For the last few seasons, it was generally believed that the face of the Arizona Coyotes, captain Shane Doan, had a place on the team for as long as he wanted to continue playing hockey.
Not many players in sports typically receive this courtesy, but for Doan, who showed extreme loyalty to the Coyotes throughout his career, it seems fitting. He’s turned down numerous contract offers from various teams to stay loyal to Arizona throughout the years and has potentially cost himself a chance to win a Stanley Cup as a result. It seemed like letting Doan go out on his own terms was the least the team could do for their captain after he gave them his entire 21-year NHL career.
However, on Monday afternoon, that notion was completely and utterly shattered, as the Coyotes issued an official statement in which they stated that Doan had not been offered a contract for next season and that his time as an on-ice member of the team is over.
In general, this news came as a shock to Arizona’s fanbase—Doan had previously stated that he would like to come back for one more season, and it was assumed that the Coyotes would bring their captain back for the 2017-18 campaign so that he’d have a chance to “ride off into the sunset” after ending the 2016-17 season on a rather unceremonious note.
With Monday’s news, Doan joined Randy Johnson, Luis Gonzalez, and Steve Nash in the group of Arizona sports legends who have seen their careers in the desert come to rather abrupt and unpleasant ends. As such, many of the team’s fans are very unhappy and have expressed their displeasure on social media:
Coyotes franchise stabbing their most loyal and respected player in the back!!
— Marc Gougeon (@GougeonMarc) June 19, 2017
For the Coyotes, who have struggled badly to fill their arena over the course of the last few seasons, this move has the potential to backfire significantly. Doan is beloved by both hardcore and casual hockey fans in Arizona, and the way the situation regarding his contract status was handled could potentially rub the fans the wrong way.
Had the team announced this decision in a joint press conference with Doan, it’s likely that the reaction would have been much more positive. Instead, the team announced the decision with a statement on social media that was met with criticism from many in the hockey world.
Had Doan been told that the 2016-17 season would be his final one with the team prior to (or during) the season, the fans would have had a chance to say goodbye and thank Captain Coyote for his 21 years of solid play, great leadership, immaculate loyalty, and selfless service to the community in Arizona. However, his tenure with the Coyotes has instead ended abruptly and with bad blood between the team and its fans.
Doan put his life, heart and soul into this franchise for 21 years- he was very upset when he found out the news.
— John Gambadoro (@Gambo987) June 19, 2017
Doan was reportedly offered a front-office position with the team, but it’s unclear at this point whether or not Doan would be open to coming back to the Coyotes after Monday’s developments. It’s very easy to see how such an offer could be interpreted as a slap in the face; Doan still wants to continue playing in the NHL, and an off-the-ice job offer suggests that the Coyotes do not believe Doan is capable of playing in the league any longer.
What Happens Now?
For the Coyotes, they’ve moved on quickly from Doan, as they’ve named Oliver Ekman-Larsson as the team’s next captain. The decision to give Ekman-Larsson the ‘C’ was likely an easy one for the Coyotes—he’s easily the team’s best player and has emerged as one of the league’s best two-way defensemen as well. No one can replace Doan, but Ekman-Larsson is the best choice to be the next “Captain Coyote.”
For Doan, he will now hit the open free agent market for the first time in his career, and there are teams that are reportedly interested in the 40-year-old’s services. No specific teams have been named, but it’s likely that Doan would only sign with a contending team.
Could a young club like the Edmonton Oilers or Toronto Maple Leafs be interested in bringing Doan and his leadership abilities into their locker rooms? Could Doan be interested in joining the expansion Vegas Golden Knights due to the city’s proximity to his home in Arizona? Or could he have his eye on a team like the Washington Capitals or Pittsburgh Penguins, who are as close to winning the Stanley Cup next season as anyone?
In any case, wherever Shane Doan decides to go from here, he’ll have the support of Coyotes fans everywhere behind him. However, after Monday’s events, it remains to be seen if the Coyotes franchise itself will be able to say the same.