It's not just a perk of playing in Phoenix. Shane Doan
considers it his duty as captain of the Coyotes to make his teammates feel right at home.
"If you're enjoying the game, you're more creative on the ice," Doan told NHL.com. "As captain, I'm just trying to make it so that you find things the guys like to do and you want to do it with them to make sure they're enjoying themselves and they're comfortable. For a young player, it's important to feel comfortable in the dressing room with the guys."
Considering the Coyotes have 10 players younger than 24, it's no wonder the 32-year-old Doan is beginning to sound like a father figure.
Learn more about Doan on Thursday, Nov. 27 at 8 p.m., when he is the subject of "Captains Driven By Bridgestone," a 20-part original series on the NHL Network.
Now in his 13th NHL season, the veteran left wing has long exhibited passion on the ice and compassion within the dressing room. Since earning the captaincy in September 2003, Doan has led the team in scoring each season and has posted eight-straight seasons of 20-plus goals and 50-plus points.
"I wish I was scoring 30 goals a season," said Doan, the Coyotes' last active player who also played for the Winnipeg Jets (1995-96). "It's something you begin to appreciate when you've been in the League a while, but at the same time, we haven't really done much in the playoffs since I've been here. I'll take a lot more pride in scoring in the playoffs every year; that's something we strive for and should strive for."
In 32 Stanley Cup Playoff games spanning six seasons, Doan has 6 goals and 12 points and never won a playoff series. The Coyotes came close in 1998-99, but were eliminated in the Western Conference quarterfinal round by the St. Louis Blues in seven games. Doan had 2 goals and 4 points and was a career-best plus-4 in the series.
"For us to consistently make the playoffs, it's going to take us growing as a team and hovering around the .500 mark early every season," Doan said. "As the young guys get more used to doing the little things right, we're going to become a better team. I think the opening two months of the year are big for us. We have to find a way to continue to battle and stay around .500 before making that second-half push."
Perhaps center Olli Jokinen, who was acquired in a summer trade with the Florida Panthers, said it best when describing the team leader.
"He keeps his game really simple and that makes it so much easier to play," Jokinen said. "If you had 20 Shane Doans on your team, you most likely would be battling for the Stanley Cup every single year. The work ethic he puts on the ice every day has been great."
Having the opportunity to work alongside Jokinen and play a part in the maturation of many of the League's brightest young stars, including Mikkel Boedker
, Kyle Turris, Viktor Tikhonov
and Peter Mueller, has been a real treat for Doan.
"As the years go by, I think it's getting easier for me because you start to understand the game more and just find ways to get comfortable," Doan said. "You begin to realize that you have time to do this and don't have time to do that. Going to practice and working on different things with one of the young guys is something I enjoy doing. If you see somebody who wants to work on something, like 'Turry' (Turris) on faceoffs or 'Ports' (Kevin Porter) on passing, I'm all for it. I've worked with Turry at the end of practice and we kind of goof around and take a bunch of draws against each other. Ports and I continue to work on one-time passing. It's all part of trying to make it fun, yet competitive."
"He's definitely made it an unbelievable experience," Mueller said. "A lot of young guys coming into the program are a little nervous, but when you have guys like Shane, they've made it a lot easier for us coming in and playing right away. He's been in the League since he's 19, so he knows exactly what to do. He tells people what to do and people listen. When he talks, everyone listens. He's our leader, our captain. He knows what it takes to be a pro."
Doan also is grateful to be coached by a former captain himself in Wayne Gretzky.
"His knowledge of the game is second to none," Doan said. "Sure, he's a great player, but the fact he played so many games and has been involved in so many key situations is what has really benefitted me. He's played in Canada Cups, the Olympics and the Stanley Cup Final, so to be able to listen to him and discuss his approach to different situations is great."
As he did with his teammates in Edmonton for so many years, Gretzky stresses outnumbering the opposition in order to create better scoring chances.
"Wayne wants to see us create 2-on-1's and mismatches off the transition because if you can outnumber your opponent, that's when you have the best advantage," Doan said. "He talks a lot about that and, as a team, the need to get a lot better at that by using each other to create those odd-man rushes.
"He wants us to go to the net more and some of the young guys tend to rely more on their skill because that's what has worked for them in the past, but he wants everyone to understand that going hard to the net is vital. It's difficult to score, but you got to get (to the net) and be willing to pay the price."
Paying the price is something Doan his done his entire career, and he has no intention of slowing down now.
Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer