Drew Doughty is quietly having an outstanding season, and the LA Kings defenseman said the impact of the young D corps around him has played a role.
Having declined in recent years, some have suggested that Doughty’s best days are behind him. However, while he did have a slower start to the season, the LA Kings’ star defenseman has turned things around. Whether it’s as a defensive blueliner, a point-producer or even as a mentor, Doughty has proven to his doubters that he has more than enough left in the tank.
There have certainly been times this season where he has made some nonchalant-looking turnovers or looking out of place on the blueline when the puck exits during a power play but, more importantly, Drew Doughty has shown just how resilient he is.
Some may look at his 8-year, $88-million contract and resort to the fallacy that Doughty is only in it for the paycheck. To those individuals, they simply need to watch more LA Kings hockey to understand that the Kings’ great No. 8 has no reservations in backing up his paycheck.
Following the LA Kings’ fourth-straight victory on Saturday, Doughty spoke with the media, addressing his own success while, being the leader that he is, giving most of the credit to his teammates. First, though, the defenseman was also asked whether he feeds off the team’s recent momentum swing.
“Yeah, I do,” Doughty said. “Obviously, I guess what most people are looking at as I’m getting points, but like I said earlier today, that’s just my teammates being in good spots, making good plays to me and when I make it to them, they’re making good plays off of it. So, I definitely feel really good.”
On the defensive side of things, Doughty currently leads all Kings defensemen with 27 blocked shots — which includes a crucial one early in Saturday’s game — and 21 hits. Some may not take much stock in the latter category but when Doughty dishes out the punishment, it leaves a resounding impact, and that is something not to be taken for granted.
One of the key ingredients to Doughty’s leadership, though, is knowing where he needs to improve, and he does just that.
“My defensive game [was] really good tonight,” began the blueliner. “I thought I wasn’t great in the second but how good first and third and– no, I definitely feed off the momentum. When I’m grumpy, I’m not playing my best; when I’m mad and engaged in the game — at the other team, not at our own team and myself — I play much better. So, when we’re having fun, all of us are better players.”
Another ingredient to the All-Star’s leadership is the development of the LA Kings’ younger defensemen. Especially at a time when the silver-and-black are rolling, the improvement of the younger blueliners overall becomes more evident, and Doughty is certainly taking a great deal of pride in being the mentor of the club’s less-experienced defensive corps.
“Yeah, it’s amazing,” Doughty beamed. “I’m so impressed with our young guys on the back end: Toby, Andy, Strander. Stander’s surprised, I think, all of us because we hadn’t seen him play before, so he’s been playing great. Then, you know, obviously with Walks and Roysie being out for a while there, they’ve impressed the entire organization. So, I can’t be more proud of them and happy for them and just want them to keep having success and helping them along that journey.”
When Matt Roy and Sean Walker both went down with injuries, there was a palpable sense of apprehension — even dread — surrounding the short-term future of the LA Kings’ defense. Yet, while they did struggle early on, the silver-and-black got back on track, especially with the aforementioned emergence of Austin Strand. But, Drew Doughty, while hard-pressed to accept the accolades given his refreshing level of modesty, has nonetheless been the anchor that the Kings’ young defensive corps needs. And now, the Kings are riding high with a four-game winning streak and a five-game point streak.
To suggest that the Kings won’t lose another game is, simply put, naive. However, with Drew Doughty at the helm on the back end, the LA Kings will be in more serious contention for a playoff spot this season than most may have predicted. Heck, the two-time Olympic gold medalist has even flexed his offensive muscle this season, leading his team’s defensive corps in goals, assists and points (4-11=15). He also serves the most minutes by a Kings defenseman, averaging 26:29 per game.
Some may take issue with a player being paid $11 million annually but few, if any, can take issue if a player is earning every bit of that salary — and that is exactly what Drew Doughty is doing.