We are still waiting on Shane Doan, are we not? Some team, at some point, will fork over millions of dollars for a 35-year-old Doan. He will be 36, plus a few tenths of a year, when the NHL season finally does get under-way.
Doan’s entire career can be summed up in a word: durability. Not since he turned 22 has Doan played fewer than 72 games in a regular season, which has helped him put up 11 20-plus-goal seasons. That’s eighth among active players.
Doan has been a slight plus-possession player his entire career, faring a little bit better at controlling the shot clock than his teammates. He is not elite, was never elite, and will never be elite. Doan is a durable leader who plugs away at the opposition, being above average for a very, very long time.
A noble player, that’s Doan, and some team will fork over millions. That team may be the Vancouver Canucks. It could be the Buffalo Sabres, a team that reportedly offered Doan a four-year contract worth $30 million, well more than he’s worth.
When it comes to free agents, too many general managers have paid players following a logic of what the player’s production looked like, as opposed to, “What will he do for me over the course of this contract?”
In the last 20 years, there have been 10 players who have since ended their careers but had strong seasons as 33-to-35-year-olds who were also known for their durability. The list includes players like Pat Verbeek, Adam Oates and Mark Recchi.
Let’s assume the Canucks have offered Doan a two-year deal. My list of comparables has players losing about 45 per cent of their goal production in the two years after their 35-year-old season.
Comparable players are good to use since it gives us a good idea of what we can expect out of a player like Doan as we move ahead in his career.
Players scored an average of 22.2 goals in their 33-35 years and 12.1 in their 36-37 years, a 45 per cent drop. There’s a less drastic, yet still notable, 34 per cent decline in total games played, from 78.8 to 61.0.
We don’t have puck possession numbers for players who played before 2008 so it’s not enough for a full sample, but when it comes to Doan, a major issue is that players known for being durable, solid goal scorers in their early 30′s do not necessarily perform either at the same rate. It is a gamble.
If Doan only plays 60 or 65 games, he is nowhere near as useful as if he’s playing 82. Sixty-one, as players his calibre have been historically pegged at, is simply not enough to be effective.
That means that a team paying him millions is probably going to wind up overpaying for Doan’s intangible assets, notably grit and leadership, that have made him a hot commodity this sum-mer.
Intangibles are important, but it’s impossible to calculate just how much since an intangible is almost by definition something that doesn’t exist. We know for certain that Doan does not possess a secret talent to winning a Stanley Cup, since every single team in history has won the Stanley Cup without him on their roster.
But Doan would be an excellent third-line addition. He pushes play forward and is slightly above average at both ends of the ice. At the right price, he fills a gap in the Canucks’ lineup.
Recent players who have met the projected standards are players like Cory Stillman, Mike Modano and Robert Lang, and adjusted for the 2013 salary cap, that equals to a little over $3.5 million.
With an expected salary cap rollback, his true value probably falls somewhere below $3 million.
Evidently, Darcy Regier in Buffalo believes that Shane Doan’s intangibles are worth $4.5 million. They aren’t.
Cam Charron writes for The Province’s Legion of Blog. Check it out at theprovince.com/legionofblog