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.
Bross tells CKWX that Doan has held talks with Lawrence Gillman and the #Canucks and they are on his list of desired destinations.
— News1130 Sports (@News1130Sports) July 9, 2012
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…