When he signed that seven-year deal worth $7-million per season, Drew Doughty had become the highest-paid King, passing Anze Kopitar by $200,000. This, especially coming off a summer-long holdout, did not sit well with fans of the Los Angeles Kings. Amongst all the cliches from "Hashtag facepalm" to "Epic fail", most fans chose more subtle, less-ridiculous ways to show their displeasure in the news of Doughty's new contract. But that was right before the 2011-12 season started and while it really wasn't that long go, it does seem like an eternity when anyone in Los Angeles were at odds with Doughty. How times have changed.
After narrowly missing out on a Calder nomination in his rookie year and being a finalist for the Norris Trophy in his sophomore campaign, Drew Doughty hasn't had much to revel in terms of individuals accolades since then - although he was selected for Canada's Olympic squad in 2010 and 2014 winning gold on both occasions. But for those outside of Greater Los Angeles, Drew Doughty's name hasn't been front-and-center like other elite defenseman such as Chicago's Duncan Keith, Nashville's Shea Weber or even Minnesota's Ryan Suter. But that is all starting to change. Yes, he did help the Kings to a Stanley Cup win in 2012 but this time around, Drew Doughty is making his mark as not only as one of the best young defenseman in the game but giving the unfamiliar the opportunity to see him become molded into possibly one of the greatest defensemen of all-time.
At 24, he certainly has a long way to go in terms of the latter statement but at 24, he has also accomplished more than most players - defensemen or forwards - could even dream of at 40. Doughty is already vying for a second Stanley Cup ring this year, hoping to become the seventh player - Jeff Carter, in the process, would be the eighth - to win an Olympic gold medal and a Stanley Cup in the same year. That may not give the defenseman any special awards but it is certainly something that Doughty will surely hang his hat on.
In terms of his offensive contributions, however, Doughty's numbers aren't that impressive when they are put on a league-wide scale.
This past regular season, Doughty's 27 assists ranked him 36th among NHL defensemen while his 37 points had him ranked 30th. His +17, however, had him tied for 17th-overall among blueliners. Even so, his numbers weren't anything to write home about. But despite that, Drew Doughty has continuously proven how valuable he is to the Los Angeles Kings anyway.
Right before their championship run in 2012, Los Angeles Kings' general manager Dean Lombardi made a risky move by trading defenseman Jack Johnson. Whether Lombardi had more confidence in Doughty directly or his team's defensive unit as a whole, No. 8 stepped up exponentially not only helping the Kings to a Stanley Cup crown but being arguably the most reliable member of Los Angeles's back-end since then.
Physically, Doughty regularly brings his A-game. We may not be blessed to see it on every shift but his 180 hits over 78 games this past regular season certainly forces the opposition to keep their head up when the 212-pounder nears. But when thinking about Drew Doughty and which Hall-of-Fame defenseman he most resembles (in my opinion, at least), I don't look at Bobby Orr. While it would certainly be the highest compliment to mention Doughty's name in the same breath as Orr's, I don't see it that way. Instead, when I see Drew Doughty play, he reminds me very much of Montreal Canadiens great Doug Harvey.
Like Harvey, Doughty has that ability to rush from one end to the other to create that all-important offensive play but at the same time, playing a very defensive-minded game. Unfortunately for Kings fans, Doughty has struggled in the latter department at different points this postseason. Thankfully, he's made up for it on the other end of the ice. He may not possess the same shot power that Harvey did but Doughty makes up for that with his exceptional accuracy - something we've had the pleasure of seeing many times in these playoffs.
Speaking of creating goals, however, www.hockey-reference.com listed Doug Harvey as creating 174 goals over the course of his 19-year NHL career. According to the same site, Doughty, through six seasons, has already created 75 goals.
Also, in terms of Drew Doughty's offensive contributions, during the second intermission of Game 6 of the Western Final, the experts from CBC's Hockey Night in Canada said that Drew Doughty, who had been quiet recently, needed to step up his game. In the third, Doughty not only tied the game on a blistering point shot but assisted on the go-ahead goal. Whether he had been watching the CBC broadcast or not, Drew Doughty answered the bell.
But like Doughty, Doug Harvey never put up scintillating numbers. In 19 seasons, the Montreal native scored 452 goals and added 540 assists. Through six seasons thus far, Doughty has 162 goals and 221 assists. While he is on pace to surpass Harvey's offensive totals, it is not the most important facet of No. 8's game. But even so, Harvey was a 13-time All-Star and led the NHL in assists four times. Of course, that would be much more difficult for Doughty to accomplish playing against 29 teams instead of the five Harvey suited up against.
But while it would be great for Drew Doughty to match Doug Harvey's seven Norris Trophy wins as the league's best defenseman, winning that elusive first would be good enough for now. But the reality is is that whether Doughty wins seven, eight or zero Norris Trophies, it is not going to matter one ioda to anyone who supports the Los Angeles Kings. He may not be as defensively skilled as Willie Mitchell or Robyn Regehr but Drew Doughty certainly beings more than enough to the table. This is so much so that Kings fans don't have to wonder the all-too-torturing thought of "What if?" had they landed Steven Stamkos - or even Alex Pietrangelo - in the 2008 NHL Draft instead of Doughty. Not even taking Thomas Hickey with the fourth-overall pick the previous June had Kings fans kicking themselves in the long-term. After all, their team's defensive unit is regarded as one of the, if not the, best in the game today, and while Drew Doughty isn't the only Los Angeles D-man to thank for that, he is arguably the most important one to give kudos to.
Individual accomplishments are wonderful, but what does it matter if a player can't help guide his team to their ultimate goal, the most elusive prize in hockey?
Outside of winning the Conn Smythe in 1998, former Detroit captain Steve Yzerman didn't win any individual hardware. But he did help guide the Detroit Red Wings to three Stanley Cup titles while, in the process, curing the woes of a long-suffering fanbase before retiring as one of the game's greatest players. That paved the way for his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame and the rest, as they say, is history. With that said, ask yourself whether Drew Doughty not winning a Norris Trophy will be that impure of a thought.
If all goes well for the Los Angeles Kings in their Stanley Cup Final series against the New York Rangers, then not only would Drew Doughty be hoisting his second Stanley Cup, but he might even win his first individual as he is a deserving nominee for this year's Conn Smythe. But even if he isn't named the Most Valuable Player for the playoffs, Drew Doughty's individual accomplishment, while important, will be forever secondary as long as he keeps guiding the Los Angeles Kings to success. I haven't heard any complaints yet.
For those asking whether Drew Doughty's summer-long contract holdout was worth it in 2011 should ask themselves the same question now. Most would be amazed how different of an answer they come up with.