The case against Doughty

While searching Google News for any relevant Kings headlines, I ran across an item in Jim Kelley’s latest Sportsnet column, which basically makes the case against Drew Doughty’s candidacy for the Calder Trophy. In his column, Kelley writes, “I read recently that it was a “joke” that Los Angeles Kings defenceman Drew Doughty didn’t make the final three as a rookie of the year candidate. Not if you did your homework.”

A couple things. One, I certainly agree with Jim that it’s not a “joke” that Doughty didn’t get selected as a finalist. Mason, Ryan and Versteeg are worthy choices. But while I have great respect for Jim’s 30-plus-year career as a NHL follower, I don’t completely follow his logic in terms of Doughty criticism.

In the column, Jim refers to Doughty’s minus-17 rating and compares it, unfavorably, to other rookie defenseman in general and to Boston rookie Matt Hunwick in particular. I have a couple problems with that. One, we have discussed here the folly of relying too much on the plus-minus rating. I understand that it has some value, but really, how much? Is that really how we want to evaluate defensemen, by looking at plus-minus? Dion Phaneuf was minus-11 this season and Scott Niedermayer was minus-8. I don’t know about you, but if I was starting a team, I wouldn’t toss them aside. There has to be some context.

Along those lines, looking at the Doughty-Hunwick comparison, there’s a couple key points here. Hunwick was a 23-year-old rookie with a previous full season of AHL experience. Doughty turned 19 during the season and jumped straight to the NHL. Hunwick averaged 17 minutes of ice time on a Boston team on which, at best, he was the third-best defenseman. Doughty averaged 24 minutes per game on a Kings team on which he was far and away the best defenseman and logged big special-teams minutes.

Again, I’m not saying it’s a crime that Doughty wasn’t in the top three. I just think it’s dangerous to only use statistics to evaluate players, particularly rookie defensemen. Try to look at the rookies objectively. Based simply on talent and impact, if you could have traded Doughty, straight up, for any of the other rookies this season, how many rookies would you have rather had? Mason? Ryan? Anyone else?

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  • Ersberg

    Mason was the #1 rookie of the year. You could then take the names of Ryan, Versteeg, and Doughty and put them in a hat for a name drawing as the #2 choice. They were all equal from what I saw/read about them.

  • SuperSonic420

    I agree Rich, stats dont always tell the entire story. The worse part about all this is people like Mr. Kelly (who I really respect as a writer btw) and most of these voters havent or wont watch Doughty and the Kings play. We are so far under the NHL radar that I dont think most of these experts would have taken notice unless Doughty just far and away blew everybody else away or the Kings made a significant move into a playoff spot. Until then, these east coast experts wont give any of our guys a fair chance.

  • wavesinair

    After putting it into context, Jim Kelley clearly didn’t do his own homework.

  • LBlocal

    How about the playoff performances of Kings prospects Martin Jones (WHL-Calgary) and Andrei Loktionov (OHL-Windsor)

    Both kids are rippin it up… (Oh, how bright the future looks) =D Go Kings!

  • CanadianKing

    I think it’s safe to say that, in general, no California hockey team will ever be on anyone’s radar. I mean, I live in Eastern Canada and I am a big time Kings fan. However, the Kings are never televised in the East, and when they are the games start at 10:30. I remember when I had to wait for the next days newspaper to check the scores. They didn’t even have the scores of the Pacific teams because the paper was printed before the game had even ended!

    So you can’t really blame the media for not covering the Kings in any great detail. Hell, even after the Ducks won the cup, they still didn’t get any coverage. It’s just the way it is.

  • BakoCAcameraGuy

    One of the most telling discrepancies in the plus/minus ratings system is the relative state of a team’s offence. The Kings’ anemic offence makes it nearly impossible to make up for goals allowed, even if the goals allowed total is low…

    …Can you imagine if Doughty was on the Capitals, perhaps paired with Green?

    The only thing about individual awards is that they can mask a bad team’s deficiencies. The other thing is that writers tend to give them to the players they know. Very few writers know the sad-sack Kings out here on the Late-Game Coast. My hope is that the future will bring out the best in Doughty’s numbers, and he will get the credit most of the scouts seem to want to give his talent.

