Drew Doughty has been one of the top defensemen in the NHL for a good part of the last decade. However, with Doughty coming off a down year and now on the wrong side of 30 years old, the Kings need to find a way to lessen his workload. I’ve talked about this before but I wanted to go a bit more in-depth with it in another article.
People picked at Doughty’s performance last season and a good portion of it was warranted. However, when he has to tackle the toughest minutes pretty much every night, that’s not setting him up in a position to turn things around.
The 25:49 per game that he played certainly isn’t the 29 minutes per game that he was averaging as a 25-year-old but it was still the second-most time on ice of any player in the league. His matchups were also very difficult and he played against a significantly higher quality of competition than any other defenseman on the team (according to Hockey Abstract).
Luckily, the Kings are in a position to do something about this.
The other two-thirds of the Kings’ right-side defense is made up of Matt Roy and Sean Walker, who both had strong seasons this year. However, both defensemen also averaged under 19 minutes per game and faced nothing more than an average quality of competition. Roy also had a high offensive zone start percentage.
Considering both Roy and Walker played well in limited roles, it’s time that they get a chance to show what they can do in a larger role. Perhaps the Kings could start by reducing Doughty’s ice time at even strength by a minute or so and using Roy and Walker instead. On top of that, the two younger defenders could start playing tougher minutes and facing a higher quality of competition, to give Doughty a bit of a break here and there.
If the Kings want Doughty to turn things around, it could go a long way to take some of the pressure off of him. They have two other capable defensemen and we won’t know what their respective ceilings are until they face tougher competition. You never know, maybe it won’t work out but in a year where they won’t likely be contending anyways, the Kings shouldn’t be afraid to experiment a bit.
Doughty is going to be around for a long time and it would be in the Kings’ best interest to help him bounce back with a slightly reduced workload and lower quality of competition.
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Here’s today’s poll question (results and discussion will be posted in a future article):
Who do you think would be capable of taking on a larger role next season?