He already has two Stanley Cup championship rings, but Drew Doughty still is looking for that Norris Trophy to put in his trophy cabinet. Will the 2015-16 season be the one when Doughty gets the prize as the best defenseman in the NHL?
The Los Angeles Kings had a disappointing season last year, finishing fourth in the Pacific Division with 95 points and becoming the first Stanley Cup champions to miss the playoffs the following season since the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006-07. The 95 points was only a five-point difference compared to the 2013-14 season when the Kings ended up with 100 points in the regular season and then went on the win their second Stanley Cup in three seasons.
Doughty has an impressive resume at age 25, with the two Stanley Cup wins along with two Olympic gold medals with Canada. He’s an elite player and one of the best defensemen in the world. His ability to dictate play and create offense is outstanding, and although it sometimes gets overlooked, he’s extremely good in the defensive zone.
Although the team struggled a bit, Doughty had a good season, scoring seven goals and adding 39 assists for 46 points in 82 games. With Slava Voynov out of the lineup, Doughty had to step up even more and he developed more of an all-round game. Doughty ended up skating 28:59 on average, which was second only to Minnesota Wild defensive star Ryan Suter.
Doughty ended up second in the Norris Trophy voting behind Ottawa Senators star Swede Erik Karlsson. He had the most first-place votes, but Karlsson had more second- and third-place votes and ended up with more points than Doughty.
So can Doughty sway the voters and end up with the trophy this season?
He will have to continue to play some heavy minutes, but if the Kings can find a way to cut down a bit of his ice time, he might be more effective in the offensive end and score even more.
Doughty has struck up a great partnership with Jake Muzzin has been key in Muzzin’s development. They are a solid first defensive pairing, and Muzzin gives Doughty the opportunity to join the play in the offensive zone and utilize his great shot and passing abilities.
If the Kings can find a way to create a little bit more offense, Doughty’s numbers should rise and he can be an even stronger contender for the Norris Trophy, as some of the voters seems to look more at the stat sheet than the actual player.
It’s always tricky to try to predict how a player will do in a season, but if last season was any indication, Doughty is up for a great year. And it’s not a far stretch to assume that the Kings will be hungry to avenge the debacle that was the 2014-15 season.