Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Drew Doughty-The not so well kept secret is out

What a strange feeling it is reading Canadian Hockey fans finally giving the respect that Drew Doughty deserves. Not that he’s been criticized or lambasted, but to see others finally echo the thoughts Kings fans have been espousing almost from Day 1 is …..well an odd feeling.

For the majority of his short NHL career, Kings fans opinion of Doughty have largely been discounted or discredited…mainly since being Hockey Fans in California means that our opinions and knowledge of the game can’t ever been as credible as those in Canada or on the East Coast.

I’ve read fans from opposing eastern and Canadian teams continually pound the drum that Doughty was overrated and everything from him being a one dimensional offensive player to that of being inferior to Tyler Myers to that of being a train wreck on the Power Play. Ok that last comment was from a Kings fan once upon a I will begrudgingly admit the Canadian depiction of California hockey knowledge does carry some clout on rare occasions.

Flashback to a midseason game of the 2009 season while watching the game with my brother; we see Doughty make one amazing defensive play to break up an oncoming rush, we watch Doughty play the oncoming man in perfect defensively sound position and take the forward hard into the boards as the forward futilely attempted to drive wide; we then watch as Doughty breaks up another play at the red line while at the same time gaining puck possession, instead of dumping the puck out of the zone he decides to bring out the puck on his own, cutting and slicing up ice as the opposing teams defenders and forwards alike struggle to get back into position only to see Doughty make one final pivot that allows him to move in cold on the goalie. Doughty didn’t score but at that point my brother looked at me and said “If Doughty doesn’t improve one bit from where he is at now he will still be all-star for years to come.” Doughty was 18 at the time.

Flash Forward to this season; Doughty picks up where he left off and is clearly the best young Defenseman in the Western Conference if not the league. My mind recalls my preseason prediction of the BOLD variety that stated Doughty would be a Norris finalist. I also predicted that Wayne Simmonds would finish the season with 20 Goals and 20 assists but I digress.

Doughty has been compared to Ray Bourque as well as Scott Niedermayer. Comparing some stats show that Doughty, currently with 45 pts on the season with 20 or so games to go needs only 2 pts to eclipse Niedermayer’s total season numbers that Niedermayer didn’t best until he posted 56 pts at the tender age of 24 back in the 97 season. Technically one can make the argument that Doughty is putting up numbers at 20 that Niedermayer did at 24. Comparing Bourque however is a different animal given the different time period and different overall skill level of the NHL . That said-if Doughty goes a point a game the rest of the season he will match exactly the average point production of Bourque’s first 4 nhl season with 65 pts. That’s some mighty select company.

Now those who pooh pooh’d the west coasts praise of Doughty are not only seeing him first hand but also on the biggest world stage and spotlight imaginable. One widely circulated quote was “the bigger the game the better he plays.” The Kings sadly, haven’t had too many big in recent years so we haven’t really been able to see that quote in glorious splendor. The medal round in the Olympics however will unquestionably be the biggest test for Doughty in his young career so far. Canada’s record in the Olympics is surprising given they have only brought home the Gold one time since 1952.

Without question a gold medal game will be Doughty’s biggest challenge of his young career and it will be interesting to see his level of play given his play will be magnified the likes of which he has never seen.

It is one thing to think about playing for his Kings teammates and the Fans of Southern California-it’s quite another to think the entire hopes of your country is riding on your shoulders.

A Good Performance means an almost certain Norris nomination as the Canadian Media will finally start to focus a bit more on Doughty’s play. A poor showing could be met with a handful of “I Told Ya So” and a surefire lambasting and second guessing of Doughty’s inclusion entirely.

One thing if for certain, the LA Kings not so well kept secret is on display for all to see and likely to never be ignored, downplayed, slighted, or second guessed again by the Canadian or Eastern media-or any other media itself for that matter.

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