Welcome to Drew Doughty’s media scrum, where B.S. goes to die.
There is no more honest, straight-from-the-heart take in the National Hockey League today than the one that emits from the stall of the Los Angeles Kings — and Team Canada — defenceman.
It’s straight up and old school. But it’s an opinion that comes from a career spent as one of the game’s top-three defencemen, a two-time Stanley Cup winner and Olympic champion. He’s legit, and has spent 881 games walking the walk.
On Friday, with a game against the Edmonton Oilers on tap, we asked him about all things McDavid, Draisaitl, how to cage today’s NHL superstar, and whatever happened to the days when Doughty used to join the rush?
Here’s what Doughty had to say:
Sportsnet: Are you being asked to dictate the play a little bit more this year?
Doughty: “I think that’s always been my job, to control the game. I think I do a pretty good job at it. I can slow it down when I need to slow it down, I can speed it up when I need to speed it up. Now, I can’t remember once when I’ve been the fourth man in the rush. I’ve got to try to look for that, and improve on that.”
SN: Is that because the coach doesn’t want you to be that guy?
Doughty: “No, no. It’s because … other teams are keying on me. They don’t want me to make a play and get speed out (of the zone). I get finished, and when I’m level with a guy I’m usually not going to beat him up the ice. It’s been tough to be the fourth man (on the rush), but it’s not because the coach doesn’t want me to. He wants every D-man to be the fourth man in. That’s part of our system.”
SN: Why are the Kings 9-6-1 at home, but just 2-10-1 on the road?
Doughty: “We addressed that (Thursday). You’ve got to want to disappoint the other team’s home crowd. That’s the best thing about winning on the road: silencing the crowd. It’s the best feeling. We have a lot of road games coming up here, and we need to start tonight with a win.”
SN: That brings us to Edmonton. What’s the biggest difference between Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, from you where you stand?
Doughty: “A massive difference. They both have very good vision, good shots, good hands… One guy’s all speed, and shifty, and the other guy is more of a strong guy on the puck. He’s shifty too, but not with the speed that Connor has. They’re both extremely difficult to play against, both great players. It would be a lot of fun to play with them.”
SN: Does Draisaitl remind you of Anze Kopitar?
Doughty: “Yes, for sure. I think Kopy is a little more defensive-minded, although Draisaitl is their PK guy. He takes the faceoffs. Yes, he definitely reminds me of Kopitar. No doubt.”
SN: You’ve got a good thing going in Alberta, between McDavid in Edmonton and Matt Tkachuk in Calgary…?
Doughty: “I like coming (to Edmonton) — I’m always excited to play against Connor, as much as he’s way better than me. It’s still a lot of fun playing against him, and if I ever do win that matchup, I’ll have a lot of pride from it.
“Calgary’s not the same. I don’t care to talk to their media. I don’t care to be there, to be honest. I do enjoy winning there — that’s for sure. It’s fun, winning in Calgary.”
SN: Why do the Kings traditionally play so well against Edmonton?
Doughty: “We’ve got a good matchup against their two top players. They put me and Kopy out there against them, and I’m not saying we’re the best in the league at it, but we take a lot of pride in (checking them). More pride than a lot of other top players take in the defensive side of the game. We’ll sacrifice getting any points for trying to shut those two down. We love doing it, and most of their scoring comes from those two guys. If you can keep them off special teams and keep those two off the board, there’s a good chance you’ll win.”
SN: Do you get better at shutting down 97 and 29, the more you do it?
Doughty: “If you can take away Connor’s speed in the neutral zone, and be hard on Draisaitl down low, those are two of their best strengths. If you give them both ice they’re just going to take it and dominate you. In the neutral zone … if we can just put a forward on Connor, I’m yellin’ from the back end, ‘Just follow Connor!’ If you sit back he’ll go through five guys. I’d rather he just never gets the puck. It’s an obvious system.”
SN: Do you watch much hockey at home in L.A.?
Doughty: No, never. I don’t watch hockey ever. I’ll watch basketball, soccer, football… I will never watch a hockey game until the playoffs roll around. Usually if I’m out of the playoffs, I’ve got nothing else to do. That’s kind of been the regime we’ve got goin’ on here.”
SN: Would you like to play on a Olympic team with McDavid?
Doughty: Oh, man that would be sweet, yeah. Yeah, that would be cool. I would just find him all the time, kinda like I do with Kopy. With Kopy, we have such great chemistry. But with McDavid, I feel like I could just pass it to him and he’s going to go end to end and get me assists all night. It would be amazing to play with him, for sure.”
SN: Does McDavid get frustrated by good checking?
Doughty: “What top player doesn’t get frustrated by good checking? If you stay above him, give him no time with the puck, make him move it early… I mean, who wouldn’t get frustrated? I don’t notice it any more with him than other guys.”
SN: What is the telltale sign of the frustrated superstar?
Doughty: “Standard things. Slapping a stick… I’m paying attention to body language all the time. Sometimes I have s**t body language out there. Some guys get frustrated and go into a hole, don’t pay well. Other guys play better. Both Connor and Draisaitl, when they get frustrated they play better. Kinda like I do.”