Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Shane Doan
The face of a franchise

I like Shane Doan. He’s a standup guy, a devout Christian who married his high school sweetheart he met playing in Kamloops, a junior hockey player who didn’t go out and party or cast an eye at the puck-bunny throngs even when he hit the peak of teenage superstardom in the spring of 1995.

Doan arrived in Kamloops as a 16-year-old three years earlier, a late-bloomer who wasn’t taken in the WHL’s bantam draft. He was a big kid way back then, straight off the Halkirk ranch, and really started to emerge the next season as a top-flight candidate for the 1995 entry draft. It didn’t hurt that he was playing on some of the most dominant junior teams of all time, but Doan still managed to outshine many of his teammates, a group that included the likes of Jarome Iginla (who, admittedly, is eight months younger).

Doan was the Memorial Cup MVP in May, 1995, and was drafted seventh overall by the Winnipeg Jets two months later. Iginla, meanwhile, was further down the Blazers depth chart, a less-heralded second-liner who would drop to 11th in that same draft.

Looking back, it’s almost as if Doan’s sudden transformation into a junior star hit a wall when he turned pro the next season with a terrible Winnipeg team. He managed just 22 goals and 62 points in his first 249 NHL games, a tough way to spend your first four years of pro hockey.

Doan has since developed into a dependable 25-goal, 60-point player, the kind of big-bodied winger a ton of NHL teams would love to have patrolling their second line. What he shouldn’t be is the “face of the franchise,” which is the term we’re hearing bandied about today after he signed a mammoth five-year, $23-million contract extension.

Unfortunately, it’s a designation that’s perhaps fitting for a captain whose franchise has been short on recognizable faces — save for the one behind the bench — in its 10-season history.

Doan is 30 years old, and will turn 35 in the first week of the last year of this contract. One would be hard-pressed to make an argument that he’s ready to step up and provide any more offence than he has to this point. If anything, he’s primed for a drop-off, something we’ve begun to see this season with just 19 goals and 35 points through 48 games.

Is that worth $4.6-million in today’s economic system? I doubt it. But when you’re the Coyotes, you need a face for your franchise, a tie to the past that keeps the continuum of mediocrity in the desert intact.

Like I said, I like Shane Doan. It’s just unfortunate that his hockey career hit its plateau 12 years ago at Riverside Coliseum.

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At 6:55 p.m., February 14, 2007, Anonymous David Johnson said...

"a devout Christian"

It's a bit of a pet peeve of mine but why do people think it is important to state someones religious beliefs when praising that person. There are devout Christian's who are not good people. There are non-Christian's who are great people. Isn't saying he is "a standup guy" enough?

As for the contract, it is a bit high considering but not excessively. Jason Arnott got $4.5 million per year and I would consider Arnott and Doan similar players who bring similar attrributes to the game. The contract doesn't make Doan a bargain but I don't think it is an outrageous contract either.

At 7:15 p.m., February 14, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Point taken on the Christian business; I'd debated whether or not to say that. (Then again, this is a blog, and there are errors and/or misjudgments that make it in all the time. Except on your blog, of course.)

And Arnott certainly seems to be more of a bargain at that price point this season.

At 7:28 p.m., February 14, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

(Besides, calling him a Christian gives you a piece of information that adds more than saying he's simply a standup guy. It certainly paints more of a picture, and does so in a smaller space than detailing all of his various charity works. I'm more interested in telling you what sort of person he is rather than extolling the virtues of his religion. What sort of person is he? Not just "a standup guy" — a throwaway line that could mean something but more than likely doesn't — but a religious prairie boy who left home at a young age to make good in hockey.)

At 7:47 p.m., February 14, 2007, Anonymous showtyme21 said...

Unreal, here we're talking about a great guy and a great ambassador for the game, and we're nitpicking about James' use of devout Christian.

I appreciated the article James, and I wasn't offended by anything YOU wrote in the article. Keep up the good work.

At 9:27 p.m., February 14, 2007, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

I like Shane Doan. I have no particular use for the Coyotes. I think they should have paid him twice that, and for eight years instead of five.

At 1:57 a.m., February 15, 2007, Anonymous Dan said...

Given Doan's dismal history in terms of being on winning/playoff teams, I wonder if he cares that he's staying on a team that isn't going to contend for the next two years and maybe (probably) not at all during the course of his contract.
It's not like he Phoenix would have been his only option - as James points out, he'd be an attractive secondary guy for plenty of teams that actually have a chance at going deep in the post-season. And I don't think he would have been giving up a great deal of money to go elsewhere.
So this a strange deal from the team's side, and from the player's as well.

At 11:07 a.m., February 15, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Write what you like. It's part of the context when talking about someone. I'm sick of reading stories where players are euphemistically referred to as "enigmas" when what's really meant is lazy sonofabitch universally hated by teammates and regretted by management. Or "leader" when what's meant is the guy is a bald, overpaid prima dona several years past his prime who demands icetime totally out of proportion to his on-ice contributions and who now expects an entire city to bow down in thanksgiving. Wait, I've gone on too long.

At 12:45 p.m., February 15, 2007, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

So this a strange deal from the team's side, and from the player's as well.

Maybe he likes Phoenix. Maybe he likes his boss. Maybe winning a championship wouldn't feel as special for him if he chose a team based upon its likelihood to win one even if he doesn't join.

It doesn't seem strange to me at all. Sports is about excellence and pushing yourself. Jumping from a bad team to a good team based solely upon the new team's already existent quality does not mean that the player has become any better than he already was; it just means that he's found a more talented bunch of teammates.

I understand the motivation of players who just want to hoist the Cup once, and will manage the late stages of their careers with that as a sole goal. At the same time, I don't think that players that aren't so motivated should be criticized.


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