Tippett, Doan futures with Coyotes depend on team’s plan
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Dave Tippett and Shane Doan were key cogs in the most successful run in Coyotes history. Whether they remain so going forward likely will depend on how committed ownership and management are to achieving similar success quickly.
Neither man wants to be a part of a lengthy rebuild in the Valley. Neither man wants to be a part of another season like the one the Coyotes just completed, in which they posted the lowest point total (56) since the franchise moved here in 1996.
"I can’t see myself doing that again," Tippett said after Saturday’s season finale. "Losing kills you enough, but when you’re not as competitive as you need to be, that’s even more frustrating."
Doan is under contract for one more season; Tippett is under contract for three more, but both men have some flexibility within those deals.
Doan has a no-movement clause that he could waive to request a trade if he doesn’t like the franchise’s direction. It’s likely the Coyotes would grant that request given how much he has given and meant to the organization. They might also grant his request because he’s due to make $4.55 million next season; a high price for a 19-year veteran.
Tippett has at least two clauses in his contract, which FOX Sports Arizona first reported two years ago when he signed his current deal. The first allows him to leave if the franchise relocates to a city where he doesn’t want to move. The second allows him to leave with a change in ownership (Andrew Barroway bought a majority stake in the team this season), but the details of the latter clause are unclear, as are the exact circumstances under which it can be exercised, and when it it can be exercised.
"I have put some things in my contract that protect me," Tippett said. "There’s things in there that protect me for relocation and a whole bunch of things."
In Doan’s case, even a short-term rebuild may not be palatable, since he turns 39 in October and likely wouldn’t be around to enjoy the happier side of that rebuild. Doan was visibly upset after the Coyotes dealt good friends Keith Yandle and Antoine Vermette at the trade deadline. He and Tippett talked over dinner while the team was in New Jersey in mid-March.
"He’s a competitive guy, but he’s also a very loyal guy," Tippett said. "This has really been hard on him, but I think you’ll see him take a step back and reflect and kind of figure out where the organization is going and proceed accordingly."
Doan said he hadn’t thought about the possibility that Saturday’s game was his last as a Coyote, echoing statements from last month when he said he wanted to focus on the present and being with his teammates. But he also echoed Tippett’s sentiments when asked about his future.
"I’m going to see what’s going on," he said. "You hope for some things that give you an opportunity to win."
Tippett’s decision will likely come quickly now that the season has concluded. GM Don Maloney leaves for the World Championships in Europe on April 18, the date of the NHL Draft Lottery, so the two likely will meet before then to discuss the team’s plans.
Even if Tippett doesn’t or can’t exercise an out clause, he could choose to resign and take the next couple years off before returning to coaching if he does not like the organization’s direction. That would be a highly unusual step for coach who signed a five-year deal believed to be in the neighborhood of $2 million per year, but Tippett is a rare breed in that regard; fiercely competitive and staunchly intolerant of any approach that does not put winning first.
"My belief is that you should try to make the playoffs every year," he said. "It would be my recommendation that we do whatever we can to try to make the playoffs next year. Whether that’s realistic with budgets, philosophy; those are things that will have to be worked out."
If you’re wondering whether ownership and management are on the same page, Don Maloney’s comments in an on-air interview with FOX Sports Arizona’s Todd Walsh on Saturday shed some light.
"I think if anybody’s paying attention to that Ottawa team this year, (and) Calgary, I think that will be us next year in the sense of having some younger people in their lineup to kind of bring the speed and the energy you need," Maloney said of the NHL’s two most surprising playoff teams.
"We know that we need some experience — I think we need some more experience on our blue line, maybe a couple pieces, some NHL players but … I look at next year as really getting back on track of where we have to take this team. If you look at what Ottawa and Calgary did this year — very unexpected to become playoff team(s) — that would be our goal going into next year."
That’s a shift from what Maloney said after the trade deadline when he talked about a three- to five-year rebuild. It’s unclear why that message has changed. Was there disagreement within the ownership group that has been resolved? Were the Coyotes afraid of how that message would look to their fan base? Were they afraid of losing Tippett or do they genuinely believe they can turn it around that quickly — a belief that would certainly be bolstered by a little luck in the NHL Draft Lottery on Saturday with Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel hanging in the balance?
Whatever that reason, the follow-through will tell all. If Tippett and Doan are still here in May and June, the organization will be moving in a direction to their liking.