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Doan’s Departure: It wasn’t perfect but it’s real

Reality bites, but facing it might be the best thing for both the Coyotes and Shane Doan.

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Minnesota Wild v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

In a perfect world, the Arizona Coyotes would have found a way to accelerate the rebuild that started just two years ago to win a Stanley Cup, and long time Captain Shane Doan could ride off into the sunset like the cowboy he’s always wanted to be.

BREAKING: The world is not perfect.

It was announced on Monday that the Coyotes and Doan would be parting ways. When the season starts in October, for the first time in its 21 years of existence in the desert, the franchise will not be announcing his name during the player introductions at the home opener.

Fans took to Twitter and Facebook to express all the various stages of the grieving process, from anger to acceptance. Some, including Doan’s agent Terry Bross, have accused the ownership group of mishandling the situation.

If we take a step back, the first thing we have to ask is: what is the situation?

Simply put, Doan thinks he should continue in the NHL as a player and the Coyotes disagreed. There are reports that the organization offered him a front office position, but even if they are true, Doan isn’t ready to stop playing.

Here’s a dose of reality for Doan and the fans: as long as an NHL team is willing to sign him, there will probably never be a time when he’s ready to retire. Should the Coyotes continue to sign him year after year even if they feel he should be done on the ice? Is that more respectful?

Next, we have to look at the way it was done. Fortunately, Sarah McLellan of AZ Central reported the full details. It’s not like GM John Chayka told Doan that he was just too old and busted to keep up with the new speed of the younger players. Doan described it as a corporate firing, which is another way of saying it was a professional business-like way of dealing with the situation. Is that a terrible way of telling someone something they don’t want to hear? Does a good way exist? There really is no good way of letting someone know their services are no longer required.

Sometimes it takes saying goodbye to get a chance at a new opportunity. In the past, and especially around the most recent trade deadline, Doan had considered leaving the Coyotes to chase a Cup but always chose to stay. In media interviews, he had always maintained that he would only do it if it was “the absolute perfect situation”, but a perfect situation never materialized. Now that he’s been cut loose from the weight of his Arizona legacy, he has the option to choose a less-than-perfect situation and perhaps fulfill his dream of hoisting the Stanley Cup. If he feels he is not done playing he deserves that chance and the Coyotes have granted it to him with no strings attached. They may have even provided him with the motivation to prove them wrong.

The ending to Doan’s days as a Coyotes player wasn’t perfect, but fans have to face up to the fact that with where the team is at right now, it never was going to be perfect. Even if Doan had decided to retire there would still be some people upset that he didn’t have a better season or that he had played reduced minutes. Some would blame his retirement on the Martin Hanzal or the Mike Smith trades. At least now, the angry fans get to channel their bitterness at the ultimate villain, the millionaire owner of the sports team, instead of at Doan or at management.

That anger and bitterness are understandable and a necessary part of the grieving process, fans are witnessing the end of an era. Before anyone makes decisions on their future as a Coyotes fan, they need to work through that process.

Hopefully, once they are through it, they’ll realize that Doan wasn’t the only player they loved. That players who are still with the team, like Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Tobias Rieder, and Jordan Martinook are still worthy of cheering for. That the newest crop of rookies like Christian Dvorak, Jakob Chychrun, Clayton Keller, and Dylan Strome deserve to feel the loyalty that Doan has taught the fans by example. That the new reported Captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson is going to need the full support of the fans to help him live up to the very large shoes he has to fill.

For many people, Shane Doan is the reason they fell in love with the Coyotes. Don’t also make him the reason you stopped loving them.