There was a quick and easy fix to the John Scott all-star game quandary, a solution that would have made everybody happy and not made it the undisputed No. 1 storyline heading into this weekend’s festivities.
All the NHL needed to do was send one extra player to play for the Pacific Division team, which Scott will captain – Shane Doan, Scott’s former Arizona Coyotes teammate, who is in the midst of a renaissance season.
Think of how that would have checked all the boxes and turned what is a lingering embarrassment into a feel-good moment.
First off, there’s a precedent for adding a popular veteran at the 11th hour. In years past, the NHL asked older stars to attend in a sort of emeritus role – because fans like to watch living legends play. It was always a nice touch, a last hurrah for players who’d had careers worth celebrating.
Beyond the sentimental reasons for adding Doan, Arizona deserves to have someone at the game. The Coyotes are one of the NHL’s surprise teams this season, and hold down a playoff spot at the break. And yet they are not represented in Nashville, after Scott was traded to the Montreal Canadiens earlier this month. That’s flat-out wrong.
Then there’s the matter of Doan himself who, at the age of 39, leads the Coyotes in goals with 17. Last weekend, Doan passed Mike Gartner for 25th on the NHL’s career games-played list. Some time soon after the all-star game, he will become the franchise’s career points-scoring leader, surpassing Dale Hawerchuk.
Doan would have been the perfect complementary player to Scott, who was the leading vote getter in fan balloting for the all-star game and a popular player in the Coyotes’ dressing room.
Moreover, he’s become an increasingly sympathetic figure, because of the ham-handed way the league asked him to bow out, according to a detailed account of his life and this curious all-star journey that Scott posted Thursday on The Players’ Tribune.
For this year’s all-star game, there will be nine position players and two goalies representing all four NHL divisions, meaning those skaters are going to get a lot of ice time in the 20-minute mini-games that are part of the new three-on-three format.
Skaters should have a field day. Scott isn’t much of a skater and, at this stage of his career, three-on-three scares more than the likes of Jaromir Jagr. Doan isn’t sure how he would have stood up to it, either.
But as an extra body for the Pacific team, Doan would have given coach Darryl Sutter a couple of more options. Doan even joked in an interview that if he’d been selected, maybe he and Scott could have gone out and played together to keep things fair.
Now, Doan stressed he wasn’t lobbying to go and if a current Coyotes’ player was given the opportunity to attend, the most deserving – far and away – would have been defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. But if the league had invited him – and sources indicate the NHL thought about it – Doan would have said yes.
“At the beginning of the year, I looked at this as a year I’m going to enjoy,” Doan said. “I’ve never said one way or the other what I’m going to do after this year, but this could be it and if it is, I’m going to enjoy every minute of it. I’m playing hockey in the NHL at 39 still. That doesn’t get to happen very often. It’s the best league in the world. Obviously, it’s been going good, which makes it a lot easier to enjoy. Our young guys are just amazing. They’re such good players. It’s been fun.”
According to Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, two primary factors have contributed to Doan’s remarkable season.
“The first is, he’s really embraced the leadership role of a young team,” Tippett said. “The second part of it, he’s embraced a working third-line role. It would be easy to jam him back in on one of the top two lines when one of the young guys isn’t going, but his role is defined, and he’s playing with a couple of working guys [Brad Richardson and Jordan Martinook], and he’s loving it. You watch him, every game he has fun.”
As for the all-star game, Doan doesn’t lament his own absence as much as Ekman-Larsson’s, noting: “Oliver is amazing. He doesn’t get anywhere near the credit he deserves. Everyone says, ‘He’s pretty good, he’s not bad.’ Well, he is our best defensive and our best offensive player. He’s pretty fun to watch.
“It’s too bad that he’s not going to get the chance to go, but at the same time, the fans voted and it’s a cool opportunity for John. Those things don’t come along too often, so you’re best to take advantage of them.”Report Typo/Error