  • Kings2010

    Jim Kelly is brutal. He is a know it all that doesn’t know what he is talking about. I wouldn’t put any stock in anyrhing he says. He may have been a decent reporter at one point but he hasn’t had much relevant to say in a long time. I guarantee he hasn’t watched more then 1 or 2 kings games this year. That is way past his bedtime.
    Doughty had a great year, but Mason and Ryan were obvious and Versteeg put up good numbers too. Doughty wasn’t going to win anyway. Not to mention he would have had the calder nomination as an extra chip to play come negotiation time. I’m not that upset about it.

  • Palmdale Brian

    Good point Rich. If I were a GM, and had to choose between the Calder candidate I would only trade Doughty straight-up for Mason. But I think it would still be a difficult decision. How many goalies, especially young ones, have we seen called “lock to be a number 1” only to have them completely blow-up?

    Also, I understand you have to evaluate these Calder candidates for their seasons not potential. But I also think you have to look at the teams these guys play for. How good would Versteeg or even Ryan been on our weak offesive team this year???

  • oldtimehockey


    Good critique. Certainly, the plus/minus stat must be tempered by comparing the overall quality of the team and its “overall” plus/minus. I saw a lot of Hunwick this year in person (I live in DC and spend a fair amount of time in Boston for work) and he was ok, but didn’t wow me. Most of my Doughty viewing was via center ice and he was clearly something special. Yes he got completley undressed on a few highlight reel goals that I can remember, but these things happen. I saw him live once, in DC, on the glass. In person and up close, you call tell he is a special talent. Cool with the puck, a presence and vision that usually takes years to develop and good scoring touch for a rear guard.

    But, all that said, your critique of Hunwick that he’s the third or fourth D in Boston isn’t really relevant either. Ok, he’s on a team with a Norris candidate, so that’s going to limit his ability to be #1. Moreover, the Calder is supposed to be “Best Rookie”, which to me implies best skill. Its not “MVP Rookie”, i.e., the most useful rookie to his team. If that were the criteria, they would have mailed the trophy to Mason in January. So, Doughty’s relative importance to his team, to me, shouldn’t factor.

    All that said, If I had a vote it would have been Mason. The team made playoffs becasue of him. For non- goalies, I thought Ryan was the best non-goalie rookie. Sure, its easier to play forward, etc., but he is impressive. Third would be Doughty, mostly because I’m a fan and not a writer.

  • hazen

    Just another east coast writer who doesn’t bother to stay up and watch the western teams.

  • The Dave

    i really don’t care that doughty didn’t get rookie honors, what matters to me is that this kid is gonna be great whether the rest of the sports world acknowledges it or not.

    To me what it comes down to is where do you see these four in years to come. of the 4 listed i have to say i think that doughty has by far the most potential to grow and become one of the leagues best defensemen.

    If you were a GM today and all of these players were in the same exact draft class. Who would you pick with the first overall spot and have that player be that franchise cornerstone for years to come.

    personally, i think mason is another raycroft, put him on some other team or maybe even with his defense in front of him getting comfortable with his “strong play” and watch his numbers fall next season.

    Norris>Calder(the western conference token trophy)

  • AK47

    Trevor Lewis will win rookie of the year next year anyways..

  • PowrrrPlay had a great radio interview with a sports columnist out of the east regarding why Doughty should have made the top 3. Not sure if that helps your point of view Rich.

    IMO, I am not sure if Doughty should have made the top 3. Tough to remove Ryan or Versteeg. If you take one off I guess it would be Versteeg. But would have been nice to see a goal tender, forward and defense man all in the running.

    I still think/believe Mason will get the Calder.


  • Matt R

    I only have one question: how many times did Kelley watch Doughty play? One? Five? None? I probably watched him play 70-75 times this season. I’m sure there are plenty of you who watched him play every game.

    It’s not the stats that made him great. It’s what he brought to the ice every night. He played like a 10 year veteran…and a great one. Maybe he didn’t deserve to be the rookie of the year, but I don’t think he deserves to be shot down in this manner.

