Drew Doughty has been the center of attention for all the wrong reasons during Los Angeles’ first-round series with the Golden Knights.
You know what would have really been funny? If, after helping to set up the goal that put his team up 3-1 on the Los Angeles Kings Sunday night, Jonathan Marchessault had skated up to Drew Doughty and tapped the side of his head with his finger as if to say, “Dude, you new at this? Both defensemen caught in no-man’s land behind the net?”
Of course, that would have required Marchessault to stoop to Doughty’s level, which is part of the reason why the Kings find themselves in a 3-0 hole to an expansion team in the first round of the playoffs. The Kings dressed a roster for Game 3 of their first-round series against the Vegas Golden Knights that had a combined 965 games of playoff experience and 17 Stanley Cups. The Golden Knights, on the other hand, had 437 games of post-season experience and three Stanley Cups in their lineup. (That did not include Tomas Tatar, who despite being acquired at the deadline for a first-, second- and third-round pick, was a healthy scratch.)
But it’s the Golden Knights who are playing like a poised, veteran, playoff-hardened group and the Kings look like a bunch of post-season neophytes who can’t handle the glare of the spotlight. And one of the worst offenders in all of this is Doughty, who appears to be treating the NHL playoffs as though it’s the Federal League. If there has been a way for Doughty to put his foot in it, or put his foot in his mouth, he’s found a way to do it. All the while he’s been running around like a fringe fourth liner intent on doing nothing more than stirring up trouble. He’s shooting his mouth off and making silly gestures, the way he did when Marchessault took a roughing penalty on him in Game 3 and he tapped the side of his head as Marchessault went to the penalty box. During warm-ups for Game 3, after sitting out Game 2 with a one-game suspension, Doughty stood along the red line and yapped at the Golden Knights as they skated by.
Yeah, we get it. Doughty’s a hyper-competitive guy who plays best when he’s playing on the edge and blah, blah, blah. And that may be true, but the truly great players who play that way know how to approach the edge without going over it. Doughty, who has 82 games of playoff experience and two Stanley Cup rings, seems to have completely forgotten where that edge lies. Prior to the series, Doughty talked about how the Kings were a better team, the type of comment that has absolutely no upside. He complained about his one-game suspension for his hit on William Carrier and treated Game 3 as though he was on a personal mission of vengeance.
But it’s not just that. Earlier this season, he got caught up in a controversy over his contract, saying he and Erik Karlsson deserve to get paid much more on their future deals. He allowed himself to become embroiled in an on- and off-ice war with a rookie, for goodness sake. Doughty seems to have insisted on making himself the center of attention and do you know what that makes players? It makes them high-maintenance, which is all well and good as long as they can back it up with high-level performances. But when it becomes a distraction and a detriment the way it has for Doughty and the Kings, then the questions begin. Anyone who has watched Doughty play through his career knows he’s better than this and doesn’t have to be this way to be effective.
So how about this? Just stop. Stop with the acts of vengeance and the gong show and the yapping and just start playing hockey the way everyone knows you’re capable of playing. Yes, play on the edge and play with passion and vigor, but as Vince Lombardi said, act as though you’ve been there before.
And that’s the thing, the Kings have been here before, including four years ago when they went into a 3-0 hole against the San Jose Sharks in the first round before winning the next four games en route to their second Stanley Cup in three years. If the Kings are going to have any hope of getting back into this series, they’re going to need their veterans who have been here before to step up with monster performances and to play with the kind of discipline that wins in the playoffs. That begins with Doughty and if they don’t get it from him, there’s no hope.
Chances are, this series is over anyway. With their speed and skill, the Knights have been able to flummox the Kings and have taken away their possession game, largely because they have the puck most of the time. But the Kings won’t even win a game in this series they and Doughty continue to play the way they have.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.