Edmonton has hosted the NHL draft once. In 1995 the Edmonton Oilers had the sixth overall pick, and fans chanted “Doan, Doan, Doan” trying to encourage Oilers GM Glen Sather and head scout Barry Fraser to choose the 18-year-old from Halkirk, Alberta. It didn’t work, as they selected Steve Kelly instead. Kelly had blazing speed, and good skill, but he only played 149 NHL games with four franchises, and scored only nine goals.
Meanwhile, Doan went seventh overall to Winnipeg. He jumped right to the NHL and his rookie season was the final season of the Jets in Winnipeg. They relocated to Phoenix, where Doan became a fan favourite and team captain over 20 seasons with the Coyotes, scoring over 400 goals and 900 points. Would he have spent 21 seasons with the Oilers? We will never know, but we do know he played eight seasons under Dave Tippett in Arizona.
The Coyotes had missed the playoffs for six consecutive seasons from 2003-2009, before Tippett was hired to start the 2009/2010 season. They went from 79 points to 107 points and had the fourth most points in the NHL. Not surprisingly, Tippett won the Jack Adams (coach of the year) trophy. It was the start of three consecutive seasons in the playoffs, and culminated with an appearance in the Western Conference final in 2012.
The Coyotes did miss the playoffs for the next five seasons under Tippett, so it should be noted he isn’t a magician, as the Coyotes were usually closer to the salary cap floor than the ceiling, and didn’t have many top-end forwards. His teams were usually competitive, just lacking in skill.
He won’t lack elite skill in Edmonton, with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl under contract, but how did Tippett make the Coyotes more competitive right away?
Jason Strudwick and I spoke with Doan about Tippett’s coaching style, what the players should expect, which players will flourish under Tippett and which type of player will struggle.
Jason Strudwick: You had Dave Tippett for a long time as the coach. As I’m sure you were aware today he was announced as the sixteenth coach of the Edmonton Oilers. As a player, let’s say a Leon Draisaitl is driving around, he’s sitting in his car and he sees this news. What should he expect, or what can he expect from a Dave Tippett coaching style?
Shane Doan: You know what, somebody that will be very open and honest with you, that doesn’t really play a lot of games, holds people accountable but is very good at communicating and talking with the people that are the players and what he expects. There is a trust factor that goes with the fact he sees the game the way the players sees it. Which is encouraging and exciting because you’re always hoping that your coach sees it the same way you do.
Jason Gregor: Tippett is a former player, but seeing the game the way that you see it — does that also mean that he has to recognize how a player sees himself and understand what their limitations are?
Doan: There is an element of that. I think sometimes the coaches get caught up in seeing the systems and seeing different things that are kind of abstract. Tipp did a good job of being accurate and articulating what he’s seeing on a very detailed kind of basis and I think that is important, especially when you have a team that’s got some talent and some players who have the ability to make some plays on their own, that they understand what the expectations are and that’s huge as a player when you know where the coach’s expectations are. It’s going to be exciting to see what he’s going to see with Draisaitl being a 50-goal man and a 100 points and then [Connor] McDavid is McDavid. He’s special in his own right.
Strudwick: I remember playing against Dave Tippett-coached teams, they were so hard to play against. It felt like there were six guys and they were always forechecking hard and moving hard, although I would say that the sum of their parts maybe didn’t add up to that. Is there a way that he inspires guys or gets guys to buy in that you’ve got to go all out every shift?
Doan: Well I think he’s pretty good at rewarding the guys who are going hard. If you’re going hard, he rewards you. And if you’re somebody that’s willing to do the things right, he’ll reward you and same with the big guns. He’ll go with the big guns if they’re going well. But at the same time if you’re not he’s going to hold you accountable, which is really what everybody wants. They want to know that if, ‘Hey I’m playing well tonight I’m going to get some ice time. And if I’m not playing well, then I probably won’t.’
And he simplifies things like the forecheck in the offensive zone, and he does a good job of articulating that to players. And by no means am I saying you like it all the time. Like at the end of my career I wasn’t overly happy with the way that I was being played, but I understood the way Tipp was doing it because he saw things, above my game, as a coach that I didn’t’ see. And he wasn’t afraid to make those decisions and push guys and I think that that is a huge, huge part of it.
