Hunting Mythical Beasts: Does Shane Doan Fit in Vancouver?

On Monday, the News1130Sports Twitter feed chatted with Shane Doan’s agent Terry Bross, who told the Vancouver radio station that his client has some nagging interest in coming to Vancouver to play hockey, should things continue to combust in Phoenix. 

The News 1130 folks weren’t the only folks who chatted with Bross at some point on Monday. Bross started the day speaking with USA Today, dropped in on no less than eleven beat writers, and even ended up on CKNW with Dave Pratt. Bross’s performance was a tour de force. Surely he ignited a bidding war, and at the very least he got hockey fans from Montreal to San Jose excited about the prospect of their team adding Shane Doan. Indirectly, that level of  fan excitement applies pressure on the league’s General Managers to go after his client…

Canucks fans, lustful for a Stanley Cup, are convinced that Doan’s camp has eyes only for their team (local connections!), but Doan and Bross are basically holding an auction. Acquiring Doan promises to be costly in fortune and term, risk and opportunity cost – but make no mistake: the Canucks are on the hunt for this particular mythical beast. 

Read past the jump.

On Monday, as the full enormity of Bross’ media blitz begun to become apparent, Canucks Assistant General Manager Laurence Gilman, formerly of the Winnipeg Jets and Phoenix Coyotes organizations, confirmed that the team has indeed been pursuing the Coyotes captain. From the Vancouver Sun:

“I have spoken to Shane Doan on behalf of our organization a couple of times,” Gilman said. “I spoke with him on July 1 to express our interest in bringing him to Vancouver and subsequently followed up with Shane last night.”

It’s no surprise that the Canucks have aggressively courted Shane Doan. He’s a perennial fifty point guy who has captained an overachieving team that perpetually teeters on the edge of bankruptcy. Doan might as well be Adonis to the traditionalist hockey writer: a big Canadian player with "heart," who brings "leadership" to the dressing room and can produce in the playoffs and plays the game with an "edge." More importantly, Doan remains a reasonably productive, plus possession player. 

In fact he’s exactly the type of player who the Canucks appear to have been spent much of the past twelve months looking for…

The Mythical Beasts

This is a team that’s been trying to sell Ryan Kesler and David Booth as its power forwards. – Jason Botchford

Writing about fan perception and the "Power Forward" back in 2009 in his usual acerbic way, Derek Zona theorized that the "Power Forward" player type so revered by fans was exceptionally rare, if it existed at all. Maybe some players would put up "a legitimate Power Forward season" on occasion, but not year after year.

Derek Zona set the parameters for a legitimate Power Forward season at "25 goals per season, and 123 hits" (or their equivalent pace of .3 goals per game, and 1.5 hits per game over sixty games in a season). When he ran the numbers, he found only two players in the entire NHL matched that description. Those two players were Shane Doan and Alexander Ovechkin, and he dubbed them the "Mythical Beasts."

In the six years seasons the lockout, there have only been 71 legitimate power-forward seasons. 12 out of nearly 400 NHL forwards in any given season will qualify for Mythical Beast status, and only 18 guys have done it twice. Of those 71 power forward seasons, only one of them came from a Canucks skater (Ryan Kesler 2010-11).

Over the past thirteen months, the Canucks have gone about acquiring players who fit the profile of a player who could, potentially put up a Mythical Beast season or two. David Booth, who had a Power Forward season in 2007-2008, was acquired from the Panthers for expiring contracts. Zack Kassian was brought in, in exchange for Cody Hodgson. At the draft over the past two seasons, the team targeted big forwards in Alex Grenier, Joseph Labate, Brendan Gaunce, Nicklas Jensen, and Alexandre Mallet.

Occasionally, when Gillis is asked about the Cody Hodgson trade in the press, he’ll describe Kassian as a type of player who is "impossible to get." As usual, Gillis knows what he’s talking about.

Shane Doan hasn’t "met" the criteria for a "legitimate power-forward season" since the 2008-09 campaign, but he’s only narrowly missed it in each of those seasons. This season for example, he missed the cut-off by a single measly goal. It looks to me like the Canucks have spent the past thirteen months searching for players who might, hopefully be able to do what Shane Doan has done consistently. On the other hand, Doan will also turn 36 about a week into next season and has a penchant for cheap shots… 

Player Value, Risk and the Fit

That Shane Doan is  a play driving force, is without question. He’s posted positive possession numbers in each of the past three seasons, and while he hasn’t always faced "top competition," his underlying numbers remain very auspicious. Doan doesn’t score at the rate of a blue-chip first liner anymore but one suspects he might be able to if he played with more skilled line-mates, and was a fixture on a more potent power-play. Anyway, Doan wouldn’t be acquired to play on the first line.