    I don’t think I would trade Doughty for any of those guys. Not even Mason. Remember what happened to Andrew Raycroft? A stud as a rookie and mediocre ever since. No, I’ll stick with Doughty.


    Hey CanadianKing, I’m wondering why are you a big time Kings fan, living in Eastern Canada? Of all the teams to be a fan of, you choose our lowly pathetic Kings. BTW I’m origianlly from Edmonton.

  • Sheldon Kannegiesser fan

    I hate the Ducks, but Bobby Ryan’s an awesome talent, and will only get better. Of course, he is playing alongside some tremendous offensive talent, too, so that helps him. Doughty will only get better too, and his huge impact this season was a treat to watch. The real test, however, will be over the next 3-4 seasons as we see if Drew, Kopi, etc., can work and improve even more. TM’s defensive system obviously has an effect on everybody’s scoring on this team, but that approach could change slightly next season with the right personnel. Hopefully, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams and Oscar Moeller will put a few more pucks in the net in 2009-10. GO KINGS!

  • JonG

    It depends what criteria you use for Rookie of the Year. If you’re voting for the rookie who played the best this year then you could make the case for several guys including Pekka Rinne. If you’re voting for the rookie with the best career prospects then Doughty has to be at or near the very top.

  • dirtmover

    I was going to take the summer off but after reading Kellys column had to chip in- the age discrepancy is the tip of the iceberg- 7 or 8 more min a game is substantial especially for D men – Drews off ability is so much greater than hunwicks it’s not even close – then lets look at the supporting cast to play with – adv Boston- half the problem I have with the TSN and CBC guys is they rarely watch a game west of ST louis unless its hockey night in canada and van,cal,or edm- we need to recognize the growth and greatness that is coming for Drew and leave the rest of the nhl to wonder what hit them

  • cristobal

    Preaching to the choir.

  • brianguy

    man with the advent of DVRs, NHL Network, and Center Ice there is really no excuse for not seeing every team play night in and night out. these people are just lazy, and it’s inexcusable. you don’t have to watch every game, but NHL On The Fly condenses every game down to 5 minutes, so it’s not very hard. you don’t even have to stay up – just record the thing at 3am!

    I also find it amazing when a newspaper can’t print all scores, unless it was 3OT or something. and nothing gets to me like the term “late games”. in other words, stuff we’re too lazy to be inconvenienced with. east coast bias at it’s big fat finest.

  • Irish Pat


    I completely agree that the plus/minus stat is overblown in terms of defensive temerity or acumen. I had to wikipedia these stats, but to me a good example is Wayne Gretzky’s +/- from his Oilers days. In the 84-85 season The Great One was +98 and scored 208 points. That total is the 3rd highest in NHL history and highest ever by a forward. Does this make Gretz a great two-way player? If he was a great defensive forward shouldn’t he have come closer to the 208 point total? In comparison the +98 seems low and we all know that the Oilers were one of the greatest scoring teams ever. Bobby Orr has the highest +/- total ever with +124 and he scored 139 points in the season he pulled that off.

    Take the above however you want, but in my book it is absolutely ridiculous to slam a player for having a poor +/- rating when they’re an 18-19 year old rookie playing for a losing team. I’ve said this before, I still have no problem with Drew Doughty not making the ballot as a Calder trophy finalist, but I wouldn’t trade him for 98% of the players in NHL anyway. I’m sure that in a few years, maybe even by next season, I wouldn’t want to trade him for anyone. Doughty’s a King and hopefully for the long haul.

    And Rich, for what it’s worth, thanks for sticking up for the kid. I realize that you’re just reporting the story and you do a great job of keeping an even keel and keeping things pragmatic on this site, which makes sense considering you’re a journalist and perhaps this is merely perception on my part, but I sense a slight tinge of disgust on your part regarding this story and if so, I can’t say I blame you. If I’m getting this wrong, I’m sorry as I’m not trying to put words in your mouth.

  • “Admittedly the Kings aren’t at the same level defensively as the Bruins, but Doughty had the worst minus number of any rookie defenceman in the game this season and that includes players who played on teams that were a lot worse in their own end than the Kings.”

