After 21 seasons, all with the Winnipeg Jets/Arizona Coyotes franchise, Shane Doan announced his retirement from the NHL on Wednesday. Although his biography doesn't include many individual or team awards, he will be remembered for his consistency and longevity, and for what that meant to hockey in Arizona.
Doan's peak never reached great heights, but he sustained a top-line level of performance that made him one of the most valuable players to his team for a prolonged period.
Throughout his NHL career, Doan was deployed as a classic power forward. He was used primarily in the offensive zone and on the power play, and tasked with hitting and scoring. He was 18th in the League with 1,856 hits since the 2005-06 season, when hits were first recorded, and ranked seventh among active NHL players with 402 goals at the time of his retirement, 11th with 570 assists, and 10th with 972 points. He scored 313 points on the power play, which ranked 13th.
There are two key factors when breaking down a player's career performance: how well he played at his peak and how long he could perform at or near that level. Doan's career was relatively unspectacular by the former criterion but exceptional from the latter.
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Doan reached his peak at the unusually late age of 31, with 78 points (28 goals, 50 assists) in 80 games in 2007-08, and had 73 points (31 goals, 42 assists) in 82 games the following season. That makes him one of 14 players to have at least 70 points twice in his 30s without doing so previously.
How great was his peak? A player's peak is measured using three seasons, to avoid temporary fluctuations caused by hot streaks that can occur during a few seasons. From 2006-09, Doan had 206 points (86 goals, 140 assists) in 235 games, which ranked 28th in the NHL.
Advancing beyond goals and assists, there are catch-all statistics that attempt to measure a player's contributions in a single number. The most popular one for which data is available for all of Doan's NHL career is Tom Awad's Goals Versus Threshold (GVT), which estimates how many goals a player scored and/or prevented, relative to the best available replacement in the NHL (or elsewhere).
From that perspective, Doan's peak performance improved the Coyotes by 37.6 goals during that three-year peak, which would place him just outside the top 50 players in the NHL. However, there is plenty of subjective evidence that confirms that Doan was among the top 30 forwards in the League at his peak. He was selected to represent Canada at the 2006 Torino Olympics, and he finished sixth in voting for the NHL All-Star Game in 2007-08 and 2008-09.
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Regardless of how high he ranked at his best, Doan's career isn't remarkable for the height of its peak but for how long it was sustained and how much that meant to a franchise that was otherwise devoid of top talent.
Starting with his promotion to a top-six forward in 1999-2000, Doan finished among the top three on the Coyotes in scoring for 13 consecutive seasons. Since 1999-2000, Doan scored at least 20 goals in a season 13 times, tied with Patrick Marleau for third behind Jarome Iginla and Marian Hossa, who each has done so 15 times in that span.
Doan led the Coyotes in scoring seven consecutive seasons from 2003-11. During this time, he scored 455 points (181 goals, 274 assists) in 550 games, which was 291 more points than defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who was second on the Coyotes with 164 points (47 goals, 117 assists) in 332 games.
That was the largest gap between first and second place in the NHL, ahead of Iginla, then of the Calgary Flames (288 points), and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals (260 points). Although Doan's scoring peak may not have reached the same heights as Iginla's, his longevity certainly has, and his value to the Coyotes was just as significant.
As one of the most versatile power forwards in the League, not all of Doan's contributions can be measured in terms of goals and assists. In addition to hitting, scoring, and playing with the man-advantage, Doan could be trusted in all three zones and against various levels of opponents, could take a regular shift killing penalties, was 12 for 40 in the shootout, and had positive shot-based metrics relative to his team each of the past eight seasons that the information has been available.
Doan also played a key leadership role as captain of the Coyotes from 2003-17. Even in his final season, Doan proved his value by helping to develop rookie forwards Brendan Perlini and Christian Dvorak on an effective third line.
Some players establish their place in hockey history with scoring records and trophies. Others, like Doan, have earned their place among the game's greats by having a consistently significant impact to his team in the long term.