Beyond Doan’s mythical beast qualities, he would fill an area of need. At the moment, only one of Vancouver’s top-nine forwards are natural right-wingers and that’s Jannik Hansen. Because of where he plays, and how he plays: Doan would bring a great deal of versatility to the top-nine forward group. It’s not a stretch to see him slotting in on any of Vancouver’s top-3 lines and it looks to me like he could handle tough minutes if called upon to do it. It goes without saying, but Shane Doan would be a seismic upgrade over Mason Raymond. 

But the thing about Mason Raymond, is that his contract is imminently affordable and carries zero risk. He’s never going to post a mythical beast season, and frankly I doubt he’ll ever hit twenty goals again without significant power-play time, but if Raymond continues to struggle you can put him on waivers and dust off your hands. Shane Doan is 35, so if you sign him you’re stuck with his contract. With eleven teams in on the bidding, that contract could get extremely sticky.

The Canucks were leery of signing Sami Salo to a two-year deal because of his of his age, and injury history. They were also reluctant to offer Olli Jokinen a two year deal, likely because the team has wisely prioritized preserving flexibility against the cap for next summer when Alex Burrows, Alex Edler, Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre are all UFAs. Of course, Sami Salo and Olli Jokinen aren’t Shane Doan.

In a salary capped league, spending efficiency is the way you sustain success. Drafting is essential too, but mostly because finding contributors on ELCs is among the most efficient uses of a team’s limited resources. Keith Ballard aside, Mike Gillis and the Canucks have been extraordinarily good at buying wins. Generally speaking the Canucks have built from the middle out. Gillis has paid his top-three centreman, his best winger, his top-four defenseman, and his goalies (a risky strategy, but one that has generally paid off). He’s saved money on the fourth line, the bottom pairing, and until he acquired David Booth: on second and third line wingers.

There’s a good reason for this: being a second line winger on the Canucks isn’t a high-leverage role. Along with Ottawa and the Rangers, the Canucks are a team that gives the bulk of their power-play ice-time to the first unit, which, includes two Sedins, Ryan Kesler, two defenseman and no second line wingers. The team then has a nominal second unit that rarely plays. At even-strength, the plum offensive minutes, and offensive zone starts are soaked up by the Sedin line – leaving the second and third lines to drive play from the neutral zone. In addition, 2nd line wingers play for about thirteen even-strength minutes per game, and are juggled about the line-up constantly by Alain Vigneault.

I have to think that as a UFA who is in demand, Shane Doan is going to cost at least five million dollars, and at least three seasons of term. Paying a 38 year old Shane Doan five million is a significant risk. That risk is magnified by the team’s cap-structure: the Canucks have ten players under contract at 45 million (assuming a Luongo trade), and two core pieces in Edler and Burrows who will require substantial raises. Is committing that type of term and money to a guy on a 35+ contract, who will play a supporting role an efficient use of resources?

The answer is no, but the Canucks aren’t Beane’s Oakland A’s, and they’re not even Poile’s Nasvhille Predators. The Canucks are a rich team with an elite but flawed core group who are aging rapidly. Most recent Stanley Cup Winners gamble on adding a big salary in free agency, or on the trade market at some point – think Brian Campbell, or Dustin Penner, or Marian Hossa, or Zdeno Chara. Excitement aside, if the Canucks can cajole Doan into choosing them, they’ll earn the right to sign an aging player to an extremely risky contract. That doesn’t sound good, but thanks in part to the club’s superb contract work, they are at least in the position to "go all in" on an inefficient contract of this sort.

Ultimately, I’d rather see Gillis and the Canucks go "all in" on a blue-chip third line centre, or on a top-pairing defenseman, but there are none of those types of players available on the open market. Paying for "leadership" and "hits" is patently ridiculous, but Doan remains a useful player who would give the Canucks something that they’ve seemingly been questing for. I suppose there are worse things to overpay for than a mythical beast…

  • KleptoKlown

    I agree we need a shutdown 3rd line center more than Shane Doan. Without that 3rd C player, We will have another ‘down’ year for Kesler as the 2nd line will be facing the top players. That is not what i want David Booth (and Shane Doan) to be doing.

