As a proud and intrepid captain of his hockey team, Shane Doan will not let the demise of last season be easily dismissed.
Recognized as one of the best captains and leaders in the NHL, and known for his motivation, insight and strong communication skills, Doan will have an added responsibility when the Arizona Coyotes open training camp this fall.
That will be an attempt to channel energy in a positive direction, and restore a lost and forgotten confidence level.
The lingering effects of the one of the worst seasons in franchise history, if Doan remains influential, will be discussed and digested.
“There has to be accountability for what happened,” Doan said Monday night just before he threw out the first pitch at the Braves-Diamondbacks game in Chase Field. “What happened was unacceptable, and we need to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
To address part of the malady from the season, general manager Don Maloney all but cleaned house. However, his trades were viewed in some circles as making deals simply for the sake of making deals.
Three players Maloney traded, goalie Devan Dubnyk (to Minnesota), defenseman Keith Yandle (to the New York Rangers) and center Antoine Vermette (to Chicago), were all considered significant contributors to their teams which qualified and advanced through the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Now, Maloney, coach Dave Tippett and Doan, who is on commissioner Gary Bettman’s speed dial, will come to grips with restructuring the team, and finding a competitive edge.
By the end of last season, Tippett appeared frustrated and even angry. In meeting with the media after games late in the season, a change was noted.
For a coach who hates to lose, Tippett’s post-game comments early in the season were structural in nature in that he sought to explain why things happened on the ice and how certain players need to address his concerns.
Then, his body language changed. His hands were no longer buried deep in his pockets and even a quick smile was often detected. In recognizing the fate of the Arizona season, Tippett merely identified areas that he thought needed to be addressed in the off-season, and he seemed resigned to the fact that his team might show, at best, marginal success through the final weeks of the season.
Results did not support his contention, and losses piled up at an alarming rate.
From Feb. 5 until the conclusion of the season, the Coyotes managed only five victories and dropped 25 games. That put the franchise in the lottery in for the Connor McDavid-Jack Eichel sweepstakes and, in concert with their season, the Coyotes fell to number three in the 2015 draft selection later this month. Despite the maladies, Doan and Tippett are committed to right the ship.
To some degree, Tippett now needs to take a step from his demonstrative personalty, and structure his training camp to more of an education. Not so, says Doan, and that’s because of Tippett’s approach to the game.
“I think what happened last season, for Tip, was a combination of frustration, anger and rage,” Doan said. “He is very competitive, an intense competitor.”
Now, Tippett, by osmosis on some other form of transmission, needs to fuse his competitive spirit into what could be a very young team.
Because the Coyotes had a poor goals total last season, there could be excitement in camp with potential goal-scorers like Max Domi, Brendan Perlini, Christian Dvorak and Anthony Duclair pushing veterans. Plus, a pair of defensemen, Klas Dahlbeck and John Moore, both obtained in trades, could act to solidify play at the blue line.
Going forward, Maloney and Tippett will have to weigh in on the futures of marginally productive players, like David Moss (four goals, seven assists), Martin Erat (nine goals, 22 assists,) and B. J. Crombeen (three goals, 3 assists,) all three will be unrestricted free agents beginning July 1.
Plus, Maloney has to to deal with signing restricted free agent Mikkel Boedker, who pumped in 14 goals before suffering a season-ending injury (ruptured spleen) in a late January game at Winnipeg. Until his injury, Boedker was considered the Coyotes’ most productive offensive player.
Follow Mark Brown on twitter, @journalist193
Mark Brown is a former sports editor for daily newspapers in the Philadelphia and Cincinnati markets. He was named Best Sports Columnist, honorable mention 2004 by the Associated Press Society of Ohio. He is a contributor to major daily newspapers, including the Chicago Sun Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Milwaukee Journal, Arizona Republic, Nashville Tennessean and the Associated Press. He was a Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com and covered the Arizona Coyotes.