    He does realize that the Kings were 27th in the league in plus/minus, right? There were only 3 teams worse than the Kings, and none of them had rookie defensemen playing anywhere NEAR the minutes that Doughty played.

    By the way, i posted that quick snippet on the Sportsnet site, only to have it deleted by the moderators. For a guy as bad as Kelley, I figured they would be used to people using facts to correct him….

  • mrbrett7

    Perfect post Irish.

  • variable

    everybody here has made some excellent points…

    rich…completely agree w/yr assessment of drew and how overrated +/- really is…as you said, we have discussed that stat at length here, so there is no reason to go over it again…

    a couple of things…

    – yes, like many here have already said, i wonder, too, how many times the voters…let alone kelley…saw doughty play and whether or not they voted based upon his highlight reel coupled with his stats…i don’t have a problem w/drew being left out of the party, per se…the players that did get nominated are deserving…but i think the way kelley compares drew to hunwick is completely a non-comparison, as it was correctly exploited by rich…that’s not a good example to measure either player’s performance…

    – the stat that i would like to see created in place of +/- is the following:

    giveaways = to goals allowed (GV/GA)
    takeaways = to goals for (TK/GF)

    that’s really what the coaches are looking at/for – a way to measure how mistakes/steals translate to game results and a players individual performance/impact…whether it be negative or positive…

    i would give credit (good or bad) to only the player(s) involved in said action that directly translated/resulted in a goal…

    you would still keep track of giveaways and takeaways separately…but you would add this category to enhance tits meaning…

    what do you guys think of a stat like this…?

  • variable

    yikes…typo on…y’know where…it should be “it’s meaning”…freudian slip…(?!?!)…sorry…

  • Irish Pat


    Thnak you sir.


    Excellent point regarding giveaways and takeaways. I’d like to add that a coach’s system greatly effects these two stats whether you have the horses to play the left wing lock or are icing kids to learn the (pause for chill gently creeping up spine) neutral zone trap. Good call sir.

  • BakoCAcameraGuy


    Interesting stat, potentially…

    How would the Kings stack up on that one? Seems like one/both would be rather small…


    If you read his whole column you would find some other “nice” things he wrote about the Kings (future).

    In my eyes he’s just an stupid writer who sometimes writes about things he doesn’t know jack shit.

    At the end of the day what is the IQ of a professional (old) hockey writer who compares an 18 yo and 23 yo defenseman (one playing for the eastern conference regular season winner and the other playing on a top 5 lottery team)?!?

    Common people, I don’t really give a damn about what some silly east coast writer who didn’t saw Doughty play in the NHL has to say (and write) and you shouldn’t either.

    Did I mention how I love that this chiquita got his ass beaten by Dominik Haek? šŸ™‚

    PS: Why did you bother linking his column? He doesn’t deserve clicks on his page from my fellow Kings fans.

  • deadcatbounce

    Who came up with the +/- statistic, anyway? Was it a players union concoction to use in contract negotiations or something? Dont think its really fair to penalize every player on the ice if one guy blows an assignment that leads to the other team scoring a goal. Perhaps they should only give out minuses for up to the last two players who were responsible for shutting down the play, like they do with assists for a goal scored?

  • Loktionov

    I sent a E-mail to mr. Kelley. I hope he responds to it.
    Here is what I wrote:

    I hope You will take some of your time to answer on a few of my questions.

    1.)I find it curious how many times mister Jim Kelly has seen Drew Doughty play in the NHL?

    2.) For a 30+ years columnist comparing +- stats of a 23yo Hunwick playing for the east coast conference winner to a 18-19yo Doughty playing for a top5 pick is a bit non professional isn’t it??

    3.) Just curious, on which position in the Calder trophy race would you Mr. Kelley put Drew Doughty?

    Kings fan

  • sense13


    Although, I agree with you that plus/minus may be a bit overrated, you also can’t ignore DD’s minus 17 to plus 15 for Versteeg and plus 13 for Ryan. The minus 17 just kind a jumps out at you imo.

    As for your comparison to Niedermeyer and Phaneuf’s plus/minus for this year, it’s not qutie the same as these two have already established themselves as an all-star caliber players whereas DD has not. With more exposure of DD in the years to come, the plus/minus won’t be nearly as relevant as it was in the case for the calder which to me is 99% statistically driven anyways.

