On October 22, the Phoenix Coyotes defeated the Calgary Flames at Jobing.com Arena.
Not an extraordinary achievement. The game transpired less than two weeks into the regular season, and the contest remained just another blur in the whirlwind NHL season.
Defenseman Keith Yandle picked up two assists in that game, and that represented his multi-point game of the season. When reporters converged on Yandle after the contest, his first comment was directed to the player immediately to his left.
That would be Phoenix captain Shane Doan, who was scratched and not in the locker room that night.
“I missed all that yapping in my ear,” Yandle smiled at the time. “He’s always talking, always pointing out things, all showing us how to be better.”
Among his teammates, Doan’s absence that night speaks volumes about his presence and stature.
Phoenix coach Dave Tippett calls Doan, “one of the best captains in the league.” His ability to produce on the ice and communicate off the ice has made Doan well-respected and in demand.
Turn the clock back to last year and just before implementation of the lockout.
Doan was a free agent and made it known his preference was to remain in Phoenix. That decision was made in light of the Coyotes’ precarious financial state and indecision on possible location.
Still, possible suitors were not swayed.
Courted by the Flyers and whisked around Manhattan in a helicopter presented by the Rangers for the occasion, Doan remained unimpressed. With his family entrenched in the desert and four children enrolled in local schools, Doan concluded his future remained amid cactus and coyotes.
According to capgeek.com, Doan signed a four-year, $21 million deal and hoped for some kind of resolution to the Coyotes‘ four-year plight. When George Gosbee and his group IceArizona stepped forward, negotiations to purchase the team from the NHL began in earnest.
In early August, a deal was imminent and while the parties were dotting the “i’s” and crossing the “t’s,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made the only call he felt was necessary.
“I called Shane and told him what was happening,” Bettman said during an October 3 news conference at Jobing.com Arena. “Throughout the process, Shane was the first one I called every step of the way. He is the face of the franchise and very important to the team and the community.”
With Bettman’s emphasis on importance, Doan’s stature within the Phoenix organization, in particular, and the league at large was firmly cemented.
To complement his desire to remain with the Coyotes and play at a high level, Doan addressed a major medical issue in the recent offseason. Plagued for over a decade with hernia issues, Doan saw a specialist in Philadelphia this past summer and, given advances in treatment and technology, subsequent repairs were gratifying.
No longer troubled by constant pain, Doan is out of the gate with fury.
In the last nine games, and before Thursday’s clash with the Blackhawks in Chicago, Doan scored seven goals, and that puts the right-winger on track for a third 30-goal season.
In his usual fashion, Doan brushes his work ethic and contribution aside.
“You have to give credit to guys like (defensemen) Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Yandle for starting the plays," he said. “It’s an open season for them, and they make so many things happen. I’m fortunate to be in the right place at the right time and the beneficiary of their incredible talents.”
At age 37, Doan is skating like a player 10 years younger. On a line with Mike Ribeiro at center and David Moss on the left wing, Doan still takes a high number of minutes as a penalty killer and on the power play.
Oh yes, of his eight goals thus far, four have come on the power play. Only the Caps’ Alex Ovechkin (seven) has more.
To be fair, Doan is tied at five with Patrick Marleau of the Sharks, Matt Moulson, who started the season with the Islanders and was traded to Buffalo, and Zach Parise of Minnesota.
Still, that’s not too bad for a captain who always has the attention, not to mention the respect, of his teammates and Gary Bettman.
Mark Brown is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.
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