There’s rage and rationalization. There’s a lack of loyalty, tangling with the lure of logic. There’s the beginning of the franchise’s next era, which apparently could only arrive without the death of the previous one.
“It was the owner’s decision,” said Doan, in an interview with Burns and Gambo on Monday, in reference to Coyotes owner Andrew Barroway. “He chose that he wanted to go with the younger group, and me being around might have delayed things. Sometimes you gotta rip the band-aid off.”
Barroway has every right to move the Coyotes forward, but moving forward shouldn’t feel like this. Like a betrayal. Like a snub. Like a Coyotes lifer didn’t get to go out on his own terms. “They made [the decision] for me,” said Doan.
Doan found out about his fate on Saturday. GM John Chayka – who was seven years old when Doan began his NHL career with the Winnipeg Jets, so this must have been quite a conversation – called him for a meeting. Doan said it was quickly apparent what the meeting was about.
“He told me face to face, and thanked me for my time and my services,” said Doan, who was shocked, but did his best to keep his reaction muted. “I didn’t want to do anything in the moment that would be unprofessional. I’m an emotional guy. Sometimes it gets the better of me.”
He was in the process of calling his longtime friend and teammate Mike Smith to tell him the news when Doan’s wife stopped him, informing Doan that he and Smith were now both former Coyotes: Smith, their starting goalie, had been traded to the Calgary Flames.
“They were making sure they were getting rid of things that were from the past,” said Doan.
Doan is a relic. He turns 41 in October and is coming off, statistically, his meekest season since 1999 with six goals and 21 assists in 74. He’s lost several steps. If the Coyotes are going young and fast, Doan is neither.
But the thing is that he knows this. The hockey part isn’t the issue. “I wasn’t shocked that they didn’t want me to play again. I understand the direction that they’re going,” said Doan. “I don’t completely agree with a lot of the decisions that they’ve made, but at the same time it has to be reaffirmed that I’m a player. You sometimes think you’re bigger than you are, but you’re a player. You’re paid to play.”
Doan wants to play on. His agent Terry Bross said, via Craig Morgan: “Shane is ready to enter the free-agent market and see where it goes. Time for him to get a shot at the Cup.”
It’s a shot he never earned with the Coyotes, having played just 55 playoff games in 21 seasons with the ineptly managed franchise; winning a playoff round with the Jets and Coyotes just once in 2012, when they went to the conference finals.
Through those losing years, Doan’s had a Forrest Gump-like career with the franchise. He was there when the Jets left for the desert. He was there for Teemu Selanne, for Jeremy Roenick, for Brett Hull and for Keith Tkachuk. He was there when Wayne Gretzky owned the team and then coached the team. He was there for that crazy peyote jersey. He was there for every relocation rumor, every Glendale City Council drama, the bankruptcy, the NHL ownership, the stress and strain of an uncertain future.
All of it.
Yes, there’s a reason to keep a player like that around, as a mentor or father figure or all the things Doan’s been to generations of players. But from a hockey perspective, even though the fire still burns in him, it’s hard to argue that one more year at $3 million, for a team so far from being competitive that they barely had enough quality players to scrape together an expansion draft protected list, was feasible. Clearly Barroway, who recently bought out the team’s minority owners to run the whole show, felt it was good business.
“The time has come for us to move on and to focus on our young, talented group of players and our very bright future,” he said, in a statement. “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.”
This split was about a year in the making. Doan was open to a trade to a contender at the deadline for the first time, but nothing materialized. His last home game, filled with hugs and tributes, felt like goodbye, even if Doan was adamant that it might not be. “Two weeks ago, there was no way I was retiring,” Doan said. “Five days ago, I definitely was. Two days ago, I definitely wasn’t,” he said on April 9.
The last time we felt this was Mike Modano being shown the door with the Dallas Stars in 2010. Both players spent their careers with one franchise. Both were iconic in their own ways. Like with Doan, the decision not to tender a contract to Mike Modano was a point of passionate debate among Dallas fans.
But Modano’s story had a rather perfect final chapter, with his Hollywood ending in Minnesota. Doan’s story, because of how this all went down, doesn’t feel like it has the same finality. As surreal as it was to see Modano wearing the Winged Wheel in his forgettable last season, there’s a chance we’ll see Doan in something even more oddly fitting.
That is, if another team will have him.
If they won’t, then perhaps Doan can put this behind him and do what we all assumed he’d eventually do, which is join the Coyotes as an executive. Craig Morgan reports that while Chayka didn’t initially offer Doan a role with the team if he retires, there is an offer now.
And so one hopes this punch in the gut to Doan and some Coyotes fans just momentarily knocks the wind out of them. That Doan and the organization can let the emotions subside, mend any broken relationships, and keep him within the only organization he’s known.
“You understand. It’s unfortunate, but it’s part of the game,” said Doan. “I’m aware of the incredible run that I got to have with them.”
Hopefully it continues.
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