One week from now, eight months will have passed since Drew Doughty signed a lucrative contract extension that ensures that the longtime Kings fan will remain a King for a long time.
On becoming a player who would earn six million dollars in 2011-12 after having played under an entry level contract for the previous three seasons, he knew exactly where his priorities lay after ending his contract holdout.
I know the boys wont let that one slide, Doughty said at his September 30 press conference from the teams training facility in El Segundo.
I owe it to them to take them to more than one dinner.
Hes buying more than lunch, thats for sure, Dustin Brown said.
Has he ever.
In the most transformational season of his igniting career, Doughty has become more horse than howitzer. As the anchor of one of the leagues most versatile defenses, he displays a fierce competitive streak and through the playoffs has made the most of his 25 and a half minutes of time at both ends and all four corners of the ice. As reported last week its not the pinpoint accuracy of his wristshot or the ability to hammer pucks through to the net that has made him such an important player to Los Angeles, as it might have been during his breakout 2009-10 season.
Its the leap forward in his balance and professional equilibrium that has allowed his innate skill and competitiveness to transfer over to the way he plays in all situations. Backed by the voices of his teammates and coaches, the ever-noticeable Doughty has thrived in the environment he has been placed in.
Hes definitely grown a lot since his very first year here, Brown said. I think hes had to do what most young players dont, and thats grow under the spotlight. Most guys spend a few years in the minors and come up, and hes been in the spotlight ever since hes been here, and hes handled it pretty well. Part of thats just the type of person he is, and part of its just the type of guys we have in that room collectively pushing him in the right direction.
Hes definitely one of those guys he acts like hes not going to listen to you, but he does. That goes a long way.
One player who has long had Doughtys ear has been occasional defensive partner and experienced professional Willie Mitchell. Having turned 35 the day after the Kings eliminated the Canucks, and looking to pay forward the mentoring he received from players such as Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and Sergei Zubov, he has been one of the guiding voices who has a history of being a positive presence for younger players, just like people helped me along my career.
Its difficult, Mitchell said. There can only be so many bosses in the room. Sometimes when youre hearing it from every which direction, its tough to absorb. Sometimes as a teammate and a peer, it doesnt matter whether youre 35 or 22, you need to be a good teammate and vent and let him work through that on his own with the coaching staff. Like I said, its a fine line, because you dont want to take away who he is, and like I said, who he is is a guy who loves the game, has fun being at the rink, wants to make a difference, wants to be in the middle of it, wants the puck on his stick in that defining moment, and that enthusiasm and love of the game is what makes him a special player, so you dont want to make him so by the book and this is how you got to be that it takes all of his creativity away as a player. So I think hes just doing a good job himself, just starting to find that balance between being really prepared as a player, but also not taking away what makes him such a special player.
Both are vocal players important to the teams success on the ice and cohesion in the locker room. There has always been an open stream of communication between the two, and Doughty credited Mitchells stay-at-home play as particularly influential in his own development.
Ive learned a lot from him and played with him as his d-partner . . . hes big on being positive all the time, and about having fun, too. So hes been a great leader on our team, and hes doing a great job at it.
If he sees something its moreso defensively if he sees something I did wrong, or something I could have done different, hell definitely point it out to me. Its a good thing, because I always want to be learning and getting better, and to have him back there has been a big help.
Hes 22 years old and the most important piece of a well-rounded Los Angeles defensive corps. Considering the poise and effectiveness hes shown in leading the team to a 11-2 playoff record he has eight points and a plus-nine rating there exists a wise-beyond-his-years quality partially shaped by the character around him that has allowed his own strong leadership characteristics to emerge.
And on the other side, theres the consistent jawing and good-natured sparring with his teammates, something Dustin Brown recalled with a smile as he discussed parenting arrangements both at home and on the road.
We roomed together, and I told him that he had the thermostat, and I think hes only missed it about three times since, Brown said.
Me and Lewie Trevor Lewis talk about it. Im his chaperone on the road, and Lewie his chaperone at home.