I finally have to admit it. I'm disappointed in Drew.
Drew Doughty could have the best reasons in the world for not having signed a contract up until now, but I'd still be disappointed. Because even if he's "right" to take the stand he has, he's still tarnished his reputation -- not just with the fans, but more importantly with his teammates. And whether he reports for training camp tomorrow (which is looking less and less likely by the hour), the damage is already done and there may be no way to clean it up -- at least not permanently.
|Get ready to spend the season watching your back, my friend.|
The fan base will be even more critical. People like me who were Doughty fans previously may still adore him, but that adoration will always come with the caveat of "I love him, except for that whole contract mess in 2011." God forbid he makes it back and isn't perfect at everything -- fitness, on-ice performance, statements in interviews and interactions with fans. One wrong step and the moaning and groaning will start -- "I knew this would happen. This kid has ALWAYS been overrated. Now we have proof! He never should have gotten such a fat contract." And the Doughty haters already out there will be nodding their heads, saying "I told you so..."
The truth is at the end of the day, this whole situation is less about reality than perception. The thing Drew Doughty and his agent have done most poorly through this whole process is manage public perception. Because of that, he's painted himself into a corner where nothing he does from here forward will be good enough. The doubt in his ability, his motivation and his heart will always be there.
Maybe the Kings truly are the evil empire and Dean Lombardi is Darth Vader, trying desperately to neutralize this powerful young hockey Jedi. Drew is just trying to keep from getting screwed over. But is that what the perception is right now? Absolutely not. The perception is that he's greedy and selfish, and in the absence of information from the Doughty camp on their position and the rationale behind it, people will assume the worst scenario. Maybe even his own team mates.
At whatever point Drew Doughty resumes his career with the Kings, one thing is certain. He's no longer the same player we knew before this mess. He'll never be that person again.