If you asked Drew Doughty if last season was the season he dreamed about having, in the greater scheme of things, he'd probably say yes.
But on the other hand, even Doughty himself admitted he wasn't "himself" for most the season.
Well, it's about to be year five in the chronicle of soon-to-be 23-year-old Drew Doughty. He has gone through high and low alike in the last year and now must do what many players with his kind of hype around them must do: continue to be good.
He can do it, and it starts with a bounce-back season this year.
Yes, Doughty held out. Yes, Doughty became one of the highest-paid defenseman in the league overnight. Yes, the pressure of the world was on him. Yes, his team, and he himself, were struggling beyond belief at times.
But you know what? The past is the past. Doughty overcame and survived the trials of last season, and with a championship in hand to boot.
He approaches the new season without the memory of struggles, contracts and injuries. That weight can remain in the beginning of last season where it belongs. There really shouldn't be any distractions on Doughty's mind once we hit the ice for 2012-13, and that will make a world of difference.
Is there any questioning what Sutter brought to the Kings as a whole? Not really.
Doughty and Darryl Sutter's relationship was almost a microcosm of Sutter and the Kings.
The team lacked focus, intensity, consistency and a role. Sutter stepped in and provided every single one of those things. He did the same with Doughty. It isn't at all surprising that Doughty turned his game up a notch after the firing of Terry Murray and the hiring of Sutter.
Here are the stats:
Under Murray - 26 games, 2 goals, 7 assits, 9 points and a minus-5
Under Sutter - 51 games, 8 goals, 19 assists, 27 points and a plus-3 (not including playoffs)
It really was like night and day. Sutter calmed Doughty down, and got him focused on the game. Ask yourself as a fan watching the games on TV, how many times did you see Sutter with his arms on Doughty's shoulders talking to him between plays? There were quite a few.
Confidence is a huge factor in hockey and, well, Doughty should have a ton of it.
He has won the most prized of hockey achievements, he had a stellar second half to the season, he had a world-class playoff series, and is a hero amongst the L.A. fanbase. He's also just 22.
Confidence breeds confidence. Doughty has played at the highest level of the game in the most pressure-filled moments, and he has passed those tests with flying colors. Moving forward, Doughty, in times of struggle, will only have to recall his level of play in the 2011-12 postseason to realize he is a world-class player.
In 2010, Jonathan Toews won a cup at age 22. He went on to have his best career season after that. In 2007, Ryan Getzlaf won a cup at age 22 and went on to have his two best seasons on record the following years. I expect Doughty will follow suit of the aforementioned players and start to understand just how good of a player he is.