Drew Doughty is Dean Lombardi’s guy; so much so that Lombardi would have taken him over Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos in 2008 if the Los Angeles Kings held the No. 1 pick in the 2008 draft. Doughty’s play this year reflected that faith as he not only was Mr. Everything for the Kings, but he was a crucial part to Canada capturing the Gold Medal at the Olympics. Doughty’s play in Sochi was so great he was named to the tournament All-Star team for his offensive output. Given his strong play for the Kings this season it could’ve been reasonably assumed Doughty would be a Norris Trophy finalist for league’s top defenseman like he was in 2010 at age 20, but that’s not the case. The NHL announced today that Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks, Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins and Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators are the three finalists for the award. Should Doughty feel slighted?
Given the Kings’ inconsistencies this season, Doughty’s play was one of the few constants and he was a catalyst on the back end all year long. His ice time was tops on the team (7thin the league) and his defensive play was rock solid as he posted a plus-16 on a team that had more than a few players finish in the minus. When Doughty was drafted out of the OHL’s Guelph Storm he was an offensive dynamo who was at times reckless defensively, but this season reflected a complete 180 in that department. He played against the other team’s top line more often than he has in the past and added a stronger physical game to his repertoire.
While his defensive play improved, his offensive numbers took a step back this season as he was 30th in scoring among NHL defenseman. It can be reasonably assumed, however, that this drop in points is attributed to the team asking more of him defensively. Look no further than his play at the Olympics where Team Canada tasked him with being a puck mover and rarely used him to be a shutdown defenseman. The ease with which he went from role to another reflects the maturity in his game, and bear in mind he is only 24 and will continue to get better. I can guarantee that Lombardi and Co. would take the tradeoff in numbers for better overall play as it is obviously better for team success.
Doughty has nothing to be ashamed of as he played hard and made life easier for his goalies with better defensive coverage and his forwards with amazing ability to move the puck up ice. While he may not have the exciting end-to-end rushes as often as he did as a younger player, there are less mistakes and therefore scoring chances against. There needs be a happy medium between being offensive minded and responsible defensively, and it looks like Doughty has found it. Keith, Chara and Weber are amazing players who deserve the recognition, but leave no doubt that No. 8 for the L.A. Kings is on par with them, whether or not the numbers reflect it.