  • KleptoKlown

    Great article, but don’t you mean “mythical?” I share your reservations about bringing in Doan. I’m originally from Phoenix, and though I adopted the Canucks long before the Coyotes moved in, I’ve still followed the Coyotes on occasion. Ever since he was a young player on those Roenick/Tkachuk teams, I feel like I’ve been hearing him talked up, but I’ve never been able to fully buy in. In my non-expert opinion I’d put Brendan Morrow in the same category. Let’s just say neither one is Trevor Linden.

  • KleptoKlown

    T Drance – maybe a petty point, the Zona article you reference actually refers to these dudes as “mythical beasts”, not “mystical”. Which makes some sense in terms of their rarity despite being an NHL trope that’s constantly harped on.

    Incidentally, I would argue that the Sedins are mystical beasts.

  • KleptoKlown

    Love to see Doan in a Canucks jersey, but 3 years at 15+ million? No Thanks.

    How many effective power forwards play into their late 30s and early 40s?

    As it’s been said, his stats are on the decline. This contract will be Doan’s last big money deal, so I understand him cashing in.

    Would be great to get him on a reasonable contract still.

  • Great article!

    Although: “Of those 71 names, none of them played for the Canucks during their power-forward season.”

    Looking at the recent Zona article, I see Kesler actually topped the list in 2010-2011. Zona seems to have just forgotten to add his name to the ‘six-year standings’ summary.

  • KleptoKlown

    I would be willing to lean out on Doan for 2 years at 5 million per. I would be willing for 3 years at 4. If you’re right and the bidding will end with him north of 5 for more than 2 years, I think the Canucks are priced out of that market simply by virtue of organizational philosophy.

    Honestly, before this whole “Doan Watch” crap started I was thinking 2 years at 4.5 AAV. The delay in getting the Phoenix thing sorted has worked in his favour.

  • KleptoKlown

    I can understand why Vancouver is interested, and they would be remiss not to at least kick the tires. But one reason the Garrison contract worked, I think, is because Garrison was willing to fit into Vancouver’s salary structure. Not sure Doan could be convinced to do the same at his stage, and it does sound like they’re starting a bidding war.

    Thom, I think you forgot to mention that Semin is still available. 😉

  • A ‘risk’ I would be willing to take would be Semin. Witht he leadership fo the Sedins. Would be the contract to go after. Love Doan but if the Canucks are going to offer a contract that might be risky Semin is the way to go. But I think they are both a pipe dream. Third line shut down centre is what is needed.

  • puck-bandit

    I am mythical, cuz I can hide behind my keyboard and tell MG how to run our team.

    Shane Doan is worth the risk, at almost any cost, and should this cause havoc for UFA signings next year, I think it’s worth the gamble.
    Three years would have to be the term, and probably at 5 mil. can only imagine what LA offered today.
    Our UFA pool is almost dry, and if they were to try and sign Semin, that would end up being a nightmare on Elm Street. Plus; I don’t like the guy!
    Would Mike and Lawrence consider getting rid of Ballard? There is 4.2 I think. Lou has to go, another 5 plus, but will be carrying a salary on return I am sure. I may get jumped on this one. Is it not worth the thought of trading Raymond and Alberts?
    According to Rick Nash Shane is one of the strongest, and most fit guy’s he has ever met, and hardly an injury in his career. Look at Sellane, he is in incredible shape.
    So; what I am getting at here, is that I absolutely disagree that he would be a risk, and if so, so be it. This is all wishful thinking on my part, but should this opportunity present itself then MG should go for it. I am so bitter that LA won our cup, and to miss out on anything big that comes our way would be a travesty.

  • puck-bandit

    Great article.

    Totally agree about going all in on a 3rd line C – the last yr in Canuckland should be all the evidence we need. Hodgson, then Pahlssons decline killed the matchups. Result: Sedins and Kesler had their worst point seasons in years. I like Doan, but that’s wayyy to much $$ and a 35+ yr contract means it stays on the books if he gets injured or retires.

    If they do give a big contract for Doan, it concerns me the offers for Luongo are not good. Other than top 6 winger, there are still other holes to fill in the lineup. 3rd line C, depth righty d-man, hopefully some more grit/size for the bottom 6.

    I almost hope he signs in Phx so Canucks and other contenders don’t get him. Bad me.

  • puck-bandit

    5 years. 4.5 million, 22.5 total. 9.5, 6.5, 3.5, 2, 1. Reasonable cap hit, lets you give him his money and makes him tradeable later if he doesn’t choose to retire.

