April 14, 2010
Doan's Dogs can biteVeteran has prime chance to lead underdog story
By ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency
Eight years is a long wait for anything. But for a player who lives and bleeds the game, and plays with as much passion as Shane Doan, it's an eternity.
And they haven't been eight regular years, either. With all the financial worries, uncertainty and public disinterest sabotaging hockey in Phoenix, aging with the Coyotes is like aging in dog years.
But here they are, the shocker of the season -- an NHL punchline that had to be bailed out by the league, didn't know where it would be playing in a year and didn't have a head coach until a week before the season, posting 106 points and kicking in the front door of the playoffs.
"Right now it's been exciting to have the opportunity to be sitting where we're at," said Doan, the Halkirk, Alta., product who came one draft day mistake away from being an Edmonton Oiler. "But now that we're here and we know, absolutely nobody is satisfied with just making it, and that's a great feeling.
"We think we've got a team that's capable of being a very hard out. And as a group, I think this whole year has been preparing us to be kind of -- there have been moments throughout the year where things could have went the other way, and guys have always responded.
"And we're kind of taking the same type of approach to the playoffs."
With all of the ownership and relocation controversy swirling around the club all season, and with a nondescript line-up on one of the lowest payrolls in the league, the Coyotes could have felt sorry for themselves (as sorry as millionaires living in Phoenix can be).
It didn't happen. Even with a week until the season opener and no head coach, no one was allowed to whine.
"There were no excuses no matter what, and we had to be good no matter what," said Doan, adding the Coyotes knew they were one slump away from becoming a laughingstock.
"We had to be even better than good, because if we weren't, it would start to pile up on us. That was kind of talked about at the beginning.
"But nothing has been talked about much since the beginning other than focusing on the next game, so that's kind of been our whole mantra for the whole year."
And it clicked. Right from the start. Dave Tippett came in and turned the nobodies into somebodies. Somebody not to be taken lightly.
"It's hard to say what it was, whether it was the winning or that the chemistry brought on the winning. We're not too sure, but we're not going to worry about it. We're just going to enjoy it."
So is Phoenix. The city was expected a train wreck out of the Coyotes, not a thrill ride.
"When they announced it is our third straight sellout, it got a little bit of a rise out of the crowd against Edmonton," said Doan. "It's definitely growing. We were joking that we led the news on two or three of the networks here in town, and that hasn't happened with a positive note, I don't think, in a long time here.
"In the beginning of the year, we got a little bit more attention because people kind of wanted to see how badly we might fail. Then as we started to have more success, it started to go the other way where people were like, 'Oh, man, can these guys hold it together? Can they keep doing it?' So it's been a fun year for us."
And the best part, the playoffs, are just starting. The white out, dormant since 2002, is coming back.
"You don't get too many opportunities like this when you have a team that's on a run," said Doan. "You've got to ride it as long as you can."