For the next month or two, we’ll be taking a look at the players who made the Los Angeles Kings’ 2016-17 season what it was: a crushing disappointment that got people fired an up-and-down journey which managed to be both unusual and familiar. Rather than the good-bad-future-grade format we’ve used in past seasons, we’ll ask a crucial question and answer it using it what we saw this year.
Is Drew Doughty worth $10 million to the Kings in 2019?
There is no question that an indispensable part of the core of the Kings is Drew Doughty. The second overall draft pick in 2008 was a Kings fan growing up. Now at age 27, Doughty has compiled an impressive resume: 2-time Stanley Cup winner, 3-time All-Star, Norris Trophy winner, and 2-time Olympic gold medalist. By all definitions, a successful career. And still more greatness to come.
To understand why the Kings value Doughty so highly, watch this video. High levels of skill, toughness, endurance, and leadership. Doughty has built a reputation for stopping odd-man rushes. Here, Doughty saves the shot—and the game—on a 2-on-1 chance when it seemed all hope was lost.Doughty makes Bob Miller’s final home game against the Chicago Blackhawks one to remember.
In 2016-17, Doughty has toned down the overly creative stickhandling and overly fancy passing that was too complex for his teammates in previous years to work with. But the enthusiasm hasn’t toned down, as seen in this overzealous attempt to chase the puck. (Sorry I couldn’t resist including this hilarity.)
Check out Brent Burns—his 29 goals outscore the entire Kings team except Jeff Carter. And check out Karlsson—his 54 assists are the reason many consider him superior to Doughty. Victor Hedman and Letang have 56 and 58 assists, respectively. It makes perfect sense—goals entertain fans and sell tickets. Though we can argue that defense cannot be measured with offensive stats alone, the best defense still remains a good offense, and therefore it makes sense that the top NHL defensemen lead other defensemen in offensive production.
One concern about Doughty is his high mileage. The Kings won two Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014, and reached the third round in 2013. With the departure of expert puckmover Slava Voynov in 2014, Doughty became the Kings’ only reliable puck moving defenseman. The Kings then started overusing Doughty in 2014-15 and 2015-16, playing him an average of 28-29 minutes a game. He is down to 27 minutes a game in 2016-17, but it is imperative that other Kings defensemen shoulder more of the load to prevent injury.
So should the Kings pay Doughty $10 million? Unfortunately, it will be uncomfortable to do so. The Kings are already saddled with too many bad contracts—Marian Gaborik until 2020-21, Dustin Brown until 2021-22, and Anze Kopitar until 2023-24 with a no-movement clause. In addition, it is hard to imagine that Carter and Jonathan Quick will continue to bring their A-games each day until 2021-22 and 2022-23, respectively. Efforts to get the Vegas Golden Knights to take on Gaborik or Brown failed, and it is doubtful that any team will ever be interested in such long contracts.
Previously, I wrote that the Kings’ window cheap jerseys nhl to contend for the Cup is only two more seasons, until Doughty’s current contract expires. (And the second year will come at a price, as the Kings won’t trade Doughty’s expiring contract as they need him for one more playoff push.) In two years, Kopitar, Brown, Carter, Gaborik, and Quick will all be well over age 30. Time is running out for the current Kings core.
By then, the Kings will be a completely different team. Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson will lead a Kings offense centered by Gabe Vilardi. Adrian Kempe and Jonny Brodzinski will provide additional offense, generated by the creativity of Nic Dowd. Andy Andreoff will be the tough guy as Kyle Clifford declines due to concussions, and Jordan Nolan is not brought back after 2017-18. The defense will be anchored by Derek Forbort and Paul LaDue, with a second pair of Kevin Gravel and KHL All-Star Oscar Fantenberg. By then, either Muzzin or Alec Martinez will be traded, and Darcy Kuemper will be starting goaltender as Quick continues to be plagued with injuries.
Despite all of these roster changes, Doughty’s ability to make his teammates better, such as Muzzin and Forbort, is another well-documented aspect of his excellence. Will Drew Doughty be the anchor that holds this new, younger Kings core together? Or will $10 million per year be better spent elsewhere, on whatever the new needs of the Kings will be in two years?