LOS ANGELES – Paul Doughty stood near center ice at Staples Center, where moments earlier on Friday night the Los Angeles Kings accepted the Stanley Cup from Gary Bettman and began their second celebratory skate in three years.
One of the players that hoisted the Cup, Drew Doughty, glided over and shared a long embrace with the man, and in that moment was transformed: No longer the all-world defenseman that skated an exhausting 28:45 per night and came within a whisper of the Conn Smythe Trophy, he was now the 24-year-old son whose success his hockey dad is still trying to process.
“Going back to world juniors, two Stanley Cup, two Olympic golds now … we never dreamed it would happen,” said Paul Doughty of he and Doughty's mother Connie.
"We never dreamed it would happen ever, let alone this young.”
Dean Lombardi dreamed it. The Kings general manager drafted Doughty second overall in 2008, right behind Steven Stamkos. Doughty was seen as one of the most NHL-ready defensemen to come through the draft in some time. Lombardi saw him as a pure winner.
“Special player. All I know is that before we drafted him, there were stories about him being a winner. That he’s not only a great player, but he’s always been a winner. Nothing he does surprises me,” said Lombardi.
To hear Doughty talk is to hear a competitor for whom it’s championship or bust. Silver medals won’t cut it. Second place doesn’t matter. Hell, when the Kings don’t win the Stanley Cup, they’re simply allowing another team to borrow it in Doughty’s eyes.
“After we won the first one, all we wanted to do was win another one. We kind of messed that up last year. We lost the Cup to another team and we wanted it back so bad. We felt like it was ours. We got her back and we’re happy now,” he said.
It was the Chicago Blackhawks that had her last postseason, with Jonathan Toews raising it for the second time in his career. While the debate can rage over whether there are better players in their age bracket at their respective positions, Doughty and Toews are without question the most accomplished young winners in the NHL.
At 26, Toews has two Cups, two Olympic golds, two world championship golds, two world junior golds and a U-17 gold. Doughty, at 24, matches Toews in Cups and Olympic hardware, while winning a world junior gold and a silver at the world championships.
Paul Doughty said his son’s room growing up in London, Ontario, was that of a typical successful jock: Covered in medals and trophies. But they weren’t ones for individual accomplishment, but that of his teams.
“It’s all team stuff. If you ask him, it’s about the crest on the front of the jersey and not the name on the back,” said Paul Doughty.
Which one mattered most to the younger Doughty?
“For me, gold in Vancouver. For him, one of the Stanley Cups for sure,” said Paul Doughty.
“To spend nine months with these guys vs. being with a bunch of players in Europe or Vancouver for a few weeks.”
OK, Drew Doughty, which overtime was more harrowing: The double-OT that the Kings won in defeating the New York Rangers in Game 5 for the Stanley Cup, or the overtime that gave Canada the gold in Vancouver in 2010?
“I don’t know. Probably this one still, because of the group of guys,” said Doughty.
This group of guys, save for a few alterations, has captured two Stanley Cups on two very different journeys. The first was a steamroller through the West and then into New Jersey in 2012. The second featured three Game 7 wins on the road, an NHL record, before they defeated the New York Rangers in a series that featured three overtime wins.
“This series was probably — I don’t want to say the easiest, but the least physical, demanding without a doubt. All the other series were more physical, they were tougher on the body. It was still a good series, but the other ones were tougher,” said Doughty.
He ended up with the second most average ice time for a defenseman that played more than one round, right behind the 29:13 of Minnesota's Ryan Suter. He was sixth in the NHL in playoff scoring with 18 points in 26 games, leading all defenseman. Justin Williams captured the Conn Smythe; one imagines Doughty’s name was on a number of the ballots too.
“All I care about is the team. I just want to win. But personally I want to play my best too,” he said.
Now comes talk of a dynasty for the LA Kings, with Doughty as its 24-year-old backbone. He’s signed through 2019, and appears to be getting better with age.
“I don’t know if we’re part of that yet,” he said of the dynasty talk. “I don’t know if it’s going to be that easy. But we’d love that.”
Which would mean another ring for Doughty. Maybe another Olympic gold too, depending on Canada’s fortunes and the NHL’s desires. Maybe a World Cup championship when that tournament gets rolling again.
Doughty’s championship legacy at 24 reads like something most players would love accomplish by age 44.
“It’s a whirlwind of stuff. It’s been crazy,” said Doughty. “I got a lot of years left in me. I hope.”
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