Building the Herd – Doug Sheppard

#?? Doug Sheppard

Position: Player/coach and forward

Born: Georgetown, Ontario, Canada

Announced as signed: Bison website/Basingstoke Gazette 26th April

 

British hockey’s worst kept secret is finally out of the bag with the announcement that playoff winning coach Doug Sheppard returns to the Basingstoke Bison as player/coach for the 2012/13 season having left the Slough Jets.

Now 35, Sheppard played junior A hockey for the Vernon Vipers in the BCHL before playing his college hockey with the Providence College Friars. Sheppard earned plaudits for his high calibre play including being named the Hockey East rookie of the week once during his freshman year.

After finishing his college career, Sheppard turned pro in 2000 with the Roanoke Express in the East Coast Hockey League where as a rookie he scored 69 points in 69 games to start life as a professional. Doug spent 2001 with the New Haven Knights of the United Hockey League (now amalgamated as part of the Central Hockey League) where he scored 56 points in 74 games with 3 points in 3 playoff games. Sheppard made his first foray to Europe for 2002/03 when he signed for Fassa in Serie A in Italy where he tallied 25 points in 30 games before heading back to the CHL for 2003/04 where he scored 49 points in 56 games with the Oklahoma City Blazers.

Sheppard made the journey over to Britain to join the Bison at the start of the club’s 2nd EIHL season in 2004/05 with the start of Mark Bernard’s tenure as coach/GM/doer of everything. On a line with Shawn Maltby (brother of former Detroit Red Wings star Kirk) and Mike Ford, Sheppard made a great start to his career in Britain scoring 57 points in 50 games as Bison failed to make the playoffs. Sheppard’s 2nd season was partially limited by injury but he still went over a point per game as he scored 49 points in 43 games as the Bison made the playoffs by default thanks to the folding of the London Racers. Sheppard scored 6 points in 6 playoff games as the Bison finished bottom of their playoff group. Doug finished off the season by heading to Australia to ice for the Sidney Bears in the AIHL. Sheppard’s 3rd season started with a promotion as Mark Bernard left for the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League meaning Doug was now player/coach of the Bison. It was an eventful season for Sheppard as he had to deal with goalie changes, a broken wrist, one of my favourite ever games as a Bison fan (a 1-0 win at home over Manchester) and the EIHL telling the club they had a bye in the cup then making them play a one off game that they lost. In amongst all that Doug scored 42 points in 45 games and the club qualified for the playoffs on merit, losing over 2 legs to Belfast.

With the change of ownership to the Taylors at the start of the 2007/08 season, Sheppard took up the role of player/assistant coach to Dave Matsos at Sheffield where he remained for the next 3 seasons. In that time he won the EIHL playoffs in 07/08 along with the league and playoff double in 2008/09 before leaving at the end of the 2009/10 season. Sheppard totalled 164 regular season games for the Steelers scoring 160 points and 97 PIMS in that time.

For the last 2 seasons (for those of you living in a bubble) Sheppard has been part of the Slough Jets. As an alternate captain in 2010/11, Sheppard announced himself to the league as he notched 76 points in 53 games and the EPL cup win over the Bison before being thrust into the player/coach position for 2011/12 with the sacking of Peter Russell. Coaching a team built by Russell, Sheppard’s guided Slough to a 4th placed finish in the league and a hard fought playoff title at Coventry with wins over Guildford and Manchester.

Welcome to the new boss, sort of the same as the old boss because he is an old boss. This signing does work on a couple of levels from an EPL perspective. As a player, Sheppard has shown that even at 35 he can still do the business at EPL level with 154 points in 107 games for Slough and as we’ve seen from the games he’s played against the Bison that what we know as his style of play hasn’t lessened with age. He’s still got the eye for goal and he’ll still skate through a wall for the team.

In fact the questions regarding Sheppard’s playing are not really in doubt at all. Whilst advancing in years his game hasn’t changed and he’s proved in the last 2 years of the league that he’s still able to play top line minutes and play powerplay and penalty kill as well as he ever did and like a quality import should. Shep’s always been a quality import but he’s also no fuss and no nonsense with it. He’s never really been the big noise anywhere he’s played but he’s been a consistently high performer and that is what’s so good about him player wise, you don’t have to worry about him as you can just let him play. Look at Slough last season, Calder and Pliskauskas are the names people mentioned while Doug had a 78 point season whilst going almost unnoticed.

The real question and the thing on the minds of many will be his coaching ability. On the surface he’s obviously done well with Slough given last season’s playoff title but it occurred to me; many Bison fans who are newer to the club will only know Moria’s coaching style. Will they like Sheppard brand hockey? The answer from those of us who remember EIHL era Sheppard hockey is more than likely going to be yes.

If we look back at the 2006/07 season when Sheppard was in charge of the Bison in the EIHL he put together not only the Bison’s best finish but also a very competitive squad on a comparatively small budget. The team was a mixture of decent imports, quality returnees and hard working 3rd line Brits some of whom worked (Mark Galazzi) and some who didn’t (Gavin Farrand). The challenge now for Sheppard is with the added experience of 8 years in the British game is putting together a team mainly consisting of British players whilst finding the best quality imports to play alongside him.

Sheppard had a decent amount of success with Slough but he didn’t put that team together, Peter Russell did before his unceremonious “release” from the Jets. It’ll be interesting to see what sort of EPL side Doug puts together but he seems, in the press release at any rate, to have signalled his intentions that he wants a trophy.

I remember having a conversation with Doug when he took over the last time. He told me that he wanted the Bison to finish in the top 4 of the Elite League which I thought was ambitious at the time (which it was) but that should be the aim now. Given Planet Ice’s press release when Moria was let go and the release for Doug’s signing, 4th needs to be the minimum if not higher. I’m not demanding the EPL title out of the guy in his first season but he never got the chance to build upon what he started the last time so it’ll be fun to watch him try a second time around.

Welcome back Doug, consider this the first interview request.

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