|ESPN.com: NHL Playoffs 2014||[Print without images]|
LOS ANGELES -- Turns out Drew Doughty isn't only perhaps the best defenseman in the world, he's also quite the cocky foreshadower.
"Drew told me he was going to win two in one year -- he said that," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "He said he was going to win the gold medal and win the Stanley Cup."
In fact, Sutter said on Friday night after Doughty delivered on his prediction with a 3-2 double-overtime win that gave the Kings their second Stanley Cup in three years that the stud blueliner repeated his proclamation "two or three times."
"I know when they named him to the [Canadian Olympic] team ... that's vivid in my mind," Sutter recalled. "When he came home [from Sochi], they met us in Colorado, that's what he said: He was going to win the gold medal -- he did -- and he said he was going to win the Stanley Cup."
And Doughty wasn't just part of an Olympic gold-medal squad and a Stanley Cup championship team, he was the engine that ran both; the bigger the game in Sochi or in the NHL playoffs, the more Doughty elevated his game.
|Winning gold in Sochi gave Drew Doughty and Jeff Carter good practice celebrating a championship.|
Doughty and Kings teammate Jeff Carter became only the seventh and eighth players in the history of the sport to win Olympic gold and a Stanley Cup in the same year, joining Ken Morrow, Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook in the ultra-rare club.
"Yeah, it's been a long year," a clearly exhausted Doughty said in the post-Cup celebration. "A lot of games. I'm pretty tired right now. But it feels good. Never thought it'd be possible to win both in the same year, let alone one. So I'm very happy and excited."
A few feet away, there was a proud father, Paul Doughty, who was trying to soak in what his 24-year-old son had just accomplished in the past calendar year.
"It hasn't sunk in yet," said Paul Doughty. "It's thrilling. As a parent, probably him playing for his country and winning, that's bigger. But as a player, when you're with these guys for eight months, this is way bigger. What he's accomplished in the last six or seven years, going back to world juniors, is just incredible. You never would have dreamed it would have happened this quickly."
Doughty was named top defenseman at the 2008 world juniors as Canada won gold. Two Olympic gold medals and two Stanley Cups followed in the first six years of his pro career. How is he only 24?
"He's a winner, what else can you say? The guy just wins," said Doughty's defensive partner Jake Muzzin.
Carter, meanwhile, wasn't a popular choice among some to make Team Canada for Sochi, but once he got there, he became a valuable, stable two-way player for the gold-medal winners. He was one of the better players on a team stacked with all-world talent.
That top-end play carried itself into the second half of the NHL season with the Kings, especially in the playoffs, where Carter, like Doughty, was considered a Conn Smythe candidate.
"It's been a hell of year," said Carter, who finished second in playoff scoring with 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists) in 26 games. "A lot of hockey. A lot of ups and downs. It's what it's all about. You play to win championships and gold medals. Pretty unbelievable feeling."
Carter's evolution as a leader is what set the 29-year-old apart this year.
"So many of these players had growth potentials after we won the first Cup," said Kings general manager Dean Lombardi. "Doughty has clearly taken another step. But Carter, his emergence as a leader has been really special. The way he now conducts himself around the rink. He was the first one to grab [Marian] Gaborik when he came in, and he said, 'You're staying with me.' What he did in the Olympics, I'm not sure that's the same player that was there three years ago. Now you see the growth in him. I think it's an incredible lesson in how an athlete, how he grows as a person can be as important as how much he gets in shape. It's just fabulous to see how far he's come."
Kings assistant coach John Stevens has known Carter for a long time, coaching him on an AHL championship team when he was a youngster and then in his early years in Philadelphia.
Few people are in a better position to have witnessed that growth Lombardi is talking about.
"I think he's always been a great player, but he's shown a lot of leadership as he's grown into being the player that he is now," Stevens said of Carter. "I've never seen him carry himself and have an effect on his teammates like he did this year. Not only is he a great player, but he's clearly one of the leaders on this hockey team now. I don't know if you would have said that when he was young. He's an awesome kid."
Stevens then reflected on Carter and Doughty's pulling the Olympic-Cup double in one year.
"It's amazing," said Stevens. "To do one or the other is pretty special to most of us. I give them a lot of credit, it's not easy going all the way over there and all the way back; they both play huge minutes. I think Darryl did an awesome job giving them the rest they needed. He was really conscious of that when they came back from there.
"To have success over there and then here, it's a pretty special thing."
It's the kind of year a hockey player can only dream about.