Drew Doughty of the Kings won’t appear on any Norris Trophy projections this season. By one statistical measure, this is by far the worst season of his career.
But it says much about Doughty that he was voted the second-best defenseman in the NHL in an annual poll by the NHL Players’ Assn. Doughty received nearly 21% of votes from more than 400 of his peers, behind only Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning (31.7%).
Norris Trophy voting is often swayed by offense, and Doughty puts more weight into being a two-way defenseman. He wasn’t shy in his self-evaluation in that regard.
“When you look at the season, my defensive game has still gotten better,” said Doughty, who won the Norris Trophy in 2016. “Every year it gets better. I feel better making plays in our own zone. I know I’m minus a ton this year, but that’s just kind of the way the season’s going. Our team’s in last place. We score the least amount of goals.
“I think definitely defensively, I definitely think I’m one of the best in the league, no doubt, and I probably think offensively I could improve to make it more all around.”
Doughty doesn’t rank in the top 15 among defensemen scoring, and all five of his goals are on the power play. What really stands out negatively is his minus-30 rating, which mirrors the Kings and their NHL-worst minus-60 goal differential.
“With our team, defense hasn’t been as good, so I felt like I’ve been left in a lot more positions — two-on-ones, three-on-ones,” said Doughty, who played in his 400th consecutive game Monday. “And I know I’ve gotten scored on a couple of times but I’ve also broken up probably 20 to 30 this year, easily, and that kind of gets overlooked because you just look at the ones that go in the net,”
Not surprisingly, Doughty was voted the second-best trash talker, after Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins, and second in the funniest player category, behind Keith Yandle of the Florida Panthers.
Doughty has cultivated both reputations for some time. His antics can sometimes be heard on television broadcasts, including one instance this season in which he laughed at teammate Derek Forbort for tripping on the ice. As Doughty’s longtime partner, Forbort gets an earful of Doughty every night.
“He’s got the most volume,” Forbort said.
Doughty said his trash talking mostly involves “calling out guys for messing up plays.”
“I’m just trying to get in their head and make them feel bad about themselves for a second to try and gain an advantage,” he said. “I think it actually works sometimes, honestly.”
Taking himself out of consideration, Doughty said he would rank Hedman high as the game’s best defenseman. He also likes Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators and referenced Rasmus Dahlin of the Buffalo Sabres as a young star defenseman who reminds him of a younger offensive self.
Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson of the San Jose Sharks were third and fourth, respectively, in the players’ poll and Josi was fifth. Anze Kopitar was fifth in voting for most difficult player to play against.
Interim coach Willie Desjardins said he would continue to play younger players with the Kings officially eliminated from the postseason, and he’s open to resting some veterans.
“They’re a good group and they want to play, but there’s a point where we know what the vets can do,” Desjardins said.
Asked if that applied to the goalie rotation, Desjardins said, “We’ve talked about it. I think Jack [Campbell] will get a few more starts, I’m sure. But we’ll just evaluate that as we go down.”
Tyler Toffoli sat out practice with illness, a team official said.
VS. SAN JOSE
When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: iHeartRadio (LA Kings Audio Network).