January 22, 2012 5:35 pm

Sutter: Doughty’s development like Chelios

Drew Doughty gets a lot of attention, and rightfully so, after his summer contract squabble and his $7-million annual salary. It’s not so much the money but, as coaches always say, your best players have to be your best players, and by extension, your highest-paid players should be your best players. So, is criticism of Doughty warranted? Overall, his numbers aren’t strong, but numbers don’t always tell the story, and Doughty is actually on the upswing under Darryl Sutter. In 28 games under Terry Murray, Doughty had two goals, eight assists and a minus-6 rating. In 16 games under Sutter, Doughty has one goal, nine assists and a plus-8 rating. The criticism seems to extend from the perception that Doughty’s game has not progressed since he was a Norris Trophy finalist two years ago. Asked, in particular, about Doughty’s game last night, Sutter gave a lengthy breakdown of Doughty’s recent play…

SUTTER: “We wanted to match up, with Hejduk and O’Reilly’s line. We wanted that matchup, so that’s who he played against. I didn’t really have a problem with our defense last night. I think we’re trying to get the three older guys [Greene, Mitchell, Scuderi] to be a little more assertive in their games. I think they’re doing better at that. Those three young guys [Doughty, Johnson, Voynov], they’re kids. They’ve got lots to learn. I don’t think one of them is any different than the other ones.

“Drew, he has done a good job. That’s the thing I like about Drew, the way he plays against top players, for somebody his age. He can play head-up, and that’s the best thing. The other stuff is just going to be, not a process, but for him it’s going to be a curve always, until he figures it all out. The guy I coached who was closest to him was (Chris) Chelios. Once Chelly figured out the whole thing, instead of `one night this, one night that,’ then he was dominant. He didn’t get that until he was 28, 29 (years old). Most kids like (Doughty) are still juniors in college. As long as he’s doing a good job in his preparation, and being a pro, then his game can only get better, because that’s what he will do, I think.’’

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