Doughty Should Look at Hextall to See Potential Damage of Holdout

By David Strehle
NHL H
ot Stove Creative Editor

Heading into late-August, the contract standoff between Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings does not appear close to being resolved any time soon.

Helene Elliott of the L. A. Times reported via Twitter that the sides weren’t close, and the possibility exists of Doughty becoming a holdout once Kings’ training opens on September 17th.

Meehan on Doughty/Kings: “we don’t have a deal.” also said comments by advisor Jack Ferreira that Doughty doesn’t want to make a deal were ‘frustrating and disappointing to Drew.’ Ferreira said last month Doughty’s side didn’t want to make deal and he wouldn’t be surprised if Doughty becomes a holdout. Camp opens in a monthDean Lombardi declines comment but clearly no deal in any semblance betwen Kings and Doughty.” 

Another story was published late last night on TSN.ca, in which quoted Doughty as follows: 
I guess there’s really no rush.  Both sides, we’re discussing things, and I’m sure that something is going to get done soon. I don’t have a timeframe or anything like that. But I still want to be a King, and I can’t wait to get something done just so it’s over with.”
The drama that is unfolding before our eyes couldn’t be coming at a worse time for Los Angeles.  It would appear that the Doughty situation runs the risk of ruining the positives the club had gained through excellent off-season additions.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac / Getty Images

By adding center Mike Richards (acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for top young prospect Brayden Schenn and young winger Wayne Simmonds) and winger Simon Gagne (signed as an unrestricted free agent), the Kings were making a statement that they are indeed ready to make a serious run - right now - at a Stanley Cup championship. 

Both players are only about 14 months removed from a run to the Cup Finals with the Philadelphia Flyers, a series in which they fell in six hard-fought games to the Chicago Blackhawks.
 
Any kind of holdout by Doughty - no matter what amount of time - would almost certainly derail the growing momentum the Kings had been building heading into the 2011-12 campaign.
 
If history teaches us any valuable lessons from the past, it’s that holdouts are very similar to arbitration hearings - and both situations never ends very well from the viewpoint of either the player or management.
 
Doughty has just three NHL seasons under his belt, and is thought to be one of the brightest young rear guards in the league.  He was even a Norris Trophy-nominee two seasons ago, and remains one of the most important players on the roster for Los Angeles to experience success on the ice.
 
In 239 career NHL games, Doughty has scored 33 goals and recorded 126 points.  More importantly, he has helped lead the Kings to the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, after L.A. failed to qualify for the previous six postseasons.
 
He is a blossoming force to be reckoned with, and he knows he holds most of the cards in contract negotiations with the Kings.
 
But Doughty needs to look no further than L.A.’s front office for an example of what can happen by missing training camp because of a contract dispute.
 
Kings’ Assistant General Manager Ron Hextall should be very well versed in such a state of affairs.  He may end up getting a view of a holdout by a star player from the front office point of view this time around, but he went through the same scenario as a player prior to the 1989-90 season.
 
“Hexy” was at that time a brash, fiery goaltender who was the emotional on-ice leader for the Flyers.  Though, at 25, Hextall at that time was a few years older than Doughty is right now, his career standing was strikingly comparable (minus the numerous suspensions Hextall was handed for various on-ice bad behavior).
 
Hextall had just completed his third NHL season, and was regarded as one of the players that was most responsible for his team’s prosperity since his arrival in the league. 
 
During his first three years, Hextall averaged 64 games played and more than 32 wins per season. 

Hextall accepts Conn Smythe Trophy from then-NHL Commissioner John Ziegler. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

As a rookie, he took Philly on an improbable run to the 1987 Stanley Cup Finals, before finally falling to the powerhouse Edmonton Oilers in Game 7.   Wayne Gretzky even praised Hextall as the greatest goaltender he had ever played against following the series.  For his efforts, Hextall was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

He would become the first goaltender to shoot the puck the length of the ice and score a goal when he accomplished the feat the next season at the Spectrum against the Boston Bruins.  Hextall would also be the first goaltender to do the same in the postseason, when he scored on the Washington Capitals in the first round of the 1988 playoffs.
 
As is the case now with Doughty, Hextall’s future at the time was truly looking to be the brightest of the bright.
 
During the summer of 1989, Hextall came to the conclusion that for all that he brought to the table and all that he meant to the Flyers, he was vastly underpaid.  Though he had a contract, Hextall reasoned that it was inadequate and deemed it the deal as having no validity.
 
He promptly refused to report to camp, and the man who had been showered with accolades for his refusal to accept defeat throughout the hockey community – and especially in Philadelphia – was suddenly coming under scrutiny from team officials and fans, alike.
 
Hextall, who was labeled “selfish” by team president Jay Snider, would remain out of the fold for six long weeks. 
 
After the Flyers got off to a horrific 1-5-1 start without their regular goalie, GM Bob Clarke broke down and asked both Hextall and his agent, Ritch Winter, if they would come to Philly to see if some kind of understanding could be worked out between the sides.
 
When they were able to come to an agreement, it seemed that Hextall would come back and save the Flyers’ season, but that would not end up being the case at all.
 
Without proper preparation that working out with the team and going through drills in training camp entails, Hextall endured an injury-filled season upon his return.  He played in just 8 games in all, which were interrupted by four seperate injuries – two left groin pulls, a left hamstring pull, and a right groin tear.  He would finish with a 4-2-1 record, with a bloated 4.15 goals-against average, and an awful .868 save percentage.
 
The team, in turn, never fully recovered.  Philadelphia finished with just a 30-39-11 mark, and did not qualify for the playoffs for the first time in 18 years.
 
Injuries became chronic for Hextall, who played in just 36 contests in 1990-91 and 45 in 1991-92.  Both the netminder and the Flyers finished with sub-.500 records in both seasons, and the team again failed to receive an invitation for the postseason dance in both years.
 
Hextall’s stay in The City of Brotherly Love ended in the summer of 1992, as he was sent to the Quebec Nordiques as part of the package that brought young phenom Eric Lindros to the Flyers.
 
While there were many other factors in Philadelphia’s demise during this time era – the bodies of Hall of Fame defenseman Mark Howe and former 50-goal scorer Tim Kerr were both breaking down, and each missed extensive periods of time – the ill-advised Hextall holdout cast a shadow on a former franchise centerpiece.  It also seemed to trigger a truly dark stretch in the history of an otherwise proud hockey organization.
 
The damage was suffered by both sides, but the tragedy is that the entire mess was totally avoidable.
 
There is no guarantee that Doughty will stay away when the Kings commence training camp in less than a month.  For all we know, Lombardi and Hextall will reach an accord with the defenseman’s agent team from Newport Sports Management Inc. (Don Meehan and Mark Guy) prior to the September 17th start date.
 
Even if Doughty were to become a holdout, there is nothing that assures that he and the Kings will suffer a similar fate as Hextall and the Flyers did over 20 years ago.  Los Angeles is built with a solid cast of youngsters and looks to be considered a Cup contender – with Doughty in the lineup, of course.   In the late-80′s, Philadelphia was an aging club which had seen its best days.  A repeat of the results they had acheived in the earlier portion of the decade were unlikely, even if they had a happy, healthy Hextall in their crease.
 
Holdouts rarely ever work out well for either player or team.  With the promise being shown by the Kings for the upcoming year, it would absolutely benefit both sides in this standoff to facilitate a contract solution – and very soon.
 
If you any need further proof, just ask Hextall - one of the men that is no doubt participating in the Doughty negotiations.
 

If you have any comments or questions, you can email the author at dstrehle@nhlhotstove.com.  You can also follow him on Twitter – @David_Strehle