There were smiles and polite words about group leadership, and the coach said the captain had been asked to relinquish his position to a teammate and, as “a gentleman,” he had agreed to do so.
Was this all about Kings captain Dustin Brown stepping aside for his friend and teammate, $80-million man Anze Kopitar?
Well, not yet.
The example occurred at training camp in 1989 when the Kings’ Wayne Gretzky took over captaincy from a franchise icon, Dave Taylor, who had been the team’s leader since the 1985-86 season.
(Long forgotten in hockey lore was that Gretzky was not the Kings’ captain his first season in Los Angeles. It unfolded just before his second season with the Kings.)
It merely illustrates that a change in team captaincy is not the end of the world as we know it. All you need to do is examine the recent timeline of the San Jose Sharks, newly minted Stanley Cup finalists.
The Sharks have not one but two former team captains on their roster, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Joe Pavelski assumed the captaincy this season, taking over from Thornton, and the Sharks went on to reach the Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.
Senior reporter Frank Seravalli of The Sports Network in Canada tweeted on Friday morning that he heard Brown had been told he would no longer be captain of the Kings, adding that the team wanted to go in a different direction.
Brown could not be reached for comment. A front office executive did not dispute the item but objected to an interpretation of the news, stating, via text, that Brown had not been “stripped” of anything.
The Kings, also, would not confirm if the new captain would be Kopitar, who would be starting an eight-year contract worth $80 million this upcoming season.
The change in captaincy, if it takes place, would be the first for the Kings since 2008, when Brown took over after Rob Blake signed with the Sharks as a free agent. Blake, now the Kings’ assistant general manager, finished his playing career in San Jose and took over the captaincy from Marleau with the Sharks in the 2009-10 season.
Brown’s leadership style during the Kings’ two Stanley Cup winning runs, in 2012 and 2014, was collaborative in nature. He had plenty of assistance from more vocal types such as Matt Greene, Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams, plus behind-the-scenes help from quieter leaders such as Jeff Carter and Mike Richards.
But with the Kings winning one playoff game the last two seasons, changes are inevitable, even cosmetic ones. Brown, 31, has been a bottom-six forward making top-six money: He has six years left on what was an eight-year, $47-million deal signed in 2013.
Another sign of how far Brown has fallen came on Friday: The two-time U.S. Olympian was not among the final additions announced to Team USA for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.