As a one-time Norris Trophy Finalist, with a rather large contract, Drew Doughty is used to high expectations. But they’re about to get higher.
It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that Doughty’s 2011-2012 regular season was something of a disappointment. After holding out to get the big contract that he wanted, Doughty was expected to return to that Norris Trophy form that he displayed two years ago.
That didn’t really happen. Nagged by injuries and inconsistent play, Doughty turned in just 36 points on the year, including only 26 assists, finished with a minus-2, but did still manage to keep up the physical play, with 124 hits in 77 games.
Things really turned around for Doughty in the postseason, though, as was the case for many on this Los Angeles Kings team. Doughty was a plus-11 for the postseason, with 16 points in 20 games. The rough stuff was on display in each game and we saw his leadership and intensity shine throughout. It was something of a breath of fresh air after a disappointing season.
But now Doughty and the rest of the Kings face the high expectations that come with winning a Stanley Cup. Their first task as a group will be avoiding the Stanley Cup hangover. The expectations for Doughty, however, go beyond that.
After that impressive postseason, Doughty is going to be expected to return to and maintain that form of the playoffs, something much more similar to his 59-point 2009-2010 season.
Doughty not only has an opportunity to make another run at a Norris Trophy nomination, but he could end up grabbing that label of “elite” and become one of the top few defensemen in the entire NHL. He’s strong and physical defensively, and has offensive skill, with a big shot, to contribute at each end.
All of the tools and qualities are there. We saw them in the postseason. But now Drew Doughty is going to show that he can play consistent hockey throughout the regular season again. If he can do that, there’s no doubt that the Los Angeles Kings have one of the top blue liners in the National Hockey League locked up for a very long time.