January 30, 2018 | 3:07pm ET
BY Dennis Bernstein, The Fourth Period
THE TWO DREWS
TAMPA, FL -- The majority of the NHL took a break this past weekend as the centre of the hockey universe moved to Tampa, the home of the Stanley Cup betting favourites, the Lightning.
Los Angeles Kings defenceman Drew Doughty did not get the luxury of the weekend break and joined captain Anze Kopitar to participate in the 2018 NHL All Star festivities. The duo’s weekend improved as the stakes got higher, but neither had success in the skills competition. They brought up the rear in their individual events, but cashed in big time when the Pacific Division won both 3-on-3 contests to take home an 11-way split of the $1 million prize, the motivation put in place to help insure player attendance.
Media day for All Star Weekend is far more fruitful in extracting a player’s take; the availability is not wrapped around a regular-season game. Being around their elite peers and with less time constraints affords them the opportunity to expand on their questions. Doughty, the most vociferous of the Kings with Willie Mitchell and Justin Williams long gone, is as fearless with his words (both on and off the ice) as he is when he takes off on an end-to-end rush late in the third period of a tied game.
He sent shivers down the collective spine of Kings fans this past summer with comments of placing winning above all (no shocker there). Suggestions where made that if the organization could not maintain the contender status he has grown to expect, he would depart when his contract completes after the 2018-19 season.
Six months removed from those statements, he is frank about the firestorm he created over the summer and is as accountable for those words as he is on a missed assignment on an opposition’s goal.
“Oh yeah, it’s awesome. I just love that,” Doughty sarcastically lamented on the reaction to his controversial statements and then expanded on his relationship with the media.
“I love it, but I hate it because of the work the organization has to do behind my words. I do find it funny, that (the media) takes my words and spins it the way they wanted to. I truly never want to leave L.A. It’s kind of fun to throw that stuff out there and see the media scramble, but I did feel bad about it.”
The focused, uber-competitive Doughty is the one that Kings fans adore; he is arguably the most demonstrative player in franchise history. Current GM Rob Blake is the only defenceman in franchise history to have his jersey number in the rafters of Staples Center and when Doughty ends his career he will be the second to get that distinction and will elevate over Blake as the best defenceman in franchise history.
Despite the Kings precipitous drop in the standings over the past month, Doughty steadfastly believes his team will be playing in late April.
“I one hundred percent believe we are going to make a push and make the playoffs, I have to believe that,” he said. “We are trending in the right direction and we’re going to get back Carts (Jeff Carter) soon. Most of our lineup is healthy and getting better and the young guys are going to get more comfortable and going to play better. Some other guys that could play better, our veteran guys, and they know that. I think they will make a point of that down the stretch, which will make us a much better team.”
With increasing trade winds blowing around the team about an effort to add to the blueline contingent he leads, Doughty isn’t convinced the defence needs the help. He suggests that if Blake departs from the methods of the old regime on deadline acquisitions, the future shouldn’t be sacrificed.
“I don’t know, that’s a hard question for me to answer,” he said. “It would be nice to add to the team, but it’s hard to send players away. But remember Dean (former GM Lombardi) got rid of all our (draft) picks and made some great trades for us. That’s on Rob to make those decisions, but as long as we get Carter back and everyone stays healthy, we have a legitimate shot to be a playoff contender. If we get in, that’s when we will do damage – that’s what we’re known for, being a dangerous team in the playoffs.”
The Calgary game prior to the All-Star break was as pivotal a game as the team had played in recent memory, an unusual occurrence for a January match. Doughty experienced the high and lows inside of 60 minutes of play by putting his team in jeopardy by taking a foolish unsportsmanlike penalty that placed his team a man short for four minutes in a tie game (Kopitar and Brown, who killed most of the double minor, let him know on the bench). He recovered from that gaffe by playing almost half the third period to keep the Flames at bay and was at a Norris level best in the overtime session, setting up Tanner Pearson for the overtime winner for a victory was desperately needed.
In an unfiltered moment, Drew addressed the occasions when is unbridled passion puts his team at risk and there is something about the Flames that gets him and his teammates going.
“Calgary was an emotional game, probably too emotional,” he admitted. “When I’m (away from the ice in a setting) like this (during an off-day sit down interview), I can control my emotions, but at times I get on the ice and I just can’t control my emotions. I just lose it and I get embarrassed about it afterwards, and the next day I say to myself ‘what was I doing?’ I play in the next game and I do it again, I guess I just don’t learn, but I try. The Flames are becoming a big rival, it’s huge to win those games because we’re chasing them right now and we don’t like them very much.”
The search for perfection seems eternal in professional sports – it’s a primary reason why instant replay has been instituted, to get every call correct. There are two Drew Doughtys – one the generational defenceman who helped the Kings transform from a franchise that lacked respect ever since Wayne Gretzky left town to one with Stanley Cup banners in its building.
Drew Doughty chases perfection every time he steps on the ice and when he lapses, as his emotions gets the best of him, there is no bigger critic of his actions than himself. As he does when making the wrong read defending an odd-man rush, he is working as hard to correct the mistake with his emotions.
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