On June 19, the Arizona Coyotes announced they would not be offering captain Shane Doan a new contract, despite his NHL-best 10 years as leader of the team, and 21 in the organization. The 40-year-old right wing retired just over two months later.
Owner Andrew Barroway and general manager John Chayka made the call. They saw a need to focus on the future and transition leadership.
“After serious consideration, we have decided to not offer [Doan] a contract for the upcoming season. The time has come for us to move on and to focus on our young, talented group of players and our very bright future,” Barroway said in a statement via NHL.com.
“This was a very difficult decision given what Shane has done for the Coyotes and his unparalleled importance to the organization. With that said, this is necessary to move us forward as a franchise.”
“I wasn’t expecting it so there was an element of surprise,” Doan told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
“It was the owner’s decision. He chose that he wanted to go with the younger group.”
Arizona Coyotes Forcing Out Shane Doan was a Bad Idea
While Doan was his ever-understanding and diplomatic self, his comments identify a level of bitterness about the situation. Barroway later admitted he could have handled the situation better by informing his captain himself.
“I want to make a decision that’s right and not just out of competitiveness and anger,” Doan said when discussing retirement.
“To the fans, I’ve been treated so much better than so many guys with more talent than me. I’m sure grateful.”
Perhaps a measure of karma came back to bite Arizona, as their start to the season was the league’s worst in 74 years.
Through plenty of soul-searching, the ‘Yotes would’ve greatly benefited from Doan’s leadership. He was there through each and every peril the club has faced over the past two decades since moving from Winnipeg. This year, he was not.
“When you have more young guys than you do veteran guys, it starts to become — the room gets turned a little bit,” Shane Doan recently said, discussing his former team’s start.
“It becomes more about, am I in the lineup tonight? Because if I’m in the lineup tonight, I’m happy. I know we’ve lost 10 in a row, but I’m still playing in the NHL. There’s an element to that which is so hard to get past.
“The situation they’re in, it’s inevitable for that to happen.”
Still, Chayka defended the decision to part with Doan.
“Shane did a phenomenal job for a long time but we had to transition our leadership. That’s what gets missed from what happened over the summer,” the 28-year-old told ESPN.
“At some point, we need people who are in the primes of their careers to step up and be leaders. Right now, it’s awkward. It takes some time. But we had to go through it. It’s not like we’re devoid of leadership.”
It is hard to argue with what we do not see behind the scenes. However, Arizona’s 11 losses to start the season is solid evidence against Chayka’s “devoid of leadership” claims.
There is a power void in Glendale right now, and their old captain was not exactly ready to vacate it.
It will not be known whether this was a good decision for the organization or not for some time. Not until someone like Max Domi, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Niklas Hjalmarsson or even Clayton Keller steps up and takes the captaincy by force.
We know the Coyotes are weaker as the game goes on. New Head Coach Rick Tocchet has questioned the fitness of his men. They have given up 42% of an NHL-leading 74 goals against in the third period. They have lead in 14 of their 19 games.
If Doan were on the ice to kick off the third period, or there to address the team after a goal against, how many of these losses would be wins? What about if he were just around the organization at all?
He is not, despite the fact many assumed Doan would be offered a job by the Coyotes after his retirement. Instead, he is in Hockey Operations with the NHL.
“We are thrilled to welcome Shane, whose vast experience and in-depth knowledge of the game will be invaluable to the League office,” vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell said when introducing Doan in his new role.
“We look forward to calling upon his two decades of playing experience – particularly his incomparable understanding of the game as it is being played today.”
These all sound like qualities Arizona could have used in their own organization this year, be it on the ice or off it.
Main Photo: TORONTO, ON – DECEMBER 15: Shane Doan #19 of the Arizona Coyotes skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on December 15, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Coyotes defeated the Maple Leafs 3-2 in an overtime shoot-out. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)