Building the Herd – Doug Sheppard

#28 Doug Sheppard

Position: Forward

Born: Georgetown, Ontario, Canada

Announced as signed: Bison website, 21st March

 

No folks your eyes do not deceive you, the Basingstoke Bison have made a player signing announcement before the season has ended with the news that player/coach Doug Sheppard has had his contract extended by the Herd.

2013/14 will see the former Sheffield Steelers and Slough Jets forward enter his 10th season in British hockey, his 5th in Bison colours.

The former captain of the Providence College Friars 4 seasons in Bison colours have yielded 215 points in 191 games not including this coming Sunday against Swindon. If Sheppard plays on Sunday (which we assume he will) it will also mark the first time that Sheppard has played an entire league campaign for the Bison where he’d lost chunks of other seasons to injury.

 

I don’t feel the need to re-hash the entire history of Doug Sheppard’s playing career. I did that when he rejoined the Bison and you can find that here if you want to go into massive detail. What we will do is use this Building the Herd to look at what Doug’s done this past season on and off the ice.

As a player it’s hard to argue with having a player of Sheppard’s quality in the lineup. He’s over a point per game, 2nd top scorer on the team at the time of writing and, though I say it a lot, you need players like Doug Sheppard to win hockey games.

He rarely gets the man of the match beers because his style of play is so low maintenance and no nonsense but you can be guaranteed that he’ll skate through a wall for the team. Any line with Doug Sheppard on it is going to be a hard working line. He puts up points through his hard work but also his skill. Sheppard has really good hands and wheels and a very good hockey brain that shines through. His partnership with Joe Greener has transitioned well from Slough to Basingstoke as they’re both players with a similar skill set but where Greener is the more physical, Sheppard is the more skilful per se. Sheppard will set things up and Greener finishes them off. The only thing I ever say as a mild negative to Sheppard’s game is that I think he forgets sometimes just how much more skilful he is than some of the players at EPL level and I always silently say in my head how I’d like to see him take players on more but that’s nit picking to a degree. It’s not really Doug’s modus operandi which is to get the cycle going and make the right passes at the right times.

Success is a subjective thing. Whilst I admit that success is hockey is by and large measured by trophies, as a coach Sheppard has certainly proven he can do a decent enough job. Now responsible for the Bison’s highest finish in both the EIHL and the EPL, he has shown that he can recruit players up to the task. Planet Ice insists that the club is operating under the same budget for player wages that they did under Moria in 2011/12. Anyone who isn’t a Bison fan doesn’t believe that but if true then Sheppard is a bloody good recruiter. If the Bison are spending more than last season, I still think Sheppard’s a decent recruiter. Some of the players who came from Slough as well as some top end talent like Chambers, Owen and Lyle were all persuaded to come to Basingstoke despite offers from other clubs.

Sheppard had a variety of challenges thrown at him over the course of the season and showed he wasn’t scared to make changes if he thought the team was going to improve. Fojtik, Cesky, Smith, Hutchinson, Watt, Mogg; all players who Sheppard thought could add something to the team when they were brought in. Did all of them work? No, and I’ll leave you to legislate which ones did and didn’t. Sheppard gambled on an all British defence corps after the Fojtik/Cesky switch which was performing fine until injury struck.

The loss of Kurt Reynolds might be the turning point that lost the Bison the EPL title if you’re looking for one point and you have to believe that Sheppard won’t start next season without an import defenceman on the roster and keep one for the season unless really extreme circumstances dictate otherwise. Whilst having 4 forwards gave us extra firepower when the team wasn’t scoring goals, the frailty at the back cost us. I would venture it’s better to win 2-1 than lose 5-4. If, Heaven forbid, Reynolds got hurt again having that extra body of similar quality would do us wonders. I do believe Hutchinson should have been given a longer time in a Bison jersey but I am not privy to those decisions. Also, Kris Melachrino…but I’ll just leave that one there.

Doug Sheppard rolled the dice a few times during this season and some bits paid off, some bits didn’t. Tactically we adjusted to different opposition when required and made moves when the roster needed moves but we also fell victim to being sucked into other team’s game plans when short benched (Hi Andre) which stronger leadership might have avoided and there is possibly an accusation of excessive tinkering that could be levelled at Sheppard.

There is no such thing as a perfect season, despite what Nottingham Panthers fans will tell you right now and Doug Sheppard’s recruiting, playing and coaching have allowed the Bison to legitimately call themselves title contenders. Stats can be twisted sometimes but the table doesn’t lie. Planet Ice want the title, the fans want the title and Doug Sheppard has earned the right to have another go at it as player/coach of the Bison…then again we don’t know what the end of March and April will bring but you and I know the one we really want.

Welcome back Doug, let’s really do it this time!

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