LA Kings: Drew Doughty using criticism as motivation for 2021 season

LA Kings (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LA Kings (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Following Day 1 of the LA Kings training camp, Drew Doughty told reporters that criticism has fueled motivation to perform better in 2021.

The LA Kings broke off into two groups for their first organized team practice since mid-March as Day 1 of the 2021 training camp got underway. Drew Doughty and Olli Maatta were paired together in Group B, likely foreshadowing what the regular season will bring. Following Day 1’s scrimmage, Doughty spoke with LA Kings’ media via Zoom call, praising his new pairing partner.

"“We play the same way, we’re thinkers, not the fastest skaters. Our specialty will be moving the puck out of our own zone. I’m super excited to play with him.”"

Doughty recently turned 31, and he’s coming off back-to-back lackluster years.

On Wednesday, General Manager Rob Blake made it clear that he has high expectations for his former Norris Trophy winner. Doughty said on Thursday’s Zoom call that while he’s not using it as an excuse, being paired with six or seven different players over the last couple of seasons made it challenging to get anything moving in a positive direction.

Doughty is aware of the national media’s criticism towards him, saying, “A lot of people had me written off, and that becomes personal.” He cited various media outlets that no longer view him to be a top defenseman, with some suggesting he won’t make the Canadian Olympic team. As noted by his statement above, he’s out to prove them all wrong.

Doughty mirrored both Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar‘s thoughts on the pause in play, saying the long period of downtime was a blessing in disguise. Doughty said he’s been lifting heavy weights again for the first time in a while, whereas before, it was just maintenance due to various nagging injuries or fatigue.

Brown spoke with the media first, saying that Day 1 of LA Kings’ training camp had a high level of intensity despite being off for so long. Of course, the seven teams who failed to qualify for the postseason are at an even further disadvantage with no preseason games before the 2021 regular season begins, which Doughty noted will be the biggest hurdle to overcome.

Having said that, he feels the 56-game schedule allows for some of the younger teams to surprise. The LA Kings have just five players on their roster who are 30 years of age or older. Gabe Vilardi is one of those younger players who the Kings will be counting on in 2021. He scored three goals and seven points in a ten-game sample size at the end of the 19-20 season, but Brown noted that Vilardi put on 15 pounds of muscle during the offseason.

While nobody is projecting Los Angeles to make the postseason, especially in a difficult hybrid West Division, Drew Doughty said the idea of making the playoffs is realistic.

A quick note here, Kopitar spoke about the importance of division games in normal years compared to 2021:

"“Division games were always huge, and there’s even more emphasis this season. Lose a game in a shootout or in OT and that point is huge. It’s gonna be tight for a long, long time.”"