Brad Treliving, Jason Spezza, Shane Doan, Toronto Maple Leafs

What Shane Doan Brings to the Maple Leafs’ Front Office

On Thursday, ​​the Toronto Maple Leafs announced that former Phoenix Coyotes player and executive Shane Doan would be joining their front office. He’ll become an assistant to Brad Treliving, the team’s new general manager (GM). After his retirement, Doan served as the Coyotes’ chief hockey development officer.

As a player, Doan holds several franchise records. He also brings a wealth of experience on and off the ice to his new role. 

Doan replaces Jason Spezza, another NHL legend. Spezza left the team following the departure of former GM Kyle Dubas. His decision to join the Maple Leafs likely stems from his longstanding relationship with Treliving, who was previously an assistant GM with the Coyotes during Doan’s playing career.

A Personal Look at Shane Doan

The hire is interesting to me – in a good way. I know quite a bit about Doan actually. While I was a professor at the University of Alberta, one of my jobs was to visit schools and work with the teachers and school leaders. In that work, although I never met Doan, I learned a lot about him. 

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Doan grew up in the small village of Halkirk, which is located in central Alberta. In September 2021, the population of Halkirk was around 95 people. When you entered Halkirk School (it is now closed), it was filled with display cases of Shane Doan memorabilia – hockey jerseys, sticks, etc. He was an icon in the small community where he grew up. 

Halkirk School played an important role in the community and Doan’s life. Like many small rural schools in Alberta, it was a hub for community gatherings, provided education to local children, and fostered a sense of community. In small Alberta villages, of which there are many, it held cultural and social events that brought residents together and built the village’s sense of identity.

Arizona Coyotes Shane Doan
Arizona Coyotes right wing Shane Doan (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)

According to Doan, the village of Halkirk was central to his upbringing. He noted that it created a strong sense of community for as small as it was. He spoke about his lasting memories of growing up there on Circle Square Ranch. 

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Doan described the ranch as a place where his parents (his father was the director of the ranch) instilled in him the desire to help others. He also learned the value of hard work and helping improve people’s lives. These values (he said) played a significant role in building the traits that shaped his hockey career. They included the importance of being a good teammate and the positive impact that comes from approaching each day with a goal – making your teammates’ lives better.

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One of his favourite things his dad said to him all the time was “If you enjoy working hard, every day is a holiday.” 

Hard Work Is Facing Him with the Maple Leafs

As Doan enters his new job working with Treliving, the duo faces the challenge of navigating a critical offseason for the Maple Leafs. First, they must consider the futures of two of their star players – Auston Matthews and William Nylander. Following the disappointing second-round playoff exit, they must work together to determine if the current core group can lead the team to Stanley Cup contention; or, whether it’s time for a fresh start in Toronto.

Why Would Doan and the Maple Leafs Be Interested in Each Other? 

Doan’s attraction to the Maple Leafs seems obvious. He has been actively involved in Hockey Canada’s management team in addition to having held various roles within the Coyotes organization. With the Coyotes undergoing ownership changes, Doan’s future with the team appeared uncertain. Joining the Maple Leafs offers him the chance for on-the-job training and development as an NHL executive. It’s a good role for an intelligent former player if he wants to move into an NHL leadership role. 

Brad Treliving Toronto Maple Leafs
Brad Treliving, Toronto Maple Leafs (Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The Maple Leafs (especially Treliving) would have been interested because of his familiarity with Doan. As well, Doan and Maple Leafs’ president Brendan Shanahan’s careers overlapped and they probably got to know each other during times when they represented Canada internationally. 

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Although current GM Treliving left the Coyotes’ organization before Doan joined the team’s front office, they would have spent time together during Doan’s playing days. With the hire, one can now assume they had established a solid connection. 

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Additionally, because Doan ran offseason camps in the Phoenix area, he came to know the Maple Leafs’ two Arizona-born hockey players, Matthews and Matthew Knies. These connections could prove valuable in establishing closer relationships with these players.

Considering the Unknowns

While connections and familiarity play significant roles in hockey, there are unknowns. Specifically, Doan’s potential as an executive remains unknown. His previous work with the Coyotes focused on player development. It would seem that similar to Jason Spezza’s previous work with the team, it helps to have a former player with recent on-ice experience in a leadership role.

Jason Spezza Toronto Maple Leafs
Jason Spezza, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Experience provides valuable insights into what works and what doesn’t on the ice. The ongoing criticisms are that the Maple Leafs need to embrace a more physical style of play. That’s Doan. He was a physical presence, who was strong in front of the net and contributed on both the power play and penalty kill. 

Treliving’s Previous Success with Former Player Craig Conroy

The success Treliving had in Calgary working with former player Craig Conroy highlights the kind of potential Doan might bring to the team. Conroy brought a player’s perspective to the Flames. His input obviously proved valuable because he was recently promoted to Treliving’s former GM role.

If the Maple Leafs are to thrive under Treliving’s leadership, it’s crucial that he has the chance to assemble his own team – one that he trusts. Obviously, Doan is Treliving’s first addition. There will likely be others.

The Bottom Line

The addition of Doan to the Maple Leafs’ front office is intriguing. He brings the perspective of a former NHL player to his work with Treliving. He has experience, holds franchise records, and already has connections to the team. Growing up in Halkirk, Alberta, on Circle Square Ranch, he learned the values of hard work, being a good teammate, and making people’s lives better. 

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In his new role, Doan and Treliving face the challenge of deciding the future of star players and shaping the team’s on-ice approach. The addition of Doan brings a former player’s perspective and is a positive step for the organization. Finally, from everything I know about him, he’s a class act in the same way Spezza was. 

As the Treliving era begins to take shape, my opinion is that Treliving has made a good call in his first hire.

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