The hockey equivalent of the first day of school was Tuesday when the Kings reported for physicals and talked about how they spent their summer.
They like their new teacher/coach, John Stevens, and Drew Doughty made it clear he’s not looking to transfer.
Doughty clarified recent comments he made to the Hockey News in which he suggested he wouldn’t want to re-sign with the Kings if they don’t start winning again. It gained steam on social media.
“My Twitter has been absolutely blowing up about it,” Doughty said. “I don’t regret the things that I said, but at the same time, I want to be an L.A. King for my entire career. That’s the bottom line. From the bottom of my heart, that is the entire truth.”
Doughty’s words carry weight given his status as a Norris Trophy winner and one of the best defensemen in the game. That’s why it raised eyebrows when he said: “I’d love to re-sign in L.A. But if our team isn’t going in the right direction … I want to win Cups. I don’t give a [expletive] where I play.”
Doughty said he meant that all he cares about is winning another Cup “and I don’t want to win a Cup anywhere but in L.A.” He hoped he didn’t offend fans by his comments.
He’s signed through the 2018-19 season and said it was not his intent to indirectly put pressure on the Kings to contend again.
“That’s not how I meant it,” Doughty said. “But at the same time, you never know what can happen. We might not come to an agreement on a contract. They might not want to sign me for what I want or vice versa.
“You just never know what can happen … but I want to be here and I’m pretty sure that the L.A. Kings and all [my] teammates want me to be here, too. I’m sure something will happen and we will get it done.”
Doughty and the Kings start training camp Wednesday hoping Stevens and his new staff can get them back to their two-time Stanley Cup winning ways. It closes the book on former coach Darryl Sutter and general manager Dean Lombardi.
But Kopitar also understood change.
“I’ve been with Dean for 11 years, and you definitely create some sort of a connection, for sure,” Kopitar said. “With Darryl, we were five years. That’s always going to be there. But … we did need a change and a fresh voice and a different vision, maybe, and a different approach. That’s why you turn the page and you start writing the new story.”
Stevens was an assistant with the Kings for seven seasons and associate head coach under Sutter for three of those years, but players still see this as a fresh start. Stevens met with some players in the offseason to affirm his vision. He wants the leadership group to build spirit, and he intends to do team-bonding exercises.
Doughty said Stevens’ door is open because Stevens has been in charge of the defense, and the two talked frequently during Sutter’s tenure. Doughty said it’s a different dynamic with Stevens.
“I think we all know how Darryl is,” Doughty said. “He’s an intimidating guy. That’s why he was successful as a coach, because he is intimidating. If he’s mad at you, you’re not sleeping at night. You’re scared to go talk to him. Not that that was the issue on our team or why we didn’t win, but definitely with John I feel like we have the opportunity more so to do that.”
Kopitar and Doughty took ownership of getting the Kings back to their high standards. The Kings have not won a playoff series since their last Cup win in 2014 and have missed the playoffs two of the last three seasons. It won’t happen overnight, and the honeymoon with Stevens has shelf life.
“It’s my responsibility, along with other players on the team, to bring our team back to that time when we were winning Cups,” Doughty said. “I take that full responsibility. I’m going to do everything in my power to bring us back to that level, along with other teammates. But it’s my responsibility to take our team back to where we need to be, and I’m determined to do that.”
Miller named ambassador
Bob Miller was named Kings team ambassador and will make appearances, such as emceeing for the Legends Night series, the team announced.
Miller retired in April after a Hockey Hall of Fame career as Kings broadcaster for 44 years.