I have written several articles about Drew Doughty’s contract negotiations. A common theme has been the premise that time favors Dean Lombardi and the Kings. Today, while engaging in some very early morning gardening (you laugh and you’re dead), I challenged that very conclusion and this article was born.
Time. Precious. An ally when used well. An enemy in wait when discounted. Amidst negotiations, time only follows term in priority but the longer discussions fail and an impasse builds, the more time becomes a factor. In Drew Doughty’s negotiations, training camp is time’s critical locus while each day thereafter pushes the negotiations toward a hold out hemorrhage.
Who benefits from a stalemate? Who carries the biggest burdens? Who blinks first?
The L.A. Kings gain nothing of substance by failing to sign Drew Doughty. In fact, the greatest indirect benefit for the Kings is Drew Doughty knows he cannot start the season without a contract because to do so and potentially suffer a career ending injury would do exactly that – end his career. As such, pressure on Doughty is the L.A. Kings’ sole collateral benefit from ongoing discussions and/or a stand-off because he who carries the greater pressure often folds.
The Kings’ burden? Something I previously discounted but find more compelling today. Momentum. Dean Lombardi is trying to build a Stanley Cup contender. Tim Leiweke (emotionally invested on his own behalf, financially so on behalf of AEG’s hockey, downtown L.A., as well as NFL interests) does not want distractions from that express goal. Mike Richards and Simon Gagne were not acquired and the L.A. Kings haven’t been the toast of the off-season just so they can give the excitement and accumulating good will back by their young golden child snubbing his nose and turning away his half shaven face from the team’s progress. The longer this goes, the more the media, news outlets and blogs (except this one) write about Kings v. Doughty and less about the on ice product. If this builds to a hold-out, that distraction keeps Drew Doughty out of the locker room which shall have a tangible negative effect on the Kings’ defense, powerplay and, therefore, the team’s success.
Drew Doughty. Benefits? None. Unless you consider (as we did with the Kings, collaterally once again) the team’s burdens to be Drew’s benefit. As for burdens, plenty. A hold-out carries with it a list of problems. In no particular order: (a) the fans’ ire, (b) falling behind the fitness and game shape curve, (c) the perception (justified or not) of being greedy, selfish and a “typical” athlete, which, if the hold-out goes long enough, could stick and shadow him, (d) the post-signing pressure of “living up” to the expectations the contract numbers demand and, therefore, being placed on a super imposed critical microscope for the remainder of the season, and (e) the team’s lack of success…yes, that is his burden as well, because he is an essential part of the team and just as L.A.’s success is his success, the inverse also holds true.
So, what have we learned?
Neither the L.A. Kings nor Drew Doughty have anything to gain by a negotiation stalemate and/or a hold-out.
Both the L.A. Kings and Drew Doughty have much to lose by same.
What do I believe? Just as I have told you. There is an agreement in principle. Whether Shea Weber’s arbitration award blew that up or not, I do not believe but I also do not yet know for certain. I do know this must get done because time favors neither and both sides have too much to lose. GO KINGS!