    Easy to bump it to 10, 7, 4, 2.5, 1.5 and making it 5 mil per year and still gain the benefits of a late contract that might appeal to a nashville, an islanders or a phoenix, should it still exist.

    Doan gets elite dollars for 2 years, and 2 more years of decent scratch for a 38 year old. I’d even go to 5.5 if luongo departs and Gillis feels the cap will rise, giving doan a competitive bid while giving him incentive to retire should the gamble pay off. If the cap stays this high, or goes higher, a slight overpay (1-2.5 million) would be just fine.

    A second line, 20 goal scorer who could be Burrows+ on the top line, should vinny switch things up and give him a chance for a 30 goal season, who plays 200 ft, gives us our fabled size and grit and brings a natural right into the fold is worth the FA premium.

    Also, IF Doan signs, Luongo and raymond/picks/schroeder/connaughton/tanev for a 2nd/3rd line centre doesn’t seem an outlandish trade to a team who needs a goalie, though part of me shudders at the thought of Dave Bolland on our team;).

  • puck-bandit

    Another great article Thom.

    Warning to all who come across my comment! I like to write, so if you don’t like to read then don’t bother reading my comment, but…

    Some things to consider. Due to Doan’s age, I think he either wants to A) play his entire career with one team, hence why he keeps extending his choice, because that’s his first choice. Or, B) move to a team that gives him a great chance to win the cup now so he can retire on a high note, which is a risk because that damn cup is so hard to win for every team! It is a Bourqueian move, and not necessarily a money move, unless his agent can maneuver these teams into making it about the money. So, with that in mind, the number of teams starts to dwindle much more quickly, and the chances of these few teams getting into a bidding war, or even that Doan would necessarily just choose the highest bid reduces as well.

    His agent wants to get the teams on his clients list into a bidding war, sure, but given that Doan is only moving for a genuine chance at the cup, those teams probably don’t have a lot of cap flexibility and also want to keep their rosters as flexible as possible which is an extension of cap in a capped league. These teams take their cap situation seriously and their gm’s tend to be shrewd.

    GM-MG, is such a gm, and he might just tell him the same thing as he told Salo, one year contracts and let it ride on Doan’s desire to win the holy grail of hockey. Shane Done does not have Salo’s injury history with 13 consecutive 70+ games played seasons under his belt, so I’m sure the prospect of a 2 or 3 year, 35+ contract is quite as daunting to Gillis, but so long as Doan is able to give something back in the form of a home-town-discount, of sorts, so his in-laws can come to the games from Kelowna, and also in the form of a win-the-cup discount, if he sees himself as being the piece, the grit, that is keeping the canucks from getting there? That discount is what allows him to add to the team while preserving flexibility instead of handcuffing a team and holding them from the dream that he came to achieve in the first place. Doan has been playing for years, he doesn’t need the money, he needs a cup. Giving the team that he decides to go to the best opportunity may not be in his agent’s best interest, but, as I have read, Doan is a mythical beast and might have other interests?

    Gillis is also known to stand by his players, and if he were to tell Doan that he’ll keep re-signing him so long as he wants to come back (as Lidstrom was in Detroit), you can take that to the bank. Apparently he offered Salo the same money as Tampa, but only one year, and Salo opted for two with Tampa. Unless Salo can convince Shanahan to fill that hole in net properly, however, I think he has hurt his cup chances, but hey, I guess for him, and at his age, having the security of contract was more important. You never know though, as any goaltender in this league can get hot and Tampa has a lot of the other pieces in place to succeed. Godspeed Salo.

    So, Doan’s a free agent and it’ll be his ultimate choice where he goes (not his agent’s). I don’t think he’s chasing the money on this one. He’s looking for the right team, the right opportunity. He’s shown in his own career to be an incredibly loyal guy and has stuck with Phoenix through all their troubles, and still tries to. He has a history with Laurence Gilman and there may be some loyalty there too? If Doan decides the Canucks are his “fit”, then with Gillis being as player orientated, yet as shrewd as he is, I think you may all be surprised by the contract term/length, one the other or both, that Doan will come with, if he decides to try his chances at winning a cup in Vancouver.

    My .02

  • NuckfiSh

    I would hate to see the Canucks handcuffed to another albatross contract, but Shane Doan would be pretty freaking awesome.

    I was trying not to get my hopes up… thanks Thom!