Back in training camp, Kings defenseman Drew Doughty put everybody on notice. He had spent plenty of time on the ice prepping for 2021. Equally important, he used much of last year’s extended break plotting his Redemption Tour. The former Norris Trophy winner and Stanley Cup champion was hell bent on both proving people wrong and reminding others that he rightfully belonged in any conversation involving elite defensemen.
As we’ve now reached the NHL season’s midpoint, let’s hear from Doughty on a plethora of different topics — including an update on his aforementioned aspirations…
Doughty on if he’s satisfied with his own performance thus far this season and if he’s been able to achieve what he set out do over the first half?
Yeah, for sure. I worked hard this off-season. Although the points are coming this year, I don’t feel like I’m necessarily playing that much better than I had in the past seasons. It’s just that the points are kind of going in. I really like my game, but the main thing is our team game is better this year. That’s why I’m having more success personally, it’s all because of the team.
On if the Kings are about where he expected them to be halfway through the 2021 campaign
I would have liked to be right in that fourth spot, or third spot, right away. But I think we’re like three points out, or something like that. We’re chasing St. Louis. We have belief in here that we can catch them and get that spot. So I guess, yeah, I’m pretty happy with where we are. But we have a lot of work left to do and we have to get a playoff spot, man. This not making playoff stuff, it’s old. It’s not good. You’re not going to get any better if you don’t get playoff games. We need to do everything we can to make it.
On his pairing with Mikey Anderson, and the fact they’ve given up the fewest goals among NHL pairs that have played 300+ minutes this season, does he take more pride in that than the offensive accolades
Definitely. The last few years, my stats haven’t been too good and it’s not because I lack competitiveness in that area or anything like that. It just hasn’t been going my way, but it’s the stat I take the most pride in. I don’t want to be out there for goals against — ever — whether it’s penalty kill or 5-on-5. It doesn’t matter. I don’t want to be out there for goals against, neither does Mikey. We take a lot of pride in that. We’re usually playing against the other team’s best lines. Actually, we always are, not usually. We do it every night. It’s something to be proud of, but something we need to keep going.
On how he compares the entire seven defensemen this season, as a group, to those from previous seasons
Well, this d-corp is more mobile. We haven’t scored many goals, actually. But we actually are more offensive. We’re better skaters. We all have really good vision. The thing that we maybe aren’t as good at as the d-corps we’ve had in the past is just defense as a whole. It’s something we need to improve on. Be better in front of the net, get sticks, boxing guys out. It’s something that we need to improve, but I definitely see a lot more mobility and a lot more offensive upside than our d-corps from the past.
On how much he’s enjoying being the veteran defenseman among the group
I’ve kind of been playing that role for a long time now. Yeah, I like it. The young guys look up to me. Every time I talk to them, they’re listening to what I have to say. I think they take it in. It’s not one of those situations where they’re listening, but they’re not listening. I’m trying to help them as much as I can. I had a lot of help when I was a rookie, or a young guy, from the veteran guys. I can’t thank those guys enough. I just want to kind of continue that trend and help those guys be the best they can be.
On reducing his outbursts on the ice this season, and the noticeable control he’s been playing with
I think I’ve changed it in the last couple seasons. Last season, I didn’t really have any breakouts. The last ones I had were when John Stevens was still our head coach. I’ve really worked on it. I need to stop doing it. I knew it was going to hurt me in the long run. It made me look bad. It wasn’t something that I want young kids to look up to. I was embarrassed by it. It’s definitely something I’ve been fixing. I haven’t lost my competitive spirit, but there were times in the past couple seasons where I was like, ‘Man, I’m not mentally passionate enough’ and stuff like that because I was being able to shrug calls off and bad plays off like that. I think I’ve finally found a happy medium this year where I can be passionate, still get upset with things that happen, but kind of internalize it and deal with it that way.
On if not having to play Matthew Tkachuk is helping him keep his composure this season
Yeah, obviously that riles me up. But if anyone takes cheap shots at me, that’s going to rile me up. It’s not him doing anything particular. Definitely things that happen in the game can make me turn one way or the other.
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