Stevens on Dimming Doughty’s Fire and Pairing Him With Brickley

Coming off of signing a big contract extension this summer, defenseman Drew Doughty continues to take on a greater role within the LA Kings organization. As training camp rolls along in preparation for the 2018-19 season, Coach John Stevens shared the following related to his perennial Norris Trophy candidate…

On if he would like to see Doughty curtail some of his outbursts on the ice:

“I wouldn’t say he necessarily needs to curb his enthusiasm, but there were a couple situations last year — and he’ll tell you this, we’ve had the conversation — that were outright unacceptable. I don’t have any problem saying he’s the emotional leader of our hockey team. He has great enthusiasm and he brings energy to your team. He loves being at the rink. Guys love having him as a teammate. He has to find that line. He’s in a position now – he was before. We won Cups in 2014 and 2012… [ed. note: Stevens then referenced Doughty taking a late penalty in Game 5 of the 2012 Western Conference Final in Phoenix]. I’d rather try and dampen the fire a little bit than try and light a fire to begin with. If a player doesn’t have any fire in his belly, sometimes you can never get it ignited; whereas a guy like Drew has so much fire that with his experience, it bothered him as much as it bothered us that it happened, and I think he’s well aware of it. He very much wants to be one of the leaders of our hockey team, and he has become one of those guys, and he knows as well as we all do that there’s a time and place for passion and emotion, but when it turns into frustration, it doesn’t help our hockey team. He knows that and he understands that, and it’s a process that we’re going through. He’s way ahead of where he was before. I would like to think as we move along that we can eliminate those situations altogether.”

Derek Forbort is out injured, listed as week-to-week; yet we wanted to know if the plan is to still pair him with Doughty once he’s healthy enough to play:

“More than likely. Derek has been really effective for us, he just brings a totally different skill set. He defends really well, he’s a big guy who’s heavy on the wall. He can get a lot of plays stopped, which turns pucks over and allows us to transition the puck the other way. He’s done a really good job of playing against top players in the league. It also gives us a left-right pairing with Drew. They enjoy playing together because I think they really feed off of each other well. That’s been a pretty consistent pair for us, so when he’s healthy, he will more than likely go back there.”

We inquired about what the backup plan might be if Forbort’s injury were to drag on a bit:

“We want a left shot with Drew. Fantenberg’s had some time there and he actually did a pretty good job there. [Muzzin] has moved up there and done a good job there. It just depends. Dion was new last there, they haven’t played together a whole lot. Brickley’s going to get a chance to play with him in preseason there and maybe get an opportunity to play a game with him there and practice with him. So, performance over the course of training camp will tell us what needs to happen. Even [Martinez] can go back on the left side. He’s played with Drew and had very favorable numbers with him. It seems like everybody who plays with Drew does well. We have several guys that can play on the right side that are left-shot players. Fantenberg can do it, Phaneuf can do it, Martinez can do it. Even young kids, we’ll get a look at training camp. Clague’s going to get a look at training camp. MacDermid’s been here before. He’s going to get a look at training camp again, obviously. That’s what I love about training camp. You get a chance to see these guys, see where their game’s at, how far they’ve come along and who’s ready to help us, who might need a little more time.”

On if he can envision a scenario where Brickley and Doughty are paired together come opening night:

“I don’t think we would’ve sat here last year and thought that Iafallo was going to play with Kopitar. You guys would’ve all asked for my resignation if I’d have said that. You just never know. He’s a big guy that defends well. If you look at the people that Drew’s played with and done extremely well with, Jake Muzzin was his partner in ’14, and I’m telling you right now, the year before, if you saw Jake play in the American League, there’s no way anybody in hockey would’ve thought that was possible. And Jake’s game’s came around unbelievably well, and those two were a great pair for us and a big reason we won the Cup that year. You had McNabb coming up out of the minors and ended up being a really good pair with Drew, and then you had Forbort, who spent multiple years in the minors, come up and be a really good player with Drew. I wouldn’t count anybody out at this point on Day 1 of training camp.”

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