The sudden surge from Arizona Coyotes’ captain Shane Doan has been sudden. For an aging player reduced to a third line, Doan’s recent production seems an anathema to his traditional role.
Bruising and hard-nosed, Doan emerged over the recent decade as one of the top defensive forwards in the game and one of the most respected captains. Held in such esteem, Doan was the first person on NHL commissioner’s Gary Bettman’s speed dial when negotiations with present-owner Ice Arizona commenced a few years ago.
Over recent seasons, some believe Doan’s physical skills have diminished, and that his true value to the team remains in that clear, leadership position. At 39-years-old, in his 19th season with the Winnipeg/Phoenix/Arizona franchise and in the final year of contract obligation to Arizona, Doan seems to have taken advantage of his age and placement within coach Dave Tippett’s line-up. The results have been encouraging, and Doan is in the midst of one of the most productive stretches of his distinguished NHL career.
With a two-goal effort in the Coyotes’ 3-2 overtime win at Vancouver Monday night, Doan has picked up seven goals in his last four games. That includes his second, career three-goal hat trick Dec. 29 at home against Chicago. His current 15 goals tops the team, and Doan leap-frogged over Dale Hawerchuk to be franchise’s all-time goal scorer. Coming into Thursday’s game at Calgary, Doan has 383 career goals and that’s four better than Hawerchuk. For his most recent effort, Doan was named as the NHL’s second star of the week for the period ending Jan. 3.
At the same time, Doan is gaining on Hawerchuk for most points in franchise history. Hawerchuk is the all-time leader with 929 scoring points, and Doan is 10 points behind.
“It obviously feels good to contribute,” Doan told The Arizona Republic after the recent victory in Vancouver. “Everyone enjoys that. It’s fun when you contribute. It’s fun when we win.”
Doan’s recent streak began with a two-goal effort Dec. 22 at home against Toronto. Since, he scored three against the Blackhawks and two more against the Canucks.
“I told him he should buy a lottery ticket,” Tippett told The Arizona Republic after the Vancouver game. “He’s getting lots of chances. It’s good for him. He’s playing hard, and he’s having fun.”
If the Arizona captain is lighting the red light with regularity, the team seems to be riding on his coattails. With the win in Vancouver, the Coyotes’ season record against rival Pacific Division teams rose to 8-1-2. The only other team with a better record against division opponents is the New York Islanders, who have not lost to a Metropolitan Division team this season.
With the overall defense tightened and Doan, as well as Mikkel Boedker and Max Domi lead the scoring parade, the Coyotes have vastly improved. If the season ended today, this team would be in the playoffs.
After 39 games, the Coyotes are 10 points behind the Pacific Division-leading Kings, but holding in second place within the division. The Coyotes would join the Kings, the Ducks, the Blackhawks, the Blues, the Stars, the Wild and the Predators in Western Conference post-season play.
Then again, the Coyotes have more than half their schedule remaining. At this point, the argument for post-season incursion becomes moot.
For now, Doan and the Coyotes are enjoying an immediate fling with success, and hope to continue strong play over the second half of the season.
Game time for the Coyotes’ home game with the New Jersey Devils for Sat. Jan 16 was moved.
Because the Gila River Arena is in the same complex as the University of Phoenix Stadium, game time was altered to accommodate the NFL Arizona Cardinals, who are slated to play a Division playoff game on the same day. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:15, mountain time and the Coyotes-Devils contest was slated for 7 p.m.
The Coyotes and Devils will now play their game at 12 noon, mountain time.
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.