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Five Questions: Doan on Coyotes' surprising first half

by Dan Rosen

NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.

The latest edition features Arizona Coyotes captain Shane Doan:

Though Arizona Coyotes captain Shane Doan has given some thought to his future beyond this season, the present is just too exciting and meaningful to be kept up at night thinking about what's next, about whether he wants to keep playing.

"I haven't made a decision one way or the other," said Doan, 39, who is in the final year of his contract. "This year is a long ways from being over."

Maybe longer than was originally expected.

Many pundits predicted the Coyotes would again be in the lottery, with a chance to win the opportunity to select Arizona native and top prospect Auston Matthews in the 2016 NHL Draft. More than halfway through the season, they're instead in the thick of the Stanley Cup Playoff race, and bolstering their position with each passing game.

Shane Doan
Right Wing - ARI
GOALS: 15 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 22
SOG: 81 | +/-: -2
Arizona is second in the Pacific Division (the top three teams in each division make the playoffs) with 46 points, including 15 out of a possible 20 in their past 10 games (7-1-2). The Coyotes have won three in a row and are 4-0-1 in their past five games heading into their game against the Edmonton Oilers at Gila River Arena on Tuesday.

Doan is turning back the clock on his career; he has 15 goals in 32 games after scoring 14 in 79 games last season. He passed Dale Hawerchuk for most goals in Winnipeg Jets/Coyotes franchise history (383) on Dec. 31 and is nine points from tying Hawerchuk's record (929).

"Oh, I mean, he did it in, what, 700 games (713)? I'm going to do it, if I'm fortunate enough to get there, in like 1,500 (he's played 1,426 so far)," Doan said in his typically modest fashion. "It's a little different. Obviously, I don't take it lightly. It would mean a lot to me. Being that I grew up watching that era and being a big fan of all those guys, it would be pretty special."

Doan went on to talk about the surprisingly special season the Coyotes appear to be having, why that is, how they've done it, and what he makes of it all. He also answered a bonus question at the end.

Here are Five Questions (plus a bonus) with…Shane Doan:

The Coyotes are in a playoff spot right now, second in the division and 7-1-2 in the past 10. Does this surprise you at all, because around the League most people are surprised?

"Well, I always think you're better than what others think you are, but at the same time, it's impossible not to be swayed by the so-called experts' opinion. At the beginning of the year, we thought we were going to be OK. We looked at the four centermen we had and that we brought in that weren't with us at the end of last year, with Martin Hanzal, Antoine Vermette, Brad Richardson and Boyd Gordon, and you think if you have one of those four guys on the ice at all times, you're going to be OK. So we were thinking we were going to be OK, but at the same time where we were being picked is always going to skew what you're thinking. It's hard not to. But at the same time, I thought we had a shot at being in the playoff hunt if we got good goaltending. I mean, that's everything. And we're getting good goaltending.

"When we did make it to the [Western] Conference Final, that's four years ago. That was fun, but the last couple, and especially last year, was the hard year. So yeah, you're excited, but I think the thing that's so exciting is the young guys have played such a big role in our team being better. If your team is going to have long-term success, it always starts with the young guys being the core and central guys. You can bring in and add a guy here and there, but for the most part, you need your young guys to come along, and they've really done that."

Have those young guys like Max Domi and Anthony Duclair and others pushed you, helped bring some youth into your game too?

"Yeah. There is that enthusiasm for sure, that young enthusiasm. And when you get to watch guys experience different things in the NHL for the first time, there's no way you can't get excited for that. I mean, just the other night when [Laurent] Dauphin scored his first goal in Vancouver, to see his excitement on the bench, see his excitement when he scored, it was pretty special. To see Louis [Domingue] and how he's handled and been excited with each win, that's always fun. It's been incredible. It all comes down to our young guys taking a step forward and our old guys being able to contribute and help out whenever they can."

How about coach Dave Tippett and what he is doing this season to make it work? How is he making it work?

"He's being very attentive to his video and the way he's emphasizing our structure. We have skill. I mean, if you look at Max and [Duclair], Mikkel Boedker, Tobias Rieder and then go with Martin Hanzal and Connor Murphy, we have enough skill that we can do OK. But he's really emphasizing our structure and putting an onus on our structure to our young guys to let them know how important that is. If we have that in place, our skill will take care of the rest, but we just have to make sure we're in the right structure."

You have 15 goals in 32 games this season after scoring 14 goals in 79 games last season. You're 39 years old. Have you found the fountain of youth for a veteran hockey player? What's the difference here?

"It's hard to put your finger on it, but I think there's always an element of feeling like the games matter so much and everything that goes along with that. Last year was tough at times when things kind of got away from us as a group. It was hard. No one ever wants to say that, but it was hard. I'm more of an emotional player, and when the emotion is gone from the game, it makes it tough. I wasn't good enough to help us be in games, and once we got out of games, I really wasn't good enough. It's a cycle, and once you get on, it's hard to get off."

Does any part of your success this season also have to do with a mindset or understanding that you're near the end of your career?

"One hundred percent. I think that's a big part of this year, coming into the year consciously thinking that way and being like, 'Hey, don't take it for granted.' So the way last year finished, everyone was disappointed, and it's hard to get past that, but at the same time you can't forget that your dream was to play in the NHL, and I'm playing in the NHL. I'm loving every minute of it. If you keep your focus in the right spot, it helps. I think that's huge. This year, I came into the year consciously thinking that, 'Hey, I'm living my dream still. I'm getting to play in the NHL. This is amazing, I love it, and I'm not going to look back and say, "Oh man, I wish I enjoyed my last few years, because I was so caught up in stats and such." I'm going to do everything I can to be successful and enjoy it. No regrets.'"

BONUS QUESTION: You're not getting away here without me asking you about John Scott, the NHL all-star. What are your thoughts on your teammate getting a chance to be an all-star this season?

"I think he's dreamed about playing in an NHL All-Star Game just the same way all of us have. Everyone who has ever played hockey would love to go on the ice with the best players in the world, and he's going to get an opportunity to do that. I think that's pretty cool. He's handling it well. He's enjoying it and having fun with it. I think if you're given that opportunity, I don't think you should pass it up. The fans voted him in. It's not like he snuck in on a technicality. He got voted in by fans, so it's a pretty cool moment for him."

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