2010-11 Season Preview: Defensemen

Drew Doughty #8 of the Los Angeles Kings skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on January 31, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey. The Kings defeated the Devils 3-2. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) In my previous post, I sung the praises of Jonathan Quick for finally giving the team a legit goaltender. And while I don't want to undersell his skills between the pipes, I should point out that his success is a direct reflection of the players in front of him. Make no mistake, defense is this team's calling card. And that conversation starts and ends with Drew Doughty.

Doughty was a finalist for the Calder Trophy for best rookie, but lost. Then he was a finalist for the Norris Trophy to top defenseman, but lost. Despite being the youngest player on the Canadian Gold Medal-winning team, Doughty was arguably the best player on the ice in Vancouver.

Regardless of why he was off the radar for such individual awards, there's no mistaking his importance to the Kings. This preseason, everyone is spouting off about how Doughty's arrived. (Yeah, thanks for noticing, pundits.)

He doubled his career numbers last season (16 G, 43 A) and was the team's second-leading scorer. He provided many defensive highlights and has achieved that all-important "Must-See" status that has been lacking on the ice in L.A. since... well, since Wayne Gretzky graced the ice? (Too much? Perhaps...)

Doughty's emergence has overshadowed another player however, Jack Johnson. At first glance of his stats last season, one may leap out at you: his plus-minus of -15.

Argue all you want about the importance of the plus-minus, if you didn't think Johnson improved last season, you're nuts. Not only did he post career numbers for the regular season, he was also tied for the lead in playoff points with seven assists.

No other player, outside of Anze Kopitar, has been asked to change his game more than Johnson. But you can tell he finally started to take that next step to become the dynamic player many fans expected when he came to the team in 2006. If for no other reason, his decision to become the only U.S. hockey player to participate in the Winter Olympics speaks volumes to the character of Johnson.

The Kings did have a significant loss this offseason when Sean O'Donnell decided to move onto Philadelphia. He was a tremendous role model for both Doughty and Johnson, and his veteran presence will be missed.

Willie Mitchell #33 of the Los Angeles Kings skates against the Phoenix Coyotes at Staples Center on September 23, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. The Coyotes defeated the Kings 3-1. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images) In his place comes Willie Mitchell, a hard-nosed defenseman who is out to prove he is back. He was concussed by the Penguins Evgeni Malkin back in January. The veteran's style rarely gets him on the highlight reel. But that's the type of player that seems to excel in coach terry Murray's system.

Rob Scuderi is back after a solid season on the Kings blueline. Both Scuderi and Mitchell are your typical stay-at-home defensemen, which will allow them to be paired with either Doughty or Johnson.

Alternate captain Matt Greene will start the season on the non-roster list, thanks to a shoulder injury. That allows the Kings to take an extended look at Jake Muzzin, who beat out Thomas Hickey for a spot at training camp. Chances are Muzzin will drop down when Greene comes back, but injuries are a part of the game, so he'll may stay longer than that if he can continue his pace set at training camp.

Rounding out the defensive core is Davis Drewiske and two-way specialist Peter Harrold. Each of those two players played roughly a half a season with the club last season. Waiting in the wings are Viatcheslav Voynov and Colten Tuebert, who might make an appearance.

As with the goaltending situation, the Kings are deep on defense this season. They were able to lower their goals against from 234 in 09-10 to 219 last season, a testament to the players buying into coach Murray's system. With Doughty and Johnson hitting their stride and the addition of Mitchell to the blueline, the Kings' strength will carry the team further than it has been before.



Related stories

  • Hockeywood's 2010-11 Season Preview: Goaltenders

  • Hockeywood's 2010-11 Season Preview: Forwards

  • Hockeywood's 2010-11Season Preview: Defensemen
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