Drew Doughty

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Canucks’ Horvat out a week with upper-body injury

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The Canucks will resume their preseason schedule on Thursday, although it appears right now that Bo Horvat will likely not be in the lineup.

Just prior to puck drop against the L.A. Kings on Saturday, the Canucks announced that Horvat is expected to be out a week with an upper-body injury.

Per Dan Murphy of Sportsnet, the injury occurred on a hit from Drew Doughty during the first game of the two-game exhibition series between the Canucks and Kings in China.

The good news for the Canucks is that their regular season schedule begins on Oct. 7, which would give Horvat two weeks to get fully healthy and ready for the opener against Connor McDavid and the Oilers.

The 22-year-old Horvat enjoyed a 20-goal, 52-point season in 2016-17, emerging as the team’s leading scorer and one of the few bright spots during another disappointing season for the Canucks. As a result, he signed a six-year, $33 million contract extension earlier this month.

Related: Horvat believes he is ‘just scratching the surface’

Kings’ power play – with Toffoli on point – is latest nod to modern NHL

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Considering how well the Darryl Sutter-coached Los Angeles Kings hogged the puck, there was a sense that he yielded as much as one could expect from a talented, but aging roster.

With a new regime in the front office (from GM Rob Blake to assistant-turned-head-coach John Stevens), there’s at least one interesting test taking place: what if modern tactics were applied to a Kings team that, structurally, often felt like a “throwback” team?

(Again, to Sutter’s credit, that throwback style worked very well at times.)

LA Kings Insider’s Jon Rosen reports that the Kings are embracing the modern approach that sometimes scares off more conservative coaches: going with four forwards and one defenseman on a power play.

Rosen reports that the team rolled with Michael Cammalleri, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, and Drew Doughty on their top unit. In that alignment, Toffoli joined Doughty on the points.

The puck movement drew praise from Rosen:

There was ample movement; such positioning didn’t always remain that way. Toffoli drifted lower towards the half wall, and Doughty often was found straight away, at the top of the key. The plan? More one-time opportunities from high-danger areas closer to the net.

Of course, it’s important to note that it’s September, and the Kings could go a different way once the games count in the standings.

Even if their philosophy stays the same, injuries could force personnel changes. Then again, this alignment leaves a talented forward like Tanner Pearson off the top unit, so it’s plausible that this 4F-1D combo could weather a storm or two. Pearson could also nudge his way in if the Kings believe they need a better balance of left and right-handed shots (and so on).

Checking Left Wing Lock’s listings, it’s clear that his is quite the departure, as the Kings rolled with Doughty plus either Jake Muzzin or Alec Martinez in most instances last season.

Los Angeles fell in the middle of the power-play pack in 2016-17; their 19.1 percent rate of success ranked 15th, while their 46 power-play goals tied for 16th in the NHL. They only allowed three shorthanded goals, so for those other numbers to climb, they might have to stomach more risk.

When you ponder how much the Kings struggle to score at times, it might be worth it.

For more on the pros and cons of putting a forward on the point, check out Matt Cane’s 2015 bit for Hockey Graphs.

With contract situation looming, winning Stanley Cups is the ‘bottom line’ for Doughty

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Keep an eye on Drew Doughty‘s contract situation.

The L.A. Kings defenseman now has only two years remaining on his current eight-year, $56 million deal and he will be eligible for unrestricted free agency at the conclusion of this contract in 2019.

Doughty has been the centerpiece of the Kings’ blue line since joining the organization as the second overall pick in 2008, winning the Norris Trophy in 2016 and helping L.A. to its hockey rejuvenation with a pair of Stanley Cup championships and another lengthy playoff minus a title in 2013.

The success of that three-year stretch has since given way to more difficult times with one abbreviated playoff appearance in the last three years. For the organization, the disappointment of missing the 2017 post-season resulted in some big changes in the front office and coaching staff, with the dismissal of Dean Lombardi and Darryl Sutter.

That’s why Doughty’s contract situation will be of particular interest as the season goes along.

“My first love will always be L.A.,” Doughty told The Hockey News.

“It’s one of the best organizations in all of sports, not just hockey. It’s unbelievable. They treat us first-class, and it’s a good place to play. Living in Los Angeles, you can’t beat it. I’d love to re-sign in L.A. But if our team isn’t going in the right direction…I want to win Cups. I don’t give a s— where I play. I just want to win Cups, and that’s the bottom line.”

The Kings were once a dominant team in the West, but the landscape has also shifted of late with the rise of the Nashville Predators, the Connor McDavid-led Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames appear poised to take another step in their progression after an active summer.

It was also pointed out this summer at PHT that a number of key players for the Kings struggled last season and are only getting older, while locked into long-term contracts beyond the end of this Doughty deal in 2019.

Celebrate Labor Day by pondering the ‘hardest working’ NHL defensemen

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It’s Labor Day (or Labour Day), so hopefully you’re getting those last summer nights/hot dog grillings out of your system.

(Not just talking to you, Phil Kessel.)

With the holiday in mind, it seems sensible to get into the theme of things and ponder the “hardest working” players in hockey. For the record, these lists are based on stats, so feel free to project your own opinions about hustle/grit/other things that would show up on a John Cena t-shirt.

If nothing else, it’s refreshing to discuss some stats that don’t get as much attention.

Defensemen tend to be some of the biggest workhorses in the sport, so this first post will be devoted to them.

For forwards and goalies, check out this post.

Sheer volume

In maybe the least surprising development imaginable, Ryan Suter continues to stand out as a guy who just logs an inane amount of ice time.

