For the foreseeable future, this is a time of accountability for the Phoenix Coyotes.
Their captain, Shane Doan, is out indefinitely with an illness and the loss is more than that of just one player. At this point, his sickness remains unidentified and leaves the Coyotes scrambling to replace their leader.
Meeting with the media between the second and third period of Saturday’s game with the Carolina Hurricanes at Jobing.com Arena, Doan said his malady remains a mystery. In a voice weakened by sickness, Doan indicated that he has no timetable for a return—only that he's ”feeling better.”
Explaining that he felt weak just before the Coyotes’ game at Vancouver on Dec. 6, Doan received medication, missed that Canucks game, but came back with the team to Phoenix.
When the Coyotes left for Denver two days later, Doan was absent and his presence on the Coyotes’ upcoming four-game swing through eastern Canada is uncertain.
“You can’t replace a guy like Doan,” said forward Rob Klinkhammer after the Coyotes fell 3-1 to Carolina. “Look, guys get injured all the time and out of the lineup. Right now, everyone has to step up and fill the void.”
Leading Phoenix in goals scored and starting the season at a high level, Doan’s absence simply means other players need to be liable for the team’s fortunes.
“(Doan’s) loss is twofold,” said Phoenix coach Dave Tippett. “First, his leadership in and out of the locker room is enormous. He has a huge presence. Plus, he’s our leading goal scorer, a very good two-way player and one of our top forwards.”
Coming into the road trip, which begins Tuesday in Montreal, Doan missed the previous four games. The forecast for his return is bleak and speculation abounds as to the nature of the illness.
Some thought Doan could have Valley Fever, an illness indigenous to the desert southwest.
Valley Fever is a fungal infection that tends to linger.
Former Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Conor Jackson came down with the disease and ended up missing most of the 2009 season. That was after he hit .300 in 2008 with 12 home runs and 75 RBI. Jackson’s production declined dramatically and he eventually finished his baseball career with Oakland and Boston in 2011.
Until a diagnosis is revealed, Doan’s indicated he’ll continue to take medication and follow his doctor’s instructions.
“There’s no question that I want to get back on the ice,” Doan said in a frustrated voice. “We’re creatures of habit and I’m trying to get back to normal. I’m doing normal things around the house but I can tell you that every day, I’m feeling better.”
Tippett indicated that he saw Doan at the morning skate before the Carolina game, but added, “(Doan) has not much of anything the last week.”
This is clearly a frustrating time for Doan and his teammates.
It may be one thing to lose your top scorer, but in the case of the Coyotes, your leading scorer is also the heart and soul of the team.
“His locker room presence is huge,” said Paul Bissonnette, who scored the Coyotes’ lone goal against the Hurricanes. “It’s really hard to replace a guy like that, but we also have other guys out. It’s time for everyone to step forward.”
That’s not to mention the Coyotes have five of their next six on the road. That’s where their mettle will be tested.
Mark Brown is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.