.
A couple of positives Ranford mentioned were the “coachability factor” and Quick’s willingness to spend time, when possible, with on-ice work and video preparation. Quick is always interested in looking at video to get the answers to any questions or doubts he may have. Sometimes what you think is happening is not the case, and we all know that video doesn’t lie. Quick also has the uncanny ability to work on something in a morning skate and then immediately apply it that night in a game. Ranford stressed that this is a very difficult thing to do.
Terry Murray, the Kings’ head coach, said something the other day that might apply to this situation. During a post-practice scrum, he was asked numerous questions. One dealt with expectations for a team on the rise and what expectations had to do with learning how to win, a team that has not had much success in the past but appears to be on the way up. The question was something like: What is one of the biggest challenges for a team now dealing with increased expectations for success?
He had a very interesting answer. He said, “The most difficult thing for a team to do was to win when you are expected to win.” Now, in this instance he was talking about the team as a whole, but I wonder if the same principle applies to a young goaltender who for the first time in his career is the No. 1 guy at the world’s highest level.
Is it more difficult to be successful as a goalie when you are expected to be “the guy,” as opposed to winning when you are coming in as the “relief guy”? Can that have an effect on a player like Quick? Because he is going through this for the first time at the NHL level, I wonder if this is part of the reason for his start.
Don’t get me wrong, he has 10 wins, which is more than good at this point, near the top of the league. But now the expectations are higher for the team, and I’m wondering if it is going to take a little time to get used to the expectations as well as the increased workload. As I have said many times before, I feel Quick has what it takes. Maybe I have to be a little more patient with how long it might take.
-- Jim Fox