Suter headlines a list of five players who’ve logged at least 8,000 minutes of regular-season ice time from 2013-14 through 2016-17.

1. Suter: 9,201:55
2. Drew Doughty: 8,906:33
3. Erik Karlsson: 8,897:18
4. Shea Weber: 8,116:20
5. Alex Pietrangelo: 8,055:50

(Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Roman Josi are very close behind them.)

Killing penalties is one of the toughest jobs, and it can be a very specialized one. Using the 2013-14 to 2016-17 standard, only one defenseman logged 1,000 penalty minutes. Meanwhile, six players logged at least 900.

1. Andy Greene: 1,115:48
2. Alex Pietrangelo: 996:28
3. Zdeno Chara: 986:38
4. Karl Alzner: 935:08
5. Jay Bouwmeester: 945:03
6. Francois Beauchemin: 900:15

(Big-minute guys Doughty and Weber also ranked up high in penalty killing.)

For a significant defenseman, Pietrangelo carries a considerable workload. Consider how much tougher his role has become over the last few seasons.

2013-14: 52.3 percent offensive zonne starts vs. 47.7 defensive
2014-15: 48.4 offense, 51.6 defense
2015-16: 46.9, 53.1
2016-17: 43.1, 56.9

Pietrangelo still manages to produce offensively, so the 27-year-old is quite the all-around gem.

Gritty leaders

However you feel about certain “grit” stats and how helpful they actually are for a team, it’s easy to admire players who put their bodies on the line.

Using the framework of 2013-14 to 2016-17, Kris Russell easily leads the NHL in blocked shots with 907, even doing so in 277 games while Dan Girardi comes in second place with 719 in 300 contests. Russell blocks a hearty 3.3 shots per game.

It’s easier to understand Girardi slowing down when you consider the bumps and bruises he likely endures. Girardi blocked 719 shots during that span, and he also delivered 690 hits. (Shea Weber is a similar bruiser: 637 blocked shots, 644 hits in 313 games.)

Karl Alzner piles up those grit stats while spending a lot of time on the PK, which is predictable but also commendable.

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These stats don’t guarantee that the listed defensemen work “harder” than others. Still, it’s easy to get lost in possession stats and other considerations, and lose sight of how much effort goes into the dirty work in hockey.

If you’re bored and hockey-starved on this holiday, consider clicking around the above links to notice certain names that show up consistently. It might give you a greater appreciation for players you otherwise might have dismissed.

Daunting Drew Doughty decision looms for Kings

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This post is part of Kings Day on PHT…

Out of context, re-signing Drew Doughty is as close to a no-brainer as it gets in the NHL.

A resounding resume

The Norris Trophy winner and elite defenseman has been a rock for the Los Angeles Kings, and his significance might only become more pronounced as the franchise deals with big changes (and losses on the blueline) in 2017-18.

Now, $7 million is undoubtedly a lot of money, but Doughty would command a (flinches) king’s ransom on the open market. So, when that cap hit expires in 2018-19, Doughty will get paid. It’s remarkable that, considering his robust resume of accomplishments, Doughty is now just 27 and will be 29 when his current deal expires.

Fixer upper

The question the Kings face isn’t really about re-signing Doughty.

Instead, it’s the difficult riddle of trying to squeeze out more runs with this current core or giving a rebuild a bold shot in the arm by – wait for it – trading Doughty sometime during the next season or two.

Los Angeles could conceivably gain a lot in trading Doughty, especially if GM Rob Blake is creative. In making such a courageous move, the Kings could enjoy some combination of:

  1. Salary cap relief, in convincing a trade partner to eat ugly deals in Dustin Brown ($5.875M through 2021-22) and/or Marian Gaborik ($4.875M through 2020-21) as part of a Doughty deal.
  2. Gain precious draft assets and/or prospects. Much like other contenders, the Kings’ farm system took some hits as they angled to contend with this current group. It was generally worth it, but now Blake & Co. need to pick up the pieces.
  3. Trading for roster players who are young and cheap.

Why they must ponder the seemingly unthinkable

Let’s not forget just how old this team looks. By the end of Doughty’s contract, Brown and Jeff Carter will both be 34. Anze Kopitar, who just turned 30, will be 32. Jake Muzzin will be 30 and will only have one year remaining on his bargain $4M deal. Alec Martinez will be 32. Jonathan Quick will be 33. Gaborik will be 37 and, barring a buyout or move, will still be on the books for two more seasons.

We’ve already seen Kopitar struggle, and while Carter’s been resoundingly productive at a great rate, Father Time seems to punish snipers as much as anyone.

Even Doughty would be close to 30 by then.

It’s unclear how many of these Kings deals are easy to move, and to some, that might serve as a signal to just go for it and then suffer through a rebuild.

Still, you wonder how desirable it would be for Doughty to stay if Los Angeles really starts to slide, although it wouldn’t be surprising if he remained loyal to a squad he won two Stanley Cups with.

A matter of time

On the bright side, the Kings have a full season before they can even sign Doughty to a contract extension, so 2017-18 could serve as a helpful barometer for this situation. Even so, you never know when an optimal trade offer might come; a team could conceivably be willing to give up far more for Doughty if it means getting him for a season or more at such a valuable rate.

It’s all a lot to take in, and trading Doughty would almost certainly stand as a wildly unpopular move with Kings fans, even if the returns were solid and the logic is sound.

At minimum, it’s something management should think long and hard about. It could be one of the most fascinating situations to watch, especially if you’re the type of hockey fan who pines for rare big trades after seeing that mammoth Kyrie Irving – Isiah Thomas trade in the NBA.