Will Doan Return to the Jets?

Earlier this week, the longest-serving captain in the NHL and tied for the fifth longest-serving captain in NHL history, Shane Doan was informed by the Arizona Coyotes that he will not be offered a contract to return to the club next season. The change comes amidst the youth movement initiated by Coyotes’ general manager, John Chayka.

Shane Doan, Arizona Coyotes, Coyotes Signing Shane Doan
Shane Doan (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This organisational shift toward youth is not because Chayka, the league’s youngest general manager, wants some youthful exuberance to patrol the Arizona nightclub scene with, but instead, it is an inevitable turn towards their surplus of prospects that include Christian Dvorak, Clayton Keller and Dylan Strome.

Many believe that the two-time All-Star will be offered a position in the Coyotes’ front office if he decides to retire but after 21 years of devoting one’s life to a sport, retirement is far from easy. Despite Doan’s five medals at World Championship tournaments, receiving the nod for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy in 2010 and the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2012, the Alberta native has a massive hole in his trophy cabinet that can only be filled by Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Doan Has the Drive

Reports indicate that Doan is leaning towards playing another season in pursuit of winning his first Stanley Cup. The fear with bringing in Doan, who will turn the ripe age of 41 when the season begins, is his legs. In a league that puts such a heavy emphasis on skating, many question Doan’s ability to do so anymore.

He is coming off his worst points per game campaign in nearly two decades, however, he tied his third-highest goals total in a season with 28 a year prior. Doan is likely to come in on a cheap contract which may entice a club to take a gamble on him much like what may unfold with Jarome Iginla.

Shane Doan
(Rob Grabowski-US PRESSWIRE)

Iginla had an awful start to his season with the Colorado Avalanche but finished up the year competing for a playoff spot with the Los Angeles Kings. The former Calgary Flames captain demonstrated his desire to compete for a chance to have his name scribed on the legendary hardware. Iginla and the Kings ultimately failed to make the postseason but he proved many in the hockey community wrong. Doan intends to do the same but with a better result.

Many clubs dress exciting rosters of young talent but if given the choice Doan may want to jump on a squad that is already a perennial favourite horse in the race. The question that comes to mind is which Stanley Cup contender would give him the opportunity to play regular minutes and contribute on a second unit power play? Not many. This could force Doan to concentrate his energy towards an up-and-coming group. Does Doan view the Winnipeg Jets as a current contender and good fit for his career to come full circle?

Can Doan Crack the Jets?

Doan was the final first-round draft pick for Jets 1.0 and stayed with the club for 20 years in Arizona. Though his time in Winnipeg was short, Jets fans would open their arms to the old franchise’s leader in games, goals and points. The 2006 Olympian did not take the league by storm, with a measly 17 points in 74 games in his rookie season, but he went on to accomplish 972 points in 1540 games in his career so far.

Shane Doan Stanley Cup
Shane Doan suiting up with the Winnipeg Jets in his rookie year. Photo courtesy of the Arizona Coyotes.

If Winnipeg expressed a desire to bring Doan from the desert to the arctic, it would not be in a top-six role. This leaves another six spots up for grabs and a slew of youngsters competing for them. Adam Lowry and Andrew Copp will be playing down the middle in the bottom-six with the ability to rotate duties on the wing with veteran Shawn Matthias. Three spots left are to be decided among Joel Armia, Kyle Connor, Marko Dano, Nic Petan and Brandon Tanev in an all-out battle in training camp.

Given the Jets’ draft and development model, head coach Paul Maurice will likely give the important ice-time to his younger players like the talented group above. It is a difficult task to cement a spot for Doan when he is no longer a top 12 player. At this juncture, given the Jets’ impressive group of prospects, taking roster spots and Doan’s desire to win a Cup in a one-year window, I would heavily discount any chance of Doan’s storybook return to Winnipeg.