Gregor: When you say that he saw things above your game that you didn’t, can you go a little bit deeper on that? In what sense did he see the things that you didn’t see or didn’t want to at that time?
Doan: Well I think (laughs), I still think that I could have played and he saw that I was a little bit slower, and not having the success that I wanted to have. And my ice time probably needed to reflect that a little bit more, and that was hard to accept.
At the same time, the year before I had 29 goals and was kind of rolling and he kept playing me in situations to score, even though there were parts of my game that weren’t exactly the prettiest for me, and wasn’t that effective, I was finding ways to contribute and so he would play me.
I think as much as you want to play you’re going to have a longer leash for your bigger named players. I think you want to believe that you’re playing, your coach sees you the right way and sees the way that you’re playing the right way. And when he sees you playing well, he’s going to play you. And when he does, that’s going to be exciting and fun and it’s going to create an atmosphere where guys believe well if I play hard and I do things right then I’m going to get rewarded and that’s always exciting.
Strudwick: One of the comments he made today was about role players, and I’m always fascinated about how the coaches approach them. He said, ‘I feel players need to be put in their right positions and have a role on the team.’ Was that something that you saw as both captain and a player under Tippett?
Doan: Oh for sure. You look at a guy like Vern Fiddler or Boyd Gordon, they relished their roles and did a great job of playing them. And it’s funny because everyone always wants to kind of point out how he’s a defensive-minded coach and that’s funny because every coach is a defensive minded coach and that’s the part of the game that is taught. Most coaches realize, ‘That’s what I’m going to have to teach these guys.’
But he’s a guy that also handled Martin Hanzel and [Radim] Vrbata and Ray Whitney had some of the best years of their careers, where they were great players, but they didn’t necessarily, Hanz (Hanzel) and Derby (Vrbata), didn’t necessarily have great results other than with Tipp. And that was something that I think that he’s got to get a little bit more credit for. You look at a guy like Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, they both had great success with him. So your role players are going to have success and your skilled players are going to have success which usually makes for a pretty successful team.
Gregor: In his first season with you in 2009/10 you made the post season for the first time in seven years. You made some acquisitions, which helped, but what did he do as a coach that helped you guys finally get back to the playoffs after seven years?
Doan: They brought in a veteran defensemen in Adrian Aucoin and a veteran defenseman makes everything better. I don’t care what team you’re on, if you have a good blue line, you’re going to have chances.
So those guys were added and that helped. But we didn’t just make the playoffs, we actually finished with 107 points. I think third or fourth in the entire NHL. It wasn’t like we scraped in, we had home ice in the first round and we lost to Detroit in seven. We should have beat them. Tippett made us much more competitive right away. So, that’s one of the things that was pretty impressive with him and when he did that, it was unbelievable. I’m excited for him, I’m excited for the opportunity he has in Edmonton and he’s going to take advantage of it, but at the same time, he’s going to need some players as well.
Aucoin came in, as did forwards Radim Vrbata, Matthew Lombardi, Robert Lang, Vern Fiddler and Scottie Upshall. Doan led them in scoring with 55 points. They had ten players with 28+ points, while Ilya Bryzgalov had a .920sv% in 67 starts and backup up Jason Labarbera had a .928sv%.
Strudwick: I joke a lot with you, but you were an amazing player and an amazing leader everywhere you went. They’ve got a young captain here in Connor McDavid and I think that on the ice he is delivering performances that are mind blowing and he’s evolving as a leader. What was your relationship with Tipp, as far as the captain relationship as an older player, that you might see translate to a younger captain that they have in McDavid?
Doan: Well I think that the way that Tipp included me in so much of the stuff made it enjoyable as a captain. If you’re going to come to Tipp, you have to make sure that you’ve done your homework. You can’t come to him like, ‘Hey, we’re tired, we need a day off.’
You have to know exactly what you’re going to say because he’s going to challenge you to a certain degree on what it is. But if you have a legitimate reason and he sees that you’ve done your homework he’ll take it in and understand what you’re asking and understand what you’re talking about. He’s going to listen.
