The Arizona Coyotes entered this week’s NHL All-Star break at a place not many thought they would be – sitting in third place in the Pacific Division with a record of 24-20-5, and holding on to a playoff spot.
And despite not having a representative at this weekend’s festivities in Nashville, a lot of players deserve to receive accolades for their contributions.
The rookie duo of Max Domi and Anthony Duclair has given the team a huge shot in the arm – they’ve have combined for 52 points up so far and Domi is in the thick of the Calder Trophy race, ranking third on the team in scoring with 32 points (13-19—32) in 49 games.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson is compiling another Norris Trophy-caliber year and he’s tied with Mikkel Boedker for the team lead in scoring with 34 points (14-20—34) in 49 games while his point total ranks sixth among all league defensemen and his 25:27 of average ice time also ranks in the NHL’s top 10 for defensemen.
And Arizona has also gotten help from the most unlikely of sources – goaltender Louis Domingue. After Mike Smith went down with injury in early-December many pundits wrote the Coyotes off, but Domingue came up from the AHL and has made the most of the opportunity, appearing in 17 games and posting a record of 9-5-3 with a 2.31 goals against average, a 0.924 save percentage and two shutouts.
But despite the fact Arizona that has gotten key contributions from just about every corner of the dressing room, one maxim about the Coyotes still rings true now – Shane Doan is still the leader of the pack. And this season’s body of work has been instrumental in the Coyotes’ surprising first half.
After a season where he appeared frustrated and dejected after most games, Doan is experiencing a sort of career renaissance at age 39.
The Alberta native ranks fifth on the team with 27 points (17-10—27) in 40 games and is on pace to score about 49 points this season, which would eclipse last seasons total of 36 points. It would actually be the most he’s posted in a season since he finished with 50 points during the 2011-12 season – the year the Coyotes reached the Western Conference Finals.
And up until recently, Doan was just as hot as he’s ever been in his career, netting 10 goals over an 11-game stretch between December 22 to January 14, which also included his second career hat trick in a game against Chicago on December 29 where he also tied the franchise record in goals.
But the biggest stat that demonstrates why Doan has been the Coyotes’ MVP might not be his goals, or his point totals, it’s likely what the Coyotes did (or rather did not do) when he missed some time earlier this season because of injury.
Doan missed nine games and that stretch of games was arguably Arizona’s worst play this season. The team went 3-5-1 from November 25 to December 11 and without their captain they averaged 2.3 goals-per-game. With Doan in the lineup, the Coyotes have compiled a record of 21-15-4 and have averaged 2.75 goals-per-game in those 40 contests.
There’s no telling what Doan will do the post-All-Star break, but with his team in the thick of the playoff race and the remaining games on the schedule becoming even more difficult, it’s the exact scenario where Doan’s style of play thrives. It would be wise to not bet against him.
Dan Rosen of NHL.com had a chance to sit down with Doan recently and ask him a few questions about his play and his his team’s season, and in true Shane Doan form, when talking about this year’s success, he defers a lot of the credit to others – this time to the young players who have infused life into the roster.
“It’s been incredible (watching the younger players develop),” said Doan. “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.”
And Coyotes fans are hoping Doan can be an active contributor to the dressing room for at least a few more years.