Kings’ Drew Doughty is making a case for recognition at awards time
The campaign season, hockey style, won’t be starting with an attack ad, talking points or efforts to reach across the aisle.
Instead, the Drew Doughty for Norris Trophy movement simply continues on the road, certain to pick up momentum this week because the Kings defenseman and his teammates play in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto.
Why? First, all three venues happen to be major media hubs in Canada, ideal places to create a lasting impression on the ice.
Also, Doughty’s principal rivals for the trophy, given to the league’s top defenseman, are waiting for him. Erik Karlsson, the winner in 2015, in Ottawa on Monday night and P.K. Subban on Thursday in Montreal.
Subban won the Norris in 2013 and Karlsson in 2012 and 2015, beating out Doughty last season.
“When I go there, I know they’re going to try to compare me to Karlsson and P.K., and in my mind, I have my own thoughts,” Doughty said. “But I’ll probably keep most of them to myself.
Doughty, smiled, adding: “I’ll campaign a little bit.”
Karlsson and John Klingberg of the Dallas Stars are among the top 10 in scoring.
Karlsson leads in scoring among defensemen with 32 points. Subban has one goal and 20 assists, and Doughty has four goals and 17 points and is a plus-12. Justin Faulk of the Carolina Hurricanes has 12 goals, all on the power play.
Comparisons between Doughty and Karlsson are challenging because they play in different systems. The green light is almost always on for Karlsson and Doughty usually is stuck on yellow, adhering to the Kings’ tight defensive structure.
The Kings have won with it, but it isn’t conducive to winning awards, which are often influenced by point production.
Doughty again is playing a lot, averaging 27 minutes 46 seconds per game, second behind the Minnesota Wild Ryan Suter’s 28:26.
That is typical for Doughty. But what has changed for him is his consistency and growing leadership on and off the ice.
This is shaping up as perhaps Doughty’s best season.
“I do feel that way,” Doughty said. “I’ve always obviously had great games. I’ve had some poor games throughout my career. This year, my main focus has been consistency. I really brought a lot of consistency to my game my last probably 10, 15 games, maybe even more than that.
“I think I’ve played at a very high level. I’m doing everything I can to help our team win out there, playing good defensively, trying to do everything as much as I can offensively, too.”
One highlight that really stands out was his game-saving play in overtime against Nashville on Oct. 31, breaking up a three-on-one attack and subsequent pass to set up Jeff Carter’s winning goal.
There are few clunkers on Doughty’s resume these days.
“We felt he’s always played at a pretty high level,” said John Stevens, associate head coach. “I would say his consistency, his game has been really good this year. His attention to detail defensively has been really good.
“Last year, there were some dips when he played a lot. He did a lot of good things for the team. Defensively, maybe it was our fault because we played him too much. But the consistency in his game this year has been really good.”
“Drew, quite honestly, has played with just about everybody and he’s really done a good job. I think he likes that responsibility.”
The Kings were counting on Doughty to take an increased leadership role after the departure of several influential veterans.
“I’ve said this before, I think he’s taken way more of a leadership role, more command in terms of being a voice and a presence in the locker room,” Coach Darryl Sutter said recently. “We needed that. As part of the turnover in our team, those older guys that left the room, one of the most important guys in it was Drew, taking the next step in that.”
Said Doughty: “The leadership comes into it too. That gives me more of an impact on our team, both on and off the ice. I relish that opportunity. I’m happy with the way I’ve played but I can get better still.”
KINGS AT OTTAWA SENATORS
When: Monday, 4:30 p.m. PST.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 790.
Update: The Senators on Sunday recalled goalie Andrew Hammond from his conditioning assignment in Binghamton of the American Hockey League. The Kings, coming off games on consecutive nights, did not practice Sunday.
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