Friday feast: Another young captain crowned, and the future of the Wings

October, 10, 2008
As I slip out of Detroit this morning, I'd like to catch up on one news item that didn't get a whole lot of attention this week -- Dustin Brown being named captain of the Los Angeles Kings.

After several years of uninspired hockey and rosters chock full with transient players, I think Brown's captaincy is a turning point of sorts for the rebuilding franchise. It represents some form of stability for a team that's had more makeovers than some of their Hollywood residents.

Brown and his fellow young teammates, such as Anze Kopitar, Alexander Frolov, Patrick O'Sullivan, Jack Johnson and rookie Drew Doughty, are the core of this team and they will be for years to come.

"To me, it signifies having the young guys take leadership of the team, taking ownership of the team and making it our team," Brown told me yesterday from Los Angeles. "It really hasn't been the case here in L.A. for a while. It's been an older team. I think this is about passing it off to Kopitar, Frolov and myself, and a bunch of other guys like Sully and Jack. They want us to make this team our own and run with it.

"You look at what they did in Pittsburgh, they kind of did the same thing. It's Crosby's team and he's a young guy. When you have something to build on like that, it's always a positive."

This is promising to be another long season for the Kings, but at least there are promising signs, building blocks.

"We obviously want to get there as quick as possible," said Brown. "I know it's a process. I've been here for 5-6 years. Last season to a degree, but especially this season, it's the first time I've come back to a team where we had the same core of players. My first 3-4 years, we had different core players every year and it was hard to build on.

"Coming in this year, we've had probably five guys or so that have been here and are core guys for more than a year. It's easier to come back to that situation. We've established that core and it's going to be here for a while. It's exciting for everybody."

As I wrote Wednesday, when Craig Rivet was named captain of the Sabres, I'm more comfortable, personally, when a veteran gets the "C." But there are special young players out there who can handle it, like Crosby and Philly's Mike Richards.

Brown, 23, the youngest captain in Kings history, says he's picked up enough from other veterans and feels up to the task.

"I sat next to Scott Thornton the last couple of years in the locker room and, obviously, he's a guy that's been around the league for a while and been a leader on a lot of teams," said Brown, a lock to make the 2010 U.S. Olympic team. "I learned a lot from him. I played with Luc [Robitaille] and [Mattias] Norstrom and Blakey [Rob Blake] -- so you pick up little things from them. It's a big responsibility, but the neat thing about it is that, with the team we have here, we have five or six other guys who are capable of leading this team. Whether they're wearing letters or not, they're going to be leaders, as well."

The future of the Wings
This edition of the Red Wings won't be back with this current roster next season; there are too many guys who will need raises next season and not all of them will fit under the salary cap.

"This was the year we were able to win the Cup and then add a superstar player [Marian Hossa]," said Wings GM Ken Holland. "No matter what happens this season, we're losing players. Hossa's unrestricted, so are Zetterberg, Franzen, Samuelsson, Kopecky and Hudler is restricted and will be looking for a raise. So, we're going to have to identify two or three of those guys and we're probably going to lose a couple. We have no choice. So, it's probably a one-year window of opportunity to put this type of team together on paper. Now let's see what happens on the ice this season."

Henrik Zetterberg is the No. 1 priority.

"Without a doubt," said Holland. "I haven't really started. We've talked philosophically. He wants to be here and we want him here, so now, at some point in time, we have to get at it."

I think this will be pretty simple -- the Wings are going to have to choose between Hossa and Franzen; they won't be able to keep both.

Leafs watch ... and learn
An interesting sight I wanted to pass on from Thursday night's season opener in Detroit. The Toronto Maple Leafs players were all sitting on the bench, watching the Red Wings Cup banner-raising ceremony. Usually visiting teams stay inside their dressing room during these kinds of pregame ceremonies, but Leafs coach Ron Wilson wanted his young team to soak it in.

"Last year [with San Jose], I made the guys go on the bench and watch as the Hawks honored Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita," Wilson said after his team's 3-2 win over the Wings. "We won the game and everybody said it was fun to see these people up close and to see the way the crowd was. And tonight, I thought it was just as important to see what a winning team gets to experience when they pay attention and you become a team over a number of years."



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