Now in his third season, Doughty was the talk of the preseason. Loads of analysts and pundits were predicting that he would rise to the top spot as a defenseman to capture the Norris Trophy and lead his team to an extended birth in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Doughty, who was also a member of Canada's gold-medal winning team at the 2010 Winter Olympics, led all NHL defensemen last season in game-winning goals (five), was second in power-play points (31) and third in points (58).
Things were going quite well this season until…until the hit.
In a contest against the Carolina Hurricanes, Doughty was hit and injured by Erik Cole eerily reminiscent of a play almost 40 years ago when Pat Quinn (now a respected coach) leveled a young stud named Bobby Orr.
The Boston Bruins Bobby Orr was setting the league on fire with his electrifying rushes into the opposing teams’ offensive zone, and Quinn noticed Orr’s tendency to slip by the boards with the puck at top speed and made contact with Orr, knocking him unconscious.
History has recorded Orr’s continuing knee problems, which eventually shortened his brilliant career.
In the 1960s, there were no other defenders like Orr. His combination of skating ability, speed, and strength, shooting ability, puck sense and stamina made him a man among boys and placed the Norris in his grasp in only his second year in the league.
Doughty came into the league surrounded by accomplished offenseman, such as Mike Green of the Washington Capitals,and Duncan Keith who were all Norris finalists in 2010. Keith ended up winning the award for his stellar play leading Chicago to the Stanley Cup.
Other defenders like Dion Phanuef, Andrei Markov, Chris Pronger, Niklas Lindsrom, Dan Boyle and Shea Weber all provide their respective teams a needed offensive catalyst. Few teams make it far without such a player.
New players such as Calder Trophy, Rookie of the Year Tyler Myers of the Buffalo Sabres and Cam Fowler of the Anaheim Ducks and PK Subban of the Montreal Canadians arrived into the league with offensive credentials.
What makes Doughty different is the total package he brings to the table. He has good defensive credentials in addition to the ability to lead the rush with an array of tools including a formidable point shot and excellent skating ability.
Although often compared to Bobby Orr, Doughty’s game is more like the second best defenseman ever to play the game, Doug Harvey.
Doughty is cerebral and very smooth with the puck displaying coolness under fire that belies his age.
The hit on Doughty is being reviewed by league officials with good reason.
Since the league needs its stars to fill seats, having Drew Doughty on the injured reserve list cannot help the LA Kings or the NHL.
The Norris will be waiting for him to return to the lineup.