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Morgan: Coyotes owed Doan a more dignified exit

Arizona Coyotes' Shane Doan, right, smile with a referee during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the San Jose Sharks Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
LISTEN: Craig Morgan, Arizona Sports Coyotes insider

The most upsetting aspect of the Coyotes’ decision to part ways with Shane Doan is not the why. It’s the how.

Last Wednesday, Doan’s agent, Terry Bross, told Arizona Sports that Doan was leaning toward returning for another season. On Saturday, Chayka invited Doan to breakfast at First Watch in Scottsdale. Doan thought the meeting was to discuss his playing future. Chayka told him there would be no playing future with the Coyotes.

“I was being corporately fired,” Doan said.

Doan made it crystal clear in a lengthy radio interview with Arizona Sports, and in a subsequent phone conversation, that he felt Coyotes owner Andrew Barroway was behind the decision, yet Barroway did not attend that public meeting with the franchise’s longtime captain, loyal foot soldier and Valley icon.

Coach and executive vice president of hockey operations Dave Tippett at least had an excuse. His summer home in Minnesota had been struck by a tornado, damaging the garage, barn, deck and lakeside dock, and necessitating major repairs.

Barroway had no such excuse. It was a gross misstep just 2½ weeks after he completed a buyout of the team’s minority owners. At best, it showed little understanding of Doan’s place in the market. At worst, it showed a callous lack of concern and respect, and it came in stark contrast to the way Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill stepped in to ensure Valley icon Larry Fitzgerald was treated properly.

The backlash was swift and furious; a damaging PR nightmare for a team that can’t afford more hits, given its current arena situation, the internal strife that led to that aforementioned buyout, and five consecutive seasons without a playoff berth.

“Embarrassing,” said NBC NHL analyst and former Doan teammate, Ed Olczyk. “This should not happen to this guy, this way, with all that he has done. His loyalty backfired. All types of players take notice of this.”

Breakups like this are rarely clean. The same franchise that treated Fitzgerald so well cut safety Adrian Wilson four years ago. The Diamondbacks shoved Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson out the door.

“It’s a great reminder that the game is a business,” Olczyk said.

In some instances, it should not be treated as such. Doan is that rare player, like Fitzgerald, who deserved to decide his manner of departure. Instead, as one league source put it: “This guy takes every bullet for this team for a decade, then gets tossed out like a piece of trash.”

There is a fair argument to be made that it was time for Doan to step aside. His role was reduced last season, his lack of foot speed was pronounced and his production slipped to six goals and 27 points, his lowest output for a full season since the 1998-99 campaign.

The previous ownership group showed the same willingness to walk away from the face of the franchise during protracted contract talks last summer. When Doan finally signed a one-year contract before the 2016-17 season after scoring a team-high 28 goals, the deal felt like a golden parachute as he approached his 40th birthday.

The Coyotes are going young and if Chayka succeeds in the trades he hopes to make before and at the NHL Draft this week, Doan’s presence could potentially block the way of a young player that needs ice time.

But that’s the analytical approach. You can’t dissect Doan’s role without considering the emotional side. Not in this market. Not with this guy.

Doan deserved a better fate than this ham-handed dismissal. There was no rush to get this done. Why not wait until after the NHL Draft? Why not have several private conversations with Barroway and Tippett in attendance? Get your message right, be clear on why this must be done, make that offer of a front-office role immediately, not after the fact, and bend over backwards to respect a guy who literally gave his blood, sweat and tears to this organization.

This was that extraordinary case where the Coyotes should have acted more with their hearts than their heads.

“It’s a very sad day for Arizona hockey,” Bross said.

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