Shane Doan and Dustin Brown are at different points of their careers, but both are shining examples of what an NHL captain should be.
Doan has been with the Phoenix Coyotes franchise his entire career. The 35-year-old center was drafted seventh overall by the Coyotes, who were then the Winnipeg Jets, in 1995. After eight years with the team, Doan was named captain during the 2003-2004 season.
Doan has found plenty of individual success in Phoenix, but this season is the first time the Coyotes have advanced past the first-round of the playoffs. While Doan is not the sole reason the Coyotes have been so successful in the playoffs this year, his leadership is something that cannot be overlooked.
Going into Game 1 against the Kings, Doan ranked fourth in the playoffs with 48 hits. Captain Coyote continued to throw his body around in Game 2, registering a team-high seven hits. Doan was a physical presence all over the ice, and his tough play along the boards even led to the Coyotes second goal.
"He's one of the hardest-working players you're going to find in practice. He goes into every game with preparation and detail into every game is at the forefront of what you want any captain to be," coach Dave Tippett said of his captain. "You take the hockey side of it as well as who he is as a person and how he lives his life. He's just a stand-up guy. Every teammate will tell you is a wonderful person."
Brown has been with the Kings his entire career as well, albeit it has been a lot shorter. While Doan may be on his way down from a stellar career, Brown is in his prime. The 27-year-old center was drafted 13th overall by the Kings in 2003, and was named captain of the franchise when he was the ripe age of 23.
This season has had its share of drama for Brown though. Just before the trade deadline rumors began to surface that the Kings were shopping Brown, possibly in hopes of getting Blue Jackets star Rick Nash.
Brown took the rumors in stride though saying, "Around that time of year, it happens. It was probably a little more serious, it seemed like because of the media coverage on it this year. But it was no different me coming to the rink. I prepared to be my best - just like I would any other time."
Brown remained with the team through the deadline, and the Kings should be thankful they did.
Brown leads all remaining players in the postseason in goals (7), points (13) and plus-minus rating (plus-11). Brown also has three game-winning goals, including his snipe of Mike Smith in Game 1 that gave his Kings a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals.
Doan and Brown are the clear emotional leaders of their respective teams and play similar brands of hockey. Both will throw their bodies around, come through in the clutch and are not scared to drop the gloves to get their team going. This was evident in the teams regular season matchup on Feb. 16 when the captains went toe-to-toe at center ice.
Shane Doan vs Dustin Brown Feb 16, 2012 (via hockeyfightsdotcom)
Both captains lead by example and their teams feed off their tenacity and relentlessness on the ice. While the play of the goaltenders was the focus coming into the series, and for good reason, the play of the captains may have just as big of an impact.
With a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals on the line, I would not be surprised if the two captains squared off one more time before this series is over.