Likewise, when he calls you into his office and asks for your opinion, he wants you to be honest and genuine in your answers. And once you do that, you start to realize that it’s a real give and take sort of relationship.
He was awesome. I was really impressed with and our relationship was great. I mean it was something that I really enjoyed and he and I are friends. One of the coolest things is that after we played Dallas, after we beat them, as we were leaving the arena 12 or 13 of his players were waiting to go into his office. He doesn’t just connect with your leaders, he connects with everyone and he does an unbelievable job of that, and I witnessed it that night.
The media is going to enjoy him, the fans are going to love him, because he’s going to do a job of getting his message across really well. And his leadership group and the way that he challenges guys to be leaders, it’s something that’s really good and it’s something that’s going to be huge I think for McDavid as he goes forward in his career.
Gregor: Is there a type of player who struggled under Tippett during your eight seasons with him?
Doan: He likes players that compete hard, and sometimes if you’re not willing to answer the competitive level he asks for, then he’s not going to have much time for you and your leash might get a little shorter. That being said, you look at the players that have had success with him, they all eventually come around to playing that style, not a hard style per se, just you stay in the hunt. He’ll say that over and over, ‘You stay in the hunt, you stay in the battle. Always stay in the zone, don’t get kind of pushed out of it.’ He likes players who do that.
In regards to Edmonton’s young players, I think everyone wonders about the young guys and how they’re going to do. Remember he coached the young guns at the World Cup and he had success there. Max Domi and Anthony Duclair were guys who had unbelievable years under Tipp. Both of them scored 20 goals or close to 20 goals in their rookie years.
He understands the game and that it’s changing, and he wants to stay ahead of it. He’s an unbelievable student of reading and good research so he’s going to do a good job. But if he wants a player to compete and those players who aren’t wanting to compete, they aren’t going to be as comfortable (laughs).
It is clear Doan not only respects his former coach, but had a lot of admiration for him. That isn’t always the case, especially when your team didn’t win for five years. Tippett’s ability to communicate is brought up a lot by former players, but so too is his knowledge. Doan, and others, chuckled at the notion Tippett is a defensive coach. Of course, he wants his teams to be responsible defensively, but Tippett himself told me last week, the best defence is being offensive and having the puck more.
I think any concern about Tippett stifling McDavid’s offensive numbers is misguided. Unless he misses games due to injury I expect McDavid will score 120+ points next season. Tippett will not stifle McDavid, Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or any other offensive minded forward on the roster.
ULTIMATE SPORTS FAN
My ninth annual Ultimate Sports Fan package in support of charity is here again. On June 22nd and 23rd, I am riding in the 190KM MS Bike from Leduc to Camrose, and I’ve come up with a pretty good package for the diehard sports fan.
Here’s how it works: You make a $125 donation and you get one entry. If you make a $250 donation you get two entries, and so on.
We only take 100 entries and we will raise $12,500 for MS. The draw will be the week of June 14th.
This year’s winner will win the following prizes and more.: The final package is valued at over $6,000.00
- The “Oilers experience” at the Oilers home opener in October, which includes tickets, parking, dinner and a behind the scenes tour.
- A pair of Edmonton Eskimos season tickets in the lower bowl.
- Twenty tickets, and a hot dog and beverage (non-alcoholic), to an Oil Kings home game. Also, you will get an Oil King player of your choice to come to your backyard rink or minor hockey practice for an hour. (Between November 1st and December 15th.)
- $500 in gift cards (essentially cash) at United Sport and Cycle.
- Four seats in the Edmonton Stingers VIP Hospitality Zone, which includes buffet meal, for one of the Stingers home games of your choice. Also a signed Edmonton Stingers jersey. And your group will receive a pre-game Fan Experience.
- A signed Barclay Donaldson jersey. He was the captain for the Broom County Blades in the greatest hockey movie, Slap Shot. Sweet jersey.
- $500 GC at Atlas Steak and Fish (either location).
We are 80% sold out. There is only 20 entries remaining. Get in while you can. You can make your donation here. (click Donate Now to the right of my picture).
Thank you for supporting MS and good luck.