For his first two seasons, it looked as if general manager Dean Lombardi was a genius for drafting Drew Doughty. While Steven Stamkos was the clear-cut #1 in 2008, there were some suggestions as to who the Kings should have drafted with the #2 pick. Although it was overwhelming in favour of Doughty, some suggested that Alex Pietrangelo and Zach Bogosian would have been fine alternatives. Despite both of them establishing themselves with their respective clubs, the Kings were right in selecting Doughty – or so we thought.
For the last year-and-a-half, many have wondered what had happened to Drew Doughty. He still helps his team but it’s certainly not to the same effect as what he’d been doing in his first two seasons with the Kings. Last night, in his 50th game of the year, Doughty scored just his fifth goal. It may not seem like much but, in my mind, at least, the goal meant something.
Although he scored with just over two minutes to go in regulation to pull Los Angeles to within a goal, he rushed in to spoil Clemmensen’s shutout bid. That was just it – Doughty rushed in. Maybe there’s a grey area here but it seems so simple: this is why Doughty hasn’t been scoring much the last two seasons. In his first couple of years, he lit the lamp with some nice point shots and even a couple that happened to find its way through traffic or off a lucky bounce. But in his first two seasons, we’ve seen so much of Drew Doughty rushing to the net and contributing to his team’s goal total that way.
Doughty was thrown into the fire as a 19-year-old and he responded far beyond anyone’s expectations. Collecting 6 goals and 21 assists in 81 games in his rookie campaign, Doughty was just shy of being nominated for the Calder as the league’s top rookie, something he should have been easily acknowledged for but I digress.
If there was any concern about a sophomore jinx, it was quickly put to bed as Doughty collected 16 goals and 43 assists in 82 games. Not only did his efforts help his team clinch their first playoff berth in eight years but it earned Doughty a Norris nomination as the league’s top defenseman.
Since then, there hasn’t been much to brag about for Doughty. He has been fairly consistent and still contributes even if it’s not on the scoresheet but it hasn’t been the same. Of course, let us not forget that there are some fans that still have hard feelings after Doughty’s summer-long contract saga but still in all, things haven’t quite been the same.
Call me an eternal optimist (even though I’m far from it) but Drew Doughty’s goal last night made me think if he just rushed the net more, his goal production would increase immensely. He has proven how beneficial he is well inside the blue line in both 2008-09 and 2009-10 but why aren’t we seeing more of this? I understand that the Los Angeles Kings emphasize defense but why keep continuing to focus on the defense, as great as it is, and leave the offense to continually sputter? Just two years ago, many were saying that both the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Los Angeles won at the 2008 Draft as both Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty have proven to be immediate NHL stars. Although it would be nice to see Doughty put up the same numbers as Stamkos, we have to be realistic. He may not but that doesn’t mean that Drew Doughty can’t be not only a valuable commodity for his team but one for the entire league.
If you want proof, just rewind to December 19, 2008 when Drew Doughty scored his first-career goal. At home against the Colorado Avalanche, Doughty came flying down the left wing and shot over Peter Budaj’s glove for the goal. To the naked eye, Drew Doughty isn’t a defenseman because how many defenseman can finish an offensive play so smoothly? Aside from Mario Lemieux’s first in 1984 (and, of course, with the risk of sounding bias), I cannot recall a first-career goal more impressive than Doughty’s.
With a team as all-around defensive as the Kings are, what’s the harm in having not only Doughty but Jack Johnson and even Slava Voynov rush the net more often? If the coaching staff is afraid that the other team will have an advantage should they set themselves up to take the puck the other way, then so be it. Although it’s one of life’s old clichés, does anyone really expect to get anywhere without taking risks? If Doughty and Johnson are on a line together next game, let’s say, and the Kings turn it over and Matt Moulson goes in on a breakaway and beats Jonathan Quick five-hole and the rushing defenseman plans blows up in Los Angeles’ face, then, again, so be it. No one’s going to be happy with the goal against but that doesn’t necessarily it’s always going to happen.
Every NHLer steps onto the ice for every game knowing that there’s a risk that they will be injured or worse. But players go out and play the game anyway. Do they know the risks involved? Of course they do – but they go out there anyway. This scenario should be no different. Besides, in the aforementioned hypothetical where Moulson scores on Quick, Los Angeles’ netminder will most likely stop the puck anyway. That’s nothing against Matt Moulson as it’s just stating how great of a goaltender Jonathan Quick is. He’s proven all season long how reliable he is when he gets little or no help from his defenseman.
As defensively-celebrated as the Los Angeles Kings are, a rushing Doughty or a rushing Johnson shouldn’t have to pick up the slack of their teammates when something goes wrong. If worse comes to worst, then surely one or two of the other Kings on the ice can pick up the slack and avert disaster even if they aren’t officially defensemen.
Overall, this is just a thought but I want to see more of the Drew Doughty we saw from his first two seasons. We saw that last night when he scored and he has the ability to keep that up so why not? Hey, the Kings have had trouble finding the back of the net for a while now. What harm would come if the Kings are just willing to give this a try and let Doughty do his thing? It certainly can’t get any worse.
Photo: Courtesy of Noah Graham/NHLI via Getty Images