Do you remember when a certain restricted free agent by the name of Drew Doughty held out from signing a new contract for an entire summer? It caused many Kings fans to say good riddance, suggesting that, because he was coming off a less-than-stellar year, the Los Angeles Kings could be better without him? Okay, come to think of it, not as many fans suggested the latter - out loud, at least. Still, the summer of 2011 was not a forgiving one for Kings fans who simply wanted their team's top defenseman to put the kibosh on his selfish ways and return to the level he was known for playing at. But soon enough, Doughty re-signed and the hard feelings subsided - because, in no time, Los Angeles's No. 8 was, again, great.
For the last few years, Drew Doughty not only has shaped himself into the cornerstone of the Kings' powerful defensive unit but has since been regarded as one of the premier blueliners in the game today. On both sides of the puck, Drew Doughty has earned his keep in Southern California, which has led to his team winning two Stanley Cups in the last three years. The 2013-14 campaign proved to be no exception.
His 10 goals and 27 assists this past regular season may not leap off the stats page compared to other defensemen in the NHL but Doughty's all-around game has led to many to believe that the 24-year-old is on the precipice of super-stardom anyway. Perhaps "super-stardom" is a bit of a stretch for some but nevertheless, Drew Doughty has proven that he belongs amongst the elite D-men in hockey, especially considering how much he has accomplished at just 24 years of age.
When Drew Doughty was on the ice, though, it usually meant positive results for the Los Angeles Kings. Along with Alec Martinez, Drew Doughty led all Los Angeles blueliners with a +17 rating. While he only had a +2 rating in the playoffs, Doughty racked up 18 points in 26 games this past spring with 10 of those coming on the power play. But in terms of the latter season, quantity wasn't as important as quality as the two-time Olympic gold-medalist scored a few timely goals en route to his team's ultimate victory. That included the game-tying goal early in Game 7 of the historic comeback series against San Jose.
After opening the scoring on home ice in said decisive game, it appeared as if the Sharks were destined to avoid the series collapse and advance to the next round. But Drew Doughty had other plans and his goal led to a complete shift in momentum which saw the Kings quiet the Shark Tank before eliminating their NorCal rivals. Examples like that underline what Drew Doughty means to the Los Angeles Kings.
Of his 27 regular-season points, 16 of them came on the power play which shows that not only is Drew Doughty a serious threat at even strength but when his team is up a man. It's hard to believe how any team is today's NHL would succeed without at least one of their defensemen quarterbacking a power play. Thankfully, Drew Doughty knows his role.
In addition, Doughty has been arguably the most reliable Kings blueliner not only this season but in years past. During the regular season, the native of London, Ontario, averaged 25:42 of ice time while upping that to 28:45 in the playoffs. He even makes the most of his time on the ice by sacrificing his body as he blocked 91 shots this past regular season. That was a significant jump from his 46 in 2013 (okay, that was a shortened season) and his 70 in 2011-12. But his playoff totals in said category are even more impressive. After 25 blocked shots in 2012 to 30 in 2013, Drew Doughty blocked a grand total of 52 shots this past spring.
But we haven't even touched on his ability to intimidate the opposing team - and nothing can be taken away from that.
In 2011-12, Drew Doughty racked up 124 hits. In 2013, it was 128 hits. This past regular season, Doughty dished out 180 hits, averaging 2.3 per game. In the playoffs from 2012 to this past spring, Doughty went from 44 to 42 to 43 hits. The change definitely was not as significant in the latter category but considering everything else that Drew Doughty brings to the table, you won't hear anyone complaining.
As the season gets longer, Drew Doughty gets better - and the same can be said for his playing career. Like a fine wine, the Great Number Eight ages spectacularly.
Everyone knew there was something special to Drew Doughty when the Los Angeles Kings drafted him second overall in 2008. The days of wondering what if the Kings had landed the first-overall pick (and taken Steven Stamkos instead) are long gone with all due respect to the Tampa Bay star.
When he surpassed Anze Kopitar as the highest-paid King in 2011, some fans were reticent while others were just downright disgusted. But to his tremendous credit, Drew Doughty has redeemed himself, proving why he was given as much money as he was. He may light the lamp during the regular season all that often but it's a whole new ballgame in the playoffs - and Doughty just has a knack for stepping it up.
Drew Doughty is the total package and the Los Angeles Kings (and their fans) are very thankful to have him on their side. It makes the drama of 2011 seem like such a distant memory - and everyone in Tinseltown is perfectly fine with that.
Overall grade for Drew Doughty: A