When he was signed to an eight-year, $56-million deal just prior to the start of the 2011-12 season, expectations were high for Drew Doughty. He had just come off an impressive campaign where he was nominated for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman and that was only the beginning for Los Angeles’ Great Number Eight.
Unfortunately because it took Doughty all summer to re-sign, expectations weren’t the only thing that was high. Anger was running ramped for many Kings fans as few could fathom why the young defenseman and his agent would put them and the team through so much unnecessary drama for so long.
After scoring just 10 goals and 26 assists for a career-low 36 points, it was evident that Doughty wasn’t earning his keep. But then the playoffs rolled around and like most of his teammates, Doughty elevated his game. In 20 games en route to winning the Stanley Cup, the second-overall pick in 2008 scored four goals and added 12 assists becoming a fixture in his team’s championship saga. All seemed to be forgiven.
But this season, Drew took offensive futility to another level. Through 28 games, the blueliner registered 11 assists but no goals. Early on in the year when the Kings were struggling, it seemed as if no one could forgive Doughty for his lack of production. While fans became a little more lenient as the Kings played better down the stretch, many weren’t inclined to overlook the big goose egg under the goal column next to the blueliner’s name.
It seemed simple enough: no goals for a player making $7 million per was beyond unacceptable. Of course, some forget that there are plenty of other ways to help a team win and Drew Doughty has proven that thus far despite his drought.
When the season kicked off, the Kings were already without one of the stalwarts on the back end and after the first game, they were without another – both for indefinite periods of time. With Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene, Kings fans had plenty of reason to be skeptical. One of their healthy defenseman who wasn’t very strong defensively was Drew Doughty and if he kept up his inconsistent ways, Los Angeles would be in real trouble in a real hurry. To Doughty’s credit, though, he elevated his defensive game. As of now, he trails only Kyle Clifford on the team in the hit department with 85 while sharing the team lead with 31 blocked shots with the defensive guru if you will, Rob Scuderi. Doughty also currently leads all Kings defensemen with 68 shots. He may not have had a goal through 28 outings but certainly no one can accuse the 24-year-old of being lazy.
Right off the top of my head, I can think of a few times where Drew Doughty’s defensive game has been a liability and while he isn’t perfect in said department, he is getting a lot better and showing everyone that he’s not afraid to step it up when his team needs him to.
I understand Drew Doughty’s been given a rough time since signing his big contract and whether it’s fair or not, that does happen when a player’s not producing on the scoresheet. Considering how he contributed in the other aforementioned areas, Doughty’s lack of production is excused as far as I’m concerned. Personally, I’d rather have a goalless player chipping in quietly while helping his team win instead of, say, having an Ilya Kovalchuk or a Rick Nash who have scored ad nauseum for teams that went nowhere in the standings. If Doughty was lighting the lamp every night for the 2005-06 version of the Los Angeles Kings, it wouldn’t matter one iota (even though personally, it does matter that I used the word “iota”).
Having just scored his first goal of the season last night, Kings fans surely feel better but not quite as much as Doughty himself must have felt having that weight lifted from his shoulders. I knew the defensemen would score, it was just a matter of when – and I had a feeling it was going to come sooner rather than later. After all, leading all Kings blueliners in shots, it was inevitable.
Having scored last night obviously doesn’t guarantee that he’ll score next game or the game after that but now that Drew Doughty has found himself a tally, that pressure to break the drought is now gone and the fourth-year D-man can now work on the other areas of his game with a lot more ease.
He may not be on the verge of tearing up the league but Drew Doughty’s name has at last been found in the goal column and quite frankly, that’s good enough for me.