Per the annual end-of-season tradition, LA Kings players met with the media on Friday for a round of exit interviews. Below are thoughts shared by Drew Doughty:
On if there’s a sense of relief that the season is over, in the sense he won’t be under the NHL restrictions this summer
I guess I get what you’re saying. Once we found out we weren’t in the playoffs, yeah very happy the season is over now. But, obviously, we’d do anything to be in the playoffs, even though it could be in a bubble or whatever it is. I think every single guy on this team would take going to the playoffs over ending the season just because of COVID. We stuck with all the protocols all year long. I think our team did one of the best jobs in the whole league; our trainers, everyone did an unbelievable job. We’d definitely rather be in the playoffs than going home, but it was a long year with all the protocols and stuff.
On Todd McLellan’s comment from last night, where he said there was an erosion of the team’s belief system over the past few weeks
I kind of feel like it happened after Carts got traded, to be honest. I don’t know if that’s when it did happen, but it kind of seemed after that happened everything just kind of went backwards. It wasn’t that we didn’t believe in each other or anything like that. We’re playing some good teams — playing Colorado all those games, one of the best teams in the league, those are tough games, tough pills to swallow. We didn’t even have a chance, like not even close. So those were tough to swallow. We have to get better. That’s the bottom line, that’s what we need. Yeah, all the individual players need to get better over the summer, stuff like that. But, as a team, we just need to be better and get better. That’s not just on the players.
On the team’s cap space this summer and if it’s time to add some veteran players
For sure. We have to. Me, Kopi, Quickie, Brownie, we’re all getting older. We all had phenomenal seasons, but we’re running out of time. You have two of the best players at their position, two-way players, two of the most complete players at their position. With all this cap room, we have to bring guys in. That’s it, for sure. There’s no point in just waiting for these prospects to develop when you have guys in their prime, guys who are hungry to win, and guys who are sick of losing. We have to bring guys in.
On if big moves aren’t made, will you be happy on the direction the franchise is going
On his health coming out of the season
Nothing big, just all the little bumps of bruises that you always have. One of my more healthy seasons, so I’m very fortunate for that. I’m very thankful to the training staff for always keeping me in shape and keeping me out there.
On looking at things from a personal standpoint, how satisfied was he with his season
I felt like I was having one of the best seasons of my whole career, to be honest. I kind of went back to how I used to play, a little more risky, a little more offensive. I still kept that defensive game intact. Honestly, I think I improved in the defensive area too. It just kind of sucks how the season ended, we went on a cold streak, as a team and personally. I wish we could have done better there. Overall, I was very happy with my season and the leadership I helped the team with. So, happy, but I want to be in the playoffs, and personally want to be up for that Norris Trophy every year. I know it’s not easy to do, but it’s where I want to be.
On the mood shifting after Carter was traded
I’m not saying that our moods swung at that time, necessarily. I’m just saying that’s kind of when it seemed like things fell apart. I’m not putting the trade on the reason for it, but when you trade a guy like Jeff — he was able to carry his linemates, he was able to talk to them and help them. He was playing with Gabe Vilardi, [Adrian Kempe], and some of these younger guys. He was able to carry them. He was able to make that line more trustworthy in the defensive end because he’s a very solid player both ways. When you lose a guy like that, not to disrespect anyone, but Jeff is a two-time Stanley Cup winner. He scored like 40 or 50 goals in this league. He plays the game the right way. He can play center, wing, anything. That was a tough one to swallow, just because how much the relationship we’ve created with him. I’ve known him since I was a little kid. Yeah, but once again, I’m not putting that as a reason as to why we folded at the end. I don’t know what the reason for that was.
On what he’s personally looking forward to accomplish this summer, as he prepares for next season
Right now, I’m staying in LA. It’s one of the first times I’m doing that. COVID is bad back home, so I’m gonna be in LA. I’m gonna have all the opportunities to work with the guys here. Last summer, I focused really hard on working on my shot. I felt like I lost a little bit of it there, thought I got it back this year. It’s something I still want to go home and improve on more. And, obviously, just staying fit in the gym. I had my best fitness testing last year and most of that was because I was able to recover from injury and we had a lot of time to workout, so that was pretty easy to get my best results. But I want to come back in great shape, just be ready to go and have the same kind of start I had this season.
On his comments about wanting the team to use the cap space to bring in players, is that on defense
I love playing with Mikey Anderson. We’ve developed quite the partnership. I don’t think we need to bring anyone in to play with me. I don’t know if you necessarily need to bring anyone in on defense. I think our defense is solid. I really like where we’re at. I like our young guys. I like our middle of the young guys. Obviously, we need to bring guys in. I don’t know what position that is. That’s not my job to make that decision. You guys can ask Blakey that.
On playing with Anderson, if there was a point in the season where he saw him elevate his play beyond just being a rookie in the NHL
The one thing with Mikey is, this guy is already talking in our dressing room at intermissions. He’s already one of the more vocal — probably one of the top three vocal guys on our team already. To say that about a young guy, that’s basically unheard of. Mikey is a great pro already. He’s many years ahead of what his age actually is. At first, we kind of clicked right away, going together, Then, there were some things that we needed to work on together, communication and positioning, stuff like that. Once we got that, I thought we were buzzing. I know we were minus-10 in the last 10 or whatever, but it wasn’t due to how we were playing. We were playing good hockey together. We were playing sound defensively, making great breakout plays. The only thing I have to help Mikey with is to make sure when he’s eating that puck he doesn’t smack his face off the glass. We’re going to work on that this summer.
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