EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — There’s been a very central figure in the Los Angeles Kings dressing room throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Drew Doughty has been one of the most polarizing figures on the ice through each round. Any promos teasing the playoffs and you’ve undoubtedly seen his face. He’s been on the ice more than any other player throughout the postseason and been a driving force behind the Kings’ remarkable run to the Stanley Cup Final.
"I’ve got to be one of the best players on the ice every night no matter what," he said. "So no matter who I’m playing, I’m trying to be the best out there."
Doughty, or Dewy as he is commonly known, has had a sort of calming presence with his team on the ice. The playoffs are chaotic by definition, but the 2014 playoffs have been an extraordinary version of chaos for the Kings. Doughty doesn’t need to wear the C on his chest or even an A – he’s been the most vocal leader of a team that stays more tightly-lipped than the CIA.
He’s just himself, on the ice and off.
I’ve got to be one of the best players on the ice every night no matter what
-- Drew Doughty
But in the last few weeks, we’ve seen another part of the defenseman: The emotional side. The player that throws everything his has at his opponents, but says it’s the one part of his game he feels he may need to tone down.
"I think I do," Doughty said. "Especially when it comes to the refs. Obviously, I’m going to be upset about a butt-end to the face but maybe instead of just yelling at them or something like that I could just talk to them or just completely ignore it."
The Vine of Doughty banging on the glass that separated the Kings and Blackhawks benches at the United Center following the Kings’ Game 7 overtime win was humorous (especially the part where he fell over trying to hop onto the ice) and illustrated the type of emotions he can sometimes show.
But Wednesday night, it was almost detrimental to the Kings as few outbursts caught the ire of the officials. No call was made on Derek Brassard after he hit a frustrated Doughty in the face. A few minutes later, he was livid on the bench after Brassard got away with embellishment and teammate Mike Richards went to the penalty box. Teammate Matt Greene attempted to calm him down.
"I probably would have snapped if we didn’t get a penalty right after that happened," he said. "But when I’m mad, I’m playing better hockey. Maybe showing frustration to my teammates isn’t a good thing, but it makes me play better as a player."
Doughty might only be 24 years old, but he’s a veteran in the dressing room. He feels that if he doesn’t learn to control his in-game emotions it may be detrimental to his team and damage that status.
"It’s his leadership capabilities that he’s starting to harness and develop. I don’t think I really expected him to do it two, three years ago when he was a younger guy, but now with our group, we already have a lot of people in place and it’s about him taking that step," said Kings captain Dustin Brown. "If he wants to be so-called ‘The Guy’ he needs to have that part of it. You can’t just be a superstar on the ice and not be in a leadership role in some capacity."
But at the same time, the Stanley Cup Final might not be the time to dial back the intensity. As we’ve now discovered, Doughty plays better when he’s angry.
"Tensions and emotions are high but it’s about focusing in," Brown said. "I think the emotion this time of year, you find a way to use it in a positive way."
"I like being fired up," Doughty said. "I need to fix it but I like it at the same time."