Back in August, Shane Doan
was in Calgary at the 2010 Canadian men's Olympic orientation camp, watching the Phoenix Coyotes
ownership saga unfold from afar.
The Coyotes' heart and soul freely admitted he was as much in the dark about the franchise's future as any fair-weather fan. But Doan was adamant about one thing — seven years without a taste of playoffs would turn anyone away, desert or no desert.
"We haven't won. You can't blame the fans, or the city, or the area, one bit for the fact that we haven't won," he said at the time. "If you went seven years without making the playoffs? And not even being close? You'd see what any hockey city would be like, especially when you have as many options as Phoenix.
"But if you win in Phoenix, they'll support you and love you. If we're able to win, people will come out and cheer for us. If we're able to make the playoffs they'll come out and support us huge," added Doan. "It's really going to come down to the players and the organization and winning. When we win, it'll be OK."
Against long odds — with a blue-collar roster, a coach who arrived after training camp had started, and the NHL owning the club in the interim — the Coyotes have won.
Nine times in their first 13 games this season, in fact, with a 13-10-1 record that has them on the cusp of playoff territory were the postseason to begin tomorrow. The Coyotes finished up a two-game road trip through Alberta on Wednesday night against the Calgary Flames
"We recognized, I think, as players that we really can't control anything other than what's happening on the ice," Doan, 33, the team's captain since 2003-04, told NHL.com Wednesday morning at the Pengrowth Saddledome. "We've heard nothing but negative press about Phoenix and the whole situation for most of the summer.
"As a player, having an opportunity to contribute something positive to the situation . . . guys are taking pride in that, bringing the whole room together really nicely."
To date, the Coyotes have drawn an announced crowd of more than 10,000 during six of 12 dates at their home rink, Jobing.com Arena in suburban Glendale, Ariz.
"Without a doubt. There's no doubt in my mind that we could make it in Phoenix," Doan said on Wednesday. "We've never really established that we could win, for a long time. The city and the valley supports every single major sporting franchise incredibly well, because of the people that come to visit.
"But you have to win in order for those people to come. We feel like we haven't played our best game yet, like we haven't had a stretch where we've been as good as we can be … we think we can be a lot better."
Former Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes, had said that the NHL would never succeed in Arizona. Coyotes defenseman Adrian Aucoin
, like Doan, disagrees wholeheartedly with that sentiment.
"It can happen anywhere," Aucoin told NHL.com on Wednesday. "Look at the States. Look at any professional team besides the (Dallas) Cowboys or the (New York) Yankees — you have to win. We know that. And that's kind of what we're fighting for."
Doan, while counting himself among the group of Phoenix forwards that he believes needs to improve, is once again leading the Coyote charge offensively, with 6 goals and 16 points through 24 games prior to Wednesday's game.
"On all the stats that we keep — scoring chances for and against, things like that — he's at the top of the pack for us all the time," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett
said. "He's had some tough luck around the net, but his presence . . . I think he's one of the best leaders I've seen.
"He reminds me a lot of Brenden Morrow
(Tippett's captain in Dallas), the way he conducts himself, the way he plays hard every night," Tippett added. "He's an honest player who'll give you an honest effort every night. From your leadership, that's a great thing to have."