  • khanon81

    Doughty had a great rookie considering the circumstances Rich discussed. Sometimes I wonder how much better JMFJ would be if he had the opportunity to play with a D-man like O’donnel. Blake was a horrible mentor, didn’t like it how he wouldn’t let JJ fight on ocassion.

    I actually think J-Quick was the better candidate of the two to be considered up there, and I wonder why people forget about him. J-Quick was awesome the whole year and practically kept the Kings in the playoff hunt single handedly.

  • Garrett

    I only disagree with one thing you said, Rich. Doughty was not “far and away the bet Kings defenseman”. He was the best, but Kyle Quincey was not far behind him. Together, they were far and away the best d-men on the team this past season, but I think Jack Johnson’s major injury was a factor in that.

    Doughty is good, but let’s show some respect where it is deserved in the person of Quincey.

  • Roger

    This is the same guy that wrote the kings may have to trade kopitar for khabulin to get to the salary cap for on, I lost any respect for him then.

  • Paul from Oxnard

    I don’t disagree that Mason should win the Calder. Columbus was in the playoffs. He was the #1 reason why. Easy choice. Should Doughty be a finalist over Versteeg? Yes. Versteeg didn’t have the impact on his team that Doughty had on the Kings. And I have no issue with Ryan being the 3rd finalist.

    Perhaps it’s time for the NHL to separate the Rookie of the Year award so defenseman get equal consideration. It’s easy to pick a goalie as he’s the one who stops the puck. It’s easy to pick a forward who scores lots of goals. But how are defensemen judged, both against each other and against forwards and goalies? It’s just not fair to defensemen. Since 1932 only 9 defensemen have ever won the award, and the first one didn’t win it until Kent Douglas in 1962. In honor of Douglas the NHL should adopt the Kent Douglas trophy for the best rookie defenseman each year.

  • Bernie9

    Quick 44 21 18 2 4 103 6 1200 .914 2.48 2495

    Mason 61 33 20 7 10 140 7 1658 .916 2.29 3664

    And Mason played on a better team…

    …so maybe it should’ve gone Quick, Doughty and then Mason, Ryan and Versteeg fighting it out for the last spot!

  • cristobal

    Doughty is a special player. It’s Obvious if u watch him for a while. But quick and kopitar were our best defensive players. Awards are fairly pointless anyway, just like plus/minus.

    I miss PatiO’sullivan.

  • JDM

    heh, I miss everyone on the Kings, and I will until September!

  • Elfis

    I still believe his -17 was due to him being paired with Gauthier way too often.

  • brianguy

    +/- is basically a statistic for comparing different players on the same team that play in similar situations, and nothing more. one would have to rule out several other factors, which would require at least a couple of mathematical adjustments, before attempting to use this factor to compare two players playing the same position on two different teams.

    bottom line if you play on a team which is much worse than the league average 5-on-5 your +/- is going to be artificially low, if you play on a team which is much better than the league average 5-on-5 your +/- is going to be artificially high.

  • Marc Nathan

    Doughty still has his spleen ;)~

  • tohspals

    Bogosian was who I wanted on draft day as a King fan. He was probably the real #3. He played for a woeful team in atlanta had 9 goals and 10 assists and a plus 11 rating. Had he not missed 35 games his extrapolated numbers would have been 16 goals and 17 assists with a plus 19.

    That all said Doughty has won me over and he will only get better.

  • Bernie9

    Elfis said:
    “I still believe his -17 was due to him being paired with Gauthier way too often.”

    Yep and eating so many minutes he had several different partners!

  • khanon81


    “Bogosian was who I wanted on draft day as a King fan.”

    Same here buddy. You can always find an offensive D-man, but its rare to find a physical, stand up D-man that can play, sort of like a Jovanoski type. Bogosian is going to be a really good stay at home D-man, one of those heart and soul type of players. With that said, I also like Doughty and have no complaints except I would like to see him play a bit more physical and actually use his size occasionally.

    Another solid young D-man that people seem to forget is Luke Schenn, that guy is hard as nails and plays in a man’s game like a man.

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