Drew Doughty is one of the best defensemen in the National Hockey League – even though, technically, he may not be part of the Los Angeles Kings at the moment.
So, it wasn’t totally surprising that Doughty not being signed (officially, he’s not a hold out, he’s an unsigned RFA), was one of the primary topics at training camp yesterday.
That said, several of the players have already tired of the questions surrounding the talented blue-liner.
“To be honest, there really wasn’t another topic yesterday besides Drew Doughty and my ankle,” said Anze Kopitar after this morning’s session.
It did feel that way at times.
For those who just can’t get enough Doughty news though, here are some selected – and believe me, it’s only a sliver – of the non-stop Double-D talk from day one of training camp…
Thomas Hickey on the hole that currently exists in the line-up – “You can’t kid yourself. The first thing you look at are the one-way contracts because those are the guys who have earned the right to play here over guys who are coming up. Without him, there’s only six. I think all the defensemen understand that and understand the style that he plays. That’s a big void that’s left open. I think some of my skills could be useful moving forward if he’s not going to be here.”
Coach Terry Murray – “It’s not a distraction for me. I’ve been through this before. It’s part of the sports world right now. Players understand what is going on, the negotiation process – I do. This is part of the deal when a player’s not signed – he’s not coming to training camp and participate. We understand that and it’s not a distraction. We wish he was here, I miss him. He’s a great player and we’re looking for him to have a great year. He a great guy in the locker room and great friend to a lot of people. So, that part of it – it is what it is, in that sense of it. It’s not going to become a distraction. We just have to move forward and get to be a team, get our team chemistry up and running right away and start playing games.”
More from Murray – “The plans do not change at all (without Doughty here). We’re going to miss Doughty and I wish he was here to be a part of it. He’s a very important player and a big part of the locker room. He’s a fun guy to be around and he’s a fun player for us. But, plans do not change for the training camp. We have to get ready for the start of the year. We’ll go through the same plan we’ve had in place since the early part of August.”
Rob Scuderi – “If you want to argue for him as the face of the franchise, I don’t think you’ll find many arguments from management or (other players on the) team. We miss him and wish he was here.”
More from Scuderi – “We all realize he’s not around and it would be nice to have him here. But, at this time of the season, everyone has there own kinks to work out. So, nobody’s real concerned about Drew and his business. It’s a part of the game and having to go through the business side of it is something everyone in the locker room has to do at one time or another. I don’t think its a real big distraction for anyone.”
Dustin Brown – “I’m trying not to think about it. Everyone is aware of it, but you’re trying to get yourself ready. Training camp is about getting your timing and getting a feel for the puck. We have a couple of new guys – and I’m playing with two of them (Mike Richards and Simon Gagne). For me, it’s about getting to know those guys. So, it’s about focusing on what you need to do to get ready for the season.”
More from Brown – “I’ve been in contact with him on and off for the last three or four months, just like any other summer. But, it’s not any other summer for him…knowing Drew, he gets pretty stressed about stuff like this.”
Jack Johnson – “That’s the business side of this, which fortunately I’m not involved with. I totally understand what he’s doing. It’s the business side of it and the part of the sport that sucks. But it’s got to get done…I kiddingly told Drew that I would have done his for free. I enjoyed it and thought it was easy to do.”
Justin Williams “We’ll make do with what we have. We have a lot of guys who can fill in right now (referring to 65 guys being in camp). Obviously, he’s tough to replace. He’s one of the best defensemen around. But, we haven’t really spent a lot of time focusing on it or talking about it, for that matter. When he signs, if he signs, he’ll be back and hopefully he can pick up where he left off.”
That’s the hope.