Arizona Coyotes captain Shane Doan could not hide the anguish that was clearly visible Monday. That’s when Doan met with the Arizona media and tried to answer the question on everyone’s mind. Will Doan return for his 21st NHL season in 2017-18?
That dilemma is not reserved for reporters who cover this team on a regular basis, but seemingly the hockey world which exists beyond the cocoon of the desert.
At 40 years old and with a diminishing skill set and undefined role, the challenge of Doan retuning to the Coyotes next season seems daunting. Plus, an injured groin toward the end of the season may not make Doan attractive to the Coyotes or any other team.
The quandary centers not around Doan’s physical skills, which in his early 40s, have faded, but his character in the dressing room and in the community. So highly regarded in the Phoenix metro market, with a stellar reputation among his NHL peers and a career filled with numbers and personal achievement, Doan, conversely, represents every reason for the Coyotes to think about signing him.
Doan, who signed a one-year deal at the start of the recently-concluded season, was given a hero’s gratitude by the sell-out crowd of 17,490. That followed the final buzzer when the Coyotes concluded their season in the Gila River Arena last Saturday.
After the crowd exited, Doan remained on the ice with his family, soaked in what could be his final moments in Sedona Red and took in an arena he’s called home since its construction in December 2003.
Appearing in no hurry to make that decision, Doan will be thoughtful and careful in the consideration of a number of factors. Then again, the Coyotes would have to find room on roster now crowded with young and dynamic talent.
“What I need to consider is whether I will embarrass myself,” Doan told The Hockey Writers Monday during the Coyotes’ exit day. “Also, whether I will accept a role and if there is any role. And, my family. They gave up a lot over the years and this will be such a personal decision.”
After the expiration of his contract before the recently-concluded season, Doan was motivated by success generated in the 2015-16 season. Here, he pumped in 28 goals, and that represented his third highest single-season total. That production was topped only by his 31 goals in 2008-09 and 30 during the 2005-06 season. Since drafted by the previous Winnipeg Jets in the first round (seventh overall) in the 1995 draft, Doan is the franchise leader in assists, points, power-play goals, goals, and games played, and is fourth in the most games played for one franchise in NHL history.
Boosted by that 28-goal season a year ago, Doan returned with renewed zeal, but found himself primarily on a third line. His production fell dramatically and in 74 games, he tallied only six goals and assisted on 21 for 27 points. Those are his lowest production totals since 27 during the lockout season of 2012-13 and 22 in the 1998-99 season.
“I hope he comes back,” Max Domi told The Hockey Writers on exit day. “Look, there are many leaders in our dressing room, but to replace someone like Doan will be a collaborative effort.”
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.