Hockey Correspondent and Occasional Shakespeare Character, White Cover Magazine
Here’s a newsflash you probably weren’t expecting to hear at the NHL 2013 quarter mark: the Los Angeles Kings suck.
It’s not even close. Entering Tuesday night, they were the worst team in the Western Conference, and they’ve actually looked like it most nights. Jonathan Quick hasn’t been able to double down on his pre-hangover performance in last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. Anze Kopitar was injured and then just became invisible altogether. Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene are hurt and exposing the Kings’ blueline vulnerability.
And, oh yeah, there’s Drew Doughty.
Now, I’ve never wanted to be the guy who sh*ts on someone’s success, and so I won’t take any credit away from the Cup Doughty won in 2012. A Stanley Cup is a Stanley Cup, and even the most inconsistent of players are able to string together a strong tournament once in a while. How else would you describe the all-star play of New Jersey’s Steve Bernier in the same playoff period?
But, Doughty is just not what’s been advertised. He hasn’t been since 2010, when he turned a star-making turn in the Winter Olympics into an otherwise fine six-game postseason against Vancouver.
Last year, though, Doughty got a lot of the credit for work his teammates actually did. He’s an offensive stud, yes. He’s speedy and silky and he is very, very good at getting shots through traffic from the point.
But, what can the Pillsbury Doughboy say about Twenty-Thirteen?
He’s a minus 10. He hasn’t scored. His team has been anemic and impotent.
Sure, he’s only 23 years old, so don’t take my words the wrong way. Doughty has all the tools to become even more fantastic than his resume suggests he’s already been. He has a better offensive sense than almost any d-man in hockey, and he lays hits on star players with the skill and timing of Scott Stevens.
I have a lot of respect for Drew Doughty. I just don’t believe he’s God, and I certainly don’t believe he’s Bobby Orr. I believe his teammates Mitchell, Greene, and Scuderi always deserved more credit than Doughty did in last year’s playoffs, and I think L.A.’s play without two of them so far has only proven it.
And, again, don’t construe what I’m saying, because I know the Los Angeles Kings may still very easily make the playoffs and then win the Stanley Cup. In fact, I’d trust them to. I’d expect them to. They may only be 4-5-2 so far, but that only leaves them four points out of eighth in the Western Conference and with two games in hand of the Phoenix Coyotes, who currently sit just above the cut.
The L.A. Kings are still very much the team to beat in 2013, but Doughty is clearly not the reason why.