While they saw their 11-game point streak come to an end this past Saturday, there were some bright points to come out of the evening for the Los Angeles Kings. Most notably was the immense praise given for defenseman Drew Doughty during CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada broadcast of the Kings-Calgary Flames contest.
The always-polarizing but usually-accurate Don Cherry said that Doughty would win the Norris trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman in short time and CBC color-man (and former Kings netminder) Kelly Hrudey went on to call No. 8 the best defenseman in the game today. Even playing on the west coast, Drew Doughty is getting the recognition he deserves as if he was playing in the Eastern time zone.
On CBC’s After Hours, which immediately the second of the network’s broadcasts on Saturday night, Kings’ assistant GM Rob Blake was a guest. Among other issues, Blake was asked how many Norris trophies Doughty would win in his career.
“He’s going to have multiple Norris trophies,” Blake told After Hours host Elliotte Friedman. “And I wish people back east could see him more often.”
I think it’s safe to say that all Kings fans would wholeheartedly agree with the latter statement.
Speaking of the first period against Calgary on Saturday, Blake called attention to Doughty’s, “great legs, great jump,” before discussing his penchant for creating offensive play and his exceptional physical game just to name two assets. That is certainly great praise from a fellow Norris trophy winner and arguably one of the best defenseman to ever play in the NHL, much less for the Los Angeles Kings.
After a stunning rookie campaign in 2008-09, where he narrowly missed a Calder nomination as the league's rookie of the year, he put up six goals and 21 assists in 81 games, Drew Doughty put up better offensive numbers in his sophomore season. Playing in all 82 games for the Kings in 2009-10, Doughty scored 16 goals and added 43 assists helping his team to their first playoff trip in eight years. Even his +20 rating was miles better than the -17 he registered as a freshman. His sophomore year was so good that Team Canada named Doughty to their Olympic squad which won gold in Vancouver. Doughty would also be rewarded at the end of that season with a Norris nomination.
Doughty’s third season, however, saw a decline. While his 40 points and +13 rating in 76 games is good by the standards of most defenseman, it wasn’t for Drew Doughty who struggled defensively in addition to his drop in offensive results. Then, in the off-season, Doughty ruffled a lot of feathers when he held out the entire summer as he was a restricted free agent looking for a new contract with a lot more money.
Doughty ultimately re-signed with the Kings but it took a long time for fans to forgive him. Some even went as far as suggesting that the second-overall pick in 2008 should be traded and that the team should instead focus on their other franchise D-man, Jack Johnson. But as the old adage goes, time heals all wounds and while Doughty’s 36 points and -2 rating in 77 games were nothing to brag about, he made up for it in the playoffs. With the aforementioned Jack Johnson traded to Columbus, some fans thought the Kings made a colossal mistake. It was up to Doughty to prove that the Kings didn’t.
During the playoffs, Doughty scored four times and added 12 assists in 20 games en route to helping the Kings win their first Stanley Cup.
While it wasn’t the end result Kings fans wanted, I took a fair deal of solace from the amount of praise for Drew Doughty. While it is natural for outsiders to believe that it’s biased for Rob Blake or Kelly Hrudey saying positive things about the Kings, it is fair to point out that despite the bulk of his playing career in Los Angeles, Hrudey has never given the Kings a biased edge during his broadcasting career. In fact, one such moment I remember was a decade ago when Hrudey matter-of-factly told then-Kings’ GM Dave Taylor that he was “not convinced” on the team’s acquisition of netminder Roman Cechmanek. I wasn’t happy when I heard Hrudey tell it like it was but deep down, I knew he was right – even though I didn’t want to admit it. I don’t know what I was thinking at the time but that warrants a story for another time.
While his numbers weren’t spectacular in 2011-12, Drew Doughty did get in touch with his physical side by dishing out 124 hits which, believe it or not, only ranked him sixth on his team. The next season, Doughty registered 128 hits – and that was accomplished in just 48 games. In 29 games this season, Doughty has 58 hits while amassing 22 blocked shots. The latter stat may be lower than Mitchell, Regehr, Greene and Voynov but nevertheless, these numbers prove that the 23-year-old blueliner has become an all-around force with the Kings contributed defensively better than what he brings to the table on the offensive side.
Speaking of offense, Doughty’s five goals and nine assists thus far make him well on pace to attain career-highs in both categories – but it certainly won’t be the end of the world if that doesn’t happen. After all, considering everything else Doughty to brings to the table, his offensive numbers aren’t exactly the biggest priority in Los Angeles.
As a sidenote, for those who believe Drew Doughty should either already have won the Norris or should in the very near future, remember that of his seven Norris wins, future Hall-of-Famer Nicklas Lidstrom didn't pick up his first top defenseman award until he was 31. This coming Sunday, Drew Doughty turns 24. So, relax as all good things come to those who wait.
We can talk about Quick, Scrivens, Brown and Kopitar until we’re all blue in the face – and they deserve all the praise they got – but one simply cannot discuss the vast success, both short- and long-term, of the Los Angeles Kings without mentioning Drew Doughty’s name. If you don’t believe me, just look at his numbers. If you don’t agree now, you will once you have a gander.