While the LA Kings are off to a much better start than in recent years, Drew Doughty indicated work needs to be done to make the playoffs.
It’s not exactly a secret that the past two seasons for Drew Doughty have been underwhelming years. Add to that, the 31-year-old inked an eight-year, $88M contract extension with the LA Kings and followed that with a seven-goal, 28-assist effort in the 18-19 season. 35 points marked the fewest since his rookie year, ignoring the 22 points he put up in a lockout-shortened 12-13 campaign.
The Kings front office made an effort to give Doughty a veteran presence on the top defensive pairing in Olli Maatta, acquiring the Finnish defenseman over the offseason with the hope that Mattaa’s previous Stanley Cup experience would aid in Doughty returning to form.
While the Kings have put the brakes for Maatta on the top pairing, much of the last two seasons have been Doughty inside his own head.
“I think that was the biggest thing is like, everyone’s telling me, I’m doing too much, don’t try to do too much,” the former Norris Trophy winner said. “And then maybe I took a step back last year, and I just, you know, statistically, I had a s*** year. So you know, I’m just playing the game. I’m just having fun and just try to be the best player I can be for our team. [I] try to dominate as much as I can out there. And, you know, just being a good leader, both on and off the ice, I’ve had a lot of growth in that area over the years.”
We’ve definitely seen a more mature Drew Doughty in the early stages of the 2021 season. While chirping at other players has always been part of Doughty’s game, we haven’t seen some of the emotional outbursts from Drew.
Perhaps not having to play Matthew Tkachuk this year has something to do with that, but Doughty looks like a poised player trying to guide a mostly young LA Kings roster to their first playoff appearance since getting swept in the first round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Ask just about any veteran early on in training camp, and they said that they expect the Kings to compete for a playoff spot. In all reality, what are they supposed to say in that scenario? However, through 20 games of the 56-game schedule, the LA Kings are fifth in the West Division and only five points out of first place.
Most anticipated that Vegas, St. Louis, and Colorado were locks to make the postseason with the fourth playoff spot in the West Division up for grabs. Entering their two-game set with the Minnesota Wild, the Kings were third in the division but left the State of Hockey with one out of a possible four points.
Still, there’s more than enough sample size to believe the LA Kings can play postseason hockey in 2021.
“I definitely think there’s a chance we can make the playoffs,” Doughty said. “I wouldn’t say that we’re, you know, 100 percent gonna make it or anything like that. We got a lot of work to do. But I definitely can see us, you know, hopefully getting in my third or fourth slot there. That’s our goal. And if anyone doesn’t think that we can potentially make the playoffs, you know, what’s the point of coming here every day?”
Doughty is one of five veterans left from the Stanley Cup runs. He’s been with the team for so long, but it’s hard to believe at times that he recently turned 31 back in December. There’s no question he’s a leader on the defensive end, but that doesn’t mean he has all the answers. In fact, he’s relied on one of his former teammates for leadership advice.
“Matt Greene,” Doughty said without hesitation. “I think I’ve probably spoke about this before, but he was a mentor to me. He’s like a big brother. He took me under his wing in my first season, and ever since then, and still to this day, if I have any leadership issues or questions, I’m calling Matt Greene. And I think anybody that’s ever played him can tell you is one of the best leaders they’ve ever seen.”