NHL Free Agency: Shane Doan to Chicago?

NHL Free Agency: Shane Doan to Chicago?

After the NHLPA closed their meetings in Chicago on Wednesday, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews joked with the media that he “lobbied” for could-be-former Coyotes captain Shane Doan to sign with the Hawks when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

How would Doan fit on the Hawks?

The first issue that has to be addressed is the way the Blackhawks’ postseason ended this spring. After a dirty series in which accusations flew between the benches, most Hawks fans were left with a negative impression of Doan. The facts are out there: he’s been suspended for dirty hits on multiple occasions, and took his shots when they were available against the Hawks.

And his actions in line with the LA Kings after the Coyotes were eliminated were sad from a captain that, just a couple weeks later, would be honored at the NHL Awards for the respect he’s earned as a captain.

What we’ve established is that Doan has been a long-time captain who’s overwhelmingly competitive and plays with a chip on his shoulder. He’s a guy fans hate to see their team playing against.

Which is why he would be a solid addition for the Hawks.

Doan posted 50 points (22 goals, 28 assists) in 79 games last year while racking up 205 hits. He skated over 19 minutes per game, of which over three minutes per night came on the 29th-ranked Coyotes power play.

Since the 1999-2000 season, Doan has played in at least 76 games in 10 of 12 seasons (he played in 73 and 72 games in the other two). Over those 12 seasons, he’s finished under 50 points once (2001-02) and finished with fewer than 20 goals only once (2009-10).

He’s the model of consistency. He’s physical. And he’s usually on the ice.

Those are three things the Hawks desperately need among their top six forwards after last year, when they saw Toews miss the final 22 games of the regular season and then Marian Hossa get knocked out of the playoffs.

Doan is the type of player that keeps idiots from taking cheap shots on superstars. The difference between Doan and the guys asked to play that role that are currently in the Hawks organization – Dan Carcillo, Andrew Shaw, Jamal Mayers, Brandon Bollig – is that Doan is a legitimate top-six forward who can score as well as knock someone out.

So far, so good.

But there’s one major flaw with the idea of bringing Doan to Chicago: his position.

He isn’t a center, and probably isn’t going to move to the left side any time soon. Doan’s a right wing, just like Hossa and Patrick Kane.

Adding Doan would likely lock the Blackhawks into using Kane as the second line center for the duration of the 2012-13 season (which might be the plan anyway).

Is that necessarily a bad thing? Having a banger like Doan on Kane’s wing would likely open up the ice for Kane to skate in space. And he would certainly keep goons like his former teammates in the desert off Kane’s back (and head).

But Kane would need to get significantly better at the dot this summer. As long as Dave Bolland is the third line center and is winning between 46-48 percent of his faceoffs, the Hawks cannot have another center playing big minutes and losing more than half of his faceoffs.

There’s a place for Doan among the Hawks top six forwards. But fans would have to get comfortable with the ideas of Doan wearing a Hawks sweater and Kane at center full-time quickly.

He sure as hell can’t have #19. And he might not have an “A” on his sweater. But will Stan Bowman follow his captain’s lead and recruit Doan to come to Chicago? We’ll see this weekend.

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