Author's Note: This article is part of a four-part series examining key players on the surprising Phoenix Coyotes squad so far this season. These four players are the ones who have had the greatest impact on the team's success so far this season, helping the Coyotes to overcome numerous off-ice distractions. Each of these players is on this list for different reasons, as each has contributed uniquely to the team's overall success. The other three articles in the series can be found here, here and here.
Nobody would blame the players on the Phoenix Coyotes if they performed poorly this season.
Their club doesn't have any owners (the NHL controls the team right now), and it appears as if they are unwanted, with few parties interested in purchasing the team.
The city of Glendale, where the Coyotes play, is embroiled in a legal battle that further clouds the future of the franchise. Fan support has never been all that great.
The Coyote team is essentially the NHL's neglected stepchild.
Being successful in these conditions is quite difficult. After all, if nobody else believes in the Coyotes, why should they believe in themselves?
Yet, despite all of the off-ice hardships facing the Phoenix Coyotes, the team is currently tied for first in the Pacific Division, despite playing one fewer game so far than the other teams tied for first.
One of the major reasons for the 'Yotes' unlikely success is the leadership of captain Shane Doan.
Which player has been the most important to the Coyotes' success this season?
Doan is starting to reach the twilight of his career, and his stats have declined. While he is fourth on the team in points, his plus/minus rating is a less-than-stellar minus-three.
However, Doan's most important contribution to the team is not goals, assists or plus/minus numbers. His captaincy and leadership abilities are perhaps the single most important factor allowing the Coyotes to overcome the off-ice distractions.
Doan has been with the team for every season it has played in Phoenix, and he was with it even back when it was the Winnipeg Jets.
Doan's entire career has been spent with this franchise.
No player has given as much to the Phoenix Coyotes as Shane Doan, and no player cares about this team as much as he does. A whole lot of blood, sweat and tears have gone into Doan's 14 seasons with the club.
Doan is not about to let any off-ice struggles serve as an excuse for him or his team to perform poorly or play without a sense of purpose or focus. He deserves most of the credit for the way the Coyotes have been able to keep up a high level of play and effort during these difficult times.
Doan's leadership skills are perhaps the best of any player in the league. There is a reason he has served as the captain of Team Canada, which has no shortage of qualified captains to choose from.
Honestly, the city of Glendale could learn a thing or two from Doan about how to run an efficient team. If city officials were half as good at their jobs as Doan is at his, the Coyotes wouldn't be facing all these off-ice difficulties in the first place.