Doughty out for season, won’t be able to help Kings hold onto playoff spot

Doughty out for season, won't be able to help Kings hold onto playoff spot
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The upstart Kings already faced a challenge in earning a playoff spot. Now the Kings know that they won’t get Drew Doughty back for that playoff push.

On Monday, the Kings announced that Doughty underwent season-ending wrist surgery. Being that Doughty has been sidelined since March 10, there were already some concerns that this might happen. Even acknowledging that possibility, this is still a tough blow for a Kings team whose youth may show most on defense.

It’s also tougher news because the injury-ravaged Golden Knights seem to be getting healthier; Mark Stone could return in the near future.

After season-ending surgery, Drew Doughty can’t help Kings in playoff struggle

Overall, Drew Doughty played in 39 games this season, flirting with a point per game (31 on seven goals and 24 assists).

Interestingly, Doughty’s most promising return is an area where he’s been divisive. When available, Doughty’s underlying stats sparkled in 2021-22.

When you look at his previous three seasons, Doughty’s RAPM chart (via Evolving Hockey), points to a possible steep decline:

This season, he’s looked a lot more like an $11M defenseman. At least, Doughty has when he’s been able to suit up.

Since March 11, rookie defenseman Sean Durzi easily leads Kings defensemen in ice time with an average of 24:10 time on ice. Another rookie, Jordan Spence, is the only other Kings blueliner averaging more than 20 minutes per night (20:22) since Doughty’s latest injury.

All things considered, it’s a testament to the Kings’ structure (plus Durzi, and forwards who can carry some of the burden) that Los Angeles has generally defended well this season. With or without Doughty.

To an extent, there’s the blessing in disguise of other Kings getting to grow (by necessity) with Doughty sidelined. That silver lining might not mean much to Kings fans if they fall short of a playoff berth, even if most didn’t expect them to end up in the running.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.