Why Drew Doughty Is Critical to the Los Angeles Kings’ Success

Despite only becoming true Stanley Cup contenders by bolstering their center depth in the summer of 2011, the Los Angeles Kings’ fate this season and beyond rests upon the performance of a defenseman.

Anze Kopitar is a puck-possession maven and Selke Trophy-caliber pivot, Jeff Carter is as natural a goal scorer as you’ll find in the Western Conference and Mike Richards is a do-it-all warrior, but Drew Doughty is the team’s most valuable player. He's the individual who will make or break L.A.’s championship hopes.

Moreover, he might be the best all-around defenseman in the world.

Those who rely on box scores will scoff at this notion. After all, he’s 20th in defenseman scoring this season (30 points in 59 games). However, he plays within the single worst offensive system in the league. Though the Kings are actually 29th in goals per game, the talent on their roster—featuring Kopitar, Carter, Richards, Dustin Brown, Justin Williams and Slava Voynov, among others—suggests they should be in the upper half of the NHL in this department.

Instead, just about every player on the club with offensive ability has seen his production dwindle—some have seen it grind to a halt.

On the flip side, Doughty anchors the league’s best defense (2.10 goals against per game) in spite of an aging core that features injury-prone Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene as well as struggling 24-year-old Slava Voynov.

He's largely been paired with mistake-happy youngster Jake Muzzin to boot. No elite blueliner is saddled with this kind of defensive albatross.

Granted, Muzzin shows promise. He can skate, he can hit, he likes to get involved on the attack. Conversely, he frequently puts himself in compromising situations with poor pinches at the offensive blue line and routinely turns the puck over when the opposition dials up a forecheck.

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