After they "butted heads" early, Stevens, Doughty formed beneficial relationship - LA Kings Insider

As part of the coverage of John Stevens ascending to the head coaching position in Los Angeles, there have been LAKI stories this week on systems play and how it could affect the ability to play with pace, working with Anze Kopitar and team centers, the timeline of when assistants could be hired, his relationships with players and FA/UFA discussion and how the team’s use of its data and “analytics” may evolve.

To wrap up the coverage, and in line with Stevens’ words on the importance of relationships with his players, there’s one particular King whose connection with Stevens is worth reflecting on.

That player is Drew Doughty, and based on a conversation I had with the All-World defenseman near the beginning of the 2015-16 season, it’s clear that his early relationships with Stevens, who joined Terry Murray’s staff prior to the 2010-11 season, needed a little bit of maintenance at times.

“He’s a really, really smart coach. He really knows his stuff,” Doughty said of Stevens in November, 2015. “Early on in my career, me and John kind of bumped heads a lot of the time and now it seems like we’re always on the same page and kind of know what to do. He just expects me to be a good leader, a good player every night, play hard, lead the right way and then obviously help Nabber as much as possible. [McNabb] is still a young guy in the league and he needs a little bit of help sometimes and I’m glad to do it.”

(Doughty was paired primarily with Brayden McNabb at the time of our conversation, but his work alongside Derek Forbort is still applicable in this context.)

Back to the topic at hand. It’s not surprising that a young player might’ve needed some work on the relationship with his new coach; Doughty was coming off a season in which he posted 16 goals and 59 points and was a Norris Trophy finalist in his 20-year-old season, and Stevens joined the coaching staff the ensuing summer.

But while Doughty was an offensive dynamo and posted numbers that are still career-highs across the board in 2009-10, he’s much more of a complete player in all facets of his game now than he was then. Two Stanley Cups and the organic maturation process of a player who will turn 28 midway through the upcoming season has helped smooth over any early disagreements, as has his quick understanding of his own responsibilities and how Stevens’ knowledge could enhance them.

“Drew, it’s come a long way. I think it’s normal,” Stevens said at his Monday press conference. “I think when I first got here I didn’t understand him and he didn’t understand me and we butted heads a little bit, but I think in the end there was a layer of trust between both of us that I appreciated what he does, and he had to trust that I had his best interests in mind. Drew’s a great competitor and I think I’ve learned to try to help him but appreciate all the good things he does, and I think our relationship’s been very good and I think that was something that happened early on in the process.”

“I think that’s actually a good thing that we were able to go through a little bit of resistance with each other and develop a really strong relationship of trust.”

It’s completely in line with Stevens’ work in helping to develop defensemen that have found success in many areas of the ice, whether that has been Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin, Slava Voynov, Derek Forbort or others.

With Doughty, he obviously had a gifted skill set with which to work. Under Darryl Sutter, and likely too under Stevens, players have been and will be asked to maximize their ability, and while there have been ups and downs with particular players’ growth in doing so, Doughty’s career arc has mostly been linear to the point where he’s now considered to be among the greatest defensemen of his generation. That ability to move past any early hiccups with Doughty is a reflection of Stevens’ understanding of the importance of fostering strong relationships with his players.

“Well I mean, he was a Norris trophy candidate before I got here, so he had a lot of the game figured out and was playing at a really high level, and he had a relationship with somebody that was here before, so that process takes time,” Stevens said. “It was nothing for me to be concerned about – it’s just part of the process of getting to know your players.”

Rules for Blog Commenting
  • - No profanity, slurs or other offensive language. Replacing letters with symbols does not turn expletives into non-expletives.
  • - Personal attacks against other blog commenters, and/or blatant attempts to antagonize other commenters, are not tolerated. Respectful disagreement is encouraged. Posts that continually express the same singular opinion will be deleted.
  • - Comments that incite political, religious or similar debates will be deleted.
  • - Please do not discuss, or post links to, websites that illegally stream NHL games.
  • - Posting under multiple user names is not allowed. Do not type in all caps. All violations are subject to comment deletion and/or banning of commenters, per the discretion of the blog administrator.
Adrian Kempe

#9 | 6′ 2″ | 195 lb | Age: 21

Born: September 13, 1996
Birthplace: Kramfors, SWE
Position: LW
Handedness: Left


Kempe was selected by the Kings in the first round (29th overall) in the 2014 NHL Draft.

Alex Iafallo

#19 | 6′ | 185 lb | Age: 23

Born: December 21, 1993
Birthplace: Eden, NY, USA
Position: C
Handedness: Left


Iafallo was signed by the Kings as an unrestricted free agent on April 18, 2017.

Anze Kopitar

#11 | 6′ 3″ | 224 lb | Age: 29

Born: August 24, 1987
Birthplace: Jesenice, SVN
Position: C
Handedness: Left


As the 11th overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Kopitar became the first Slovenian to play in the NHL. Kopitar has spent his entire NHL career with the Kings, and following the 2015–16 season, was named the Kings’ captain. Noted for both his offensive and defensive play, Kopitar was awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL in 2016.

Drew Doughty

#8 | 6′ 1″ | 195 lb | Age: 26

Born: December 8, 1989
Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
Position: D
Handedness: Right


Bio: Doughty is a Canadian defenceman who was selected second overall by the Kings in the 2008 Draft. Doughty made his NHL debut in 2008 as an 18-year-old and was named to the All-Rookie Team. He is a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Kings, a two-time Olympic gold medallist with the Canadian national team, and a Norris Trophy finalist.

Jeff Carter

#77 | 6′ 4″ | 215 lb | Age: 31

Born: January 1, 1985
Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
Position: C
Handedness: Right


Carter began his hockey career playing in the Ontario Hockey League in Canada before joining the AHL and playing for the Philadelphia Flyers. He was then traded to the Colombus Blue jackets before joining the LA Kings in 2012, where he has since won two Stanley Cups with the Kings.

Jonathan Quick

#32 | 6′ 1″ | 218 lb | Age: 30

Born: January 21, 1986
Birthplace: Milford, CT, USA
Position: G
Handedness: Left


Bio: Quick is the current goaltender for the LA Kings and was selected by Los Angeles at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Previously, Quick was a silver medalist with USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics. He’s won two Stanley Cup championships with the Kings, along with being the most recent goaltender to be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.