In today's NHL, it is rare for a player to earn the title: lifer, to stay with the same team for his entire career.
Shane Doan is a lifer.
Professional hockey is always going through changes. Nothing is a sure thing. No team knows this more than the Arizona Coyotes, who over the past 20 years have been through the gauntlet. The team has experienced relocation, a name change and a variety of different jerseys. They have been sold, twice in fact, once to the NHL and once to the current owners, the Renaissance Sports and Entertainment group. During this process, there were persistent rumors of more relocation. Oh, and to top it all off, while Wayne Gretzky (yes, that Wayne Gretzky) was their coach in the mid 2000's, assistant coach Rick Tocchet was involved in a gambling scandal.
It has been quite the ride.
However, through all these variables, the Coyotes have found a constant. A player that, for the past 18 years, has suited up each and every season for the club. More players have come and gone from the organization than the amount of hair on Jim Balsillie's head, yet for the past 10 seasons, the team has only had one captain. Doan is the longest serving captain in the league and it is not even close.
With all of the advanced stats that we have access to in this day and age, no stat can measure a player's heart, or what he brings to a team in the locker room. A number cannot be placed on a player's leadership abilities. It would be nearly impossible for stat heads to figure out ways to calculate a player's value in these areas, but a way will be figured out. It may not be accurate, but that is the way the game is going. Until then, we can assume from what we see, that Doan is the heart and soul of the Coyotes. He is the undisputed team leader. Even after 18 years in the NHL, Doan knows when to put forth, and can be counted on for a solid game when needed most. Like Ken Dryden said in his book ‘The Game,' when a player becomes a presence on the ice, there are things that he doesn't need to do, because it is assumed, and known, that he can do them. Shane Doan is a presence on the ice.
Every Coyotes fan has a favorite Shane Doan moment. Some older fans remember his game winning goal against the LA Kings, way back in his rookie season, in the final game of the year that clinched a playoff berth. He only scored seven goals that year, but notched arguably the biggest one of his career. Younger fans may remember the magical run to the Western Conference Final in 2012, when Doan finally got the monkey off his back and made it beyond the first round of the playoffs. Doan's first career hat trick, also coming in that 2012 season, was special in the sense that he worked so hard, and the drama that came with it. Remember, the goal was scored with just milliseconds remaining, and had to be reviewed by the NHL head office. Eighteen years of the now 37-year-old has provided fans with many moments that will be etched in their memories forever.
Like fine wine, Doan has gotten better with age. Many of his best years have come since turning 30. There is no question that he is a franchise great. Dating back to the Winnipeg Jets days, he is the franchise leader in games played, second in career points and goals and third in assists. There is no reason to believe he will not become the franchise leader in all of those categories gicen a couple more seasons. He is even third all-time in penalty minutes.
But is he Hall of Fame worthy?
Unfortunately, right now, the short answer is no. His counting stat levels just are not at the level where they need to be. If he can manage to break the 1000 point barrier, the discussion will pick up. But for now, his 0.66 career point-per-game average is not going to cut it. He does still have time to carve out a better case for the voters.
Doan is the only remaining player on Arizona who played for the team when they were based in Winnipeg. He played key roles on teams that have been to a conference championship (such as the 2011/12 team), and seen his fair share of last and near last place teams. By season's end, Doan will be 38 years old, and in a league where players generally do not play beyond the age of 40, there is no question that his career is winding down. Nobody would blame him if he politely asked for a trade to a contender in the near future, as he has given the Coyotes all that was asked of him, and plenty more. Until that day, which may never come, he remains the captain, leader and heart of the Coyotes.