captain Shane Doan
proves his genuine worth in numerous ways, leading his team in scoring, power-play goals, hits and takeaways. But there's more.
Doan leads the Coyotes in the most important way: He sets the tone for the way he wants his team to play through total commitment to his craft. Best of all, he's the kind of leader people want to follow.
Ask around NHL front offices and they'll tell you Doan's skill set includes strong skating, a quick shot, tough, physical play and a high level of competitiveness. Ask his teammates, coaches and general manager and they stress his mentoring skills. Doan is the man to go to for advice, assistance and encouragement.
"Shane is a player that everybody loves," Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney
said. "No issues, outstanding citizen, plays hard, blocks shots, sacrifices his body to win. He's been terrific for the two years that I've been here.
"Shane is really the heartbeat of the team, and I believe the longest tenure of anyone in the organization. I like the way he sets the tone on how to approach the game, his professionalism. He treats people with respect and he has a great work ethic. He's the last one off the ice at practice. He can be a brute, physical force."
Doan feels setting the tone for the organization is part of his job.
"You want to be an example with the way you carry yourself," he said. "I'm representing the Phoenix Coyotes
, the NHL, and all hockey players who played before me. And you want to communicate that message to the younger players. When you ask the media, they'll say hockey players are the easiest to get along with -- and it's our job to continue that.
"I think it's really important to help out the new guys on the team. Maybe the most important thing you can do as a captain is make sure every player knows you appreciate him and what he does."
It's every hockey player's goal to play in the National Hockey League, and that first call-up can be an exhilarating time. But walking into an NHL dressing room for the first time can be intimidating. That's not the case in Phoenix, according to Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle
"I remember my first summer, I went out to Phoenix to work out before training camp," Yandle said. "I knew who Shane was, the captain of the team and an All-Star player. I was kind of afraid to approach him, me a kid just out of high school, but he came up to me and introduced himself, asked me questions about myself, like what do my friends call me, and encouraged me. He did that every day all summer. I could tell he was a very genuine person.
"He's the captain because of the way he plays. That's No. 1. He shows up every day, every game, every shift and he works harder than anyone else. That's a challenge to every one of us. I watch him in games and ask myself, 'What do I have to do to get up to his level?'"
Doan feels that's all part of being a leader.
"When someone new comes in, I try to make sure I give him good advice on who to talk to and where to go," Doan said. "It goes so far as pointing a guy in the right direction. If a guy is looking for a good place for his family, good neighborhood, schools, etc., we'll tell him here's an area we found that works. I try to go through everything a player might need away from the rink, because if a guy is comfortable off the ice, it will be reflected in his play on the ice."
Don't confuse Doan with some goody two-shoes, however. He knows a dressing room is a place for teasing and pranks. When Doan was told young defenseman Zbynek
Michalek, a big, good-natured kid, had nice things to say about him, Doan's voice dropped a level and he admitted: "I've had to apologize to 'Z' for doing things I shouldn't have done in the locker room" -- and then cracked up laughing.
Maloney sees that side of Doan and knows how much it's needed on a team that's struggling while being cast in a new mold.
"You want to be an example with the way you carry yourself. I'm representing the Phoenix Coyotes, the NHL, and all hockey players who played before me. And you want to communicate that message to the younger players. When you ask the media, they'll say hockey players are the easiest to get along with -- and it's our job to continue that."
-- Shane Doan
"He has fun. Watch him on the ice," Maloney said. "He plays one-on-one in practice with the younger guys. If there's anyone on the team that doesn't need to spend time with the power-skating coach, it's Shane, but he does. It drives me berserk to see Shane on the ice after practice and the 19- and 20-year-olds sitting in the dressing room. A young player should watch Shane and realize that this is what it takes to have a long NHL career.
"Shane has a loving and caring family around him, and he's a very nice man and a good person. But don't kid yourself -- he has a burning desire to make it happen here in the desert."
That includes taking players aside for brief conversations about hockey or life outside hockey. It's his way of never getting too far away from his teammates.
"I definitely listen to problems and I want teammates to feel comfortable that they can talk to me," Doan said. "Especially when they have questions, like, 'Why is this happening to me? What's going on?' I take the approach that I should encourage and coaches should criticize. I will speak if a guy asks me why something isn't working, but I'm not going to be another guy telling him (unsolicited) what he's doing wrong, if the coaches are doing that. That's their job, to point out our mistakes.
"If I see something during play, I might tell a younger player to do it this way and you'll gain more time. If I can help a guy with faceoffs, shooting or where to position along the wall, that's helpful. It's not helpful to say you're doing it wrong. It is helpful to say try this and see if it works better.
"Now, if someone is being stubborn or selfish, then maybe I'll speak to him about it. Mostly, my job is encouragement."