Building the Herd – Joe BairdPosted: 23/05/2013
#?? Joe Baird
Born: Southampton, England
Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 23rd May
The building of the 2013/14 Bison continued this morning with the announcement of the return to Bison after many years away of former junior team player, Joe Baird as part of the defence for the new season.
Baird, 33, made his debut for the Beavers in 1995 when he played one shift of a BHL game at the age of 14. The Beavers became the Bison and Baird iced 3 times in 1995/96 alongside his junior career. Baird reappeared in senior hockey during the 1997/98 Superleague season when he dressed 8 times for the Bison alongside played in ED1 (now NIHL 1) for the Buffalo scoring 6 points (1+5) in 17 games.
The Bison leaving the Superleague for the British National League in 1998 saw Baird step fulltime into the senior game. Over the next 4 seasons, Baird would ice 135 times scoring 18 points including scoring in back to back Benson and Hedges Plate finals over Slough in 1999 and Guildford in 2000.
Baird left the Bison in 2002 for what would be the start of his soon to be 12 year stint in the English Premier League. Baird joined the Isle of Wight Raiders becoming a popular face at Ryde over his three years there. Baird iced 108 times for the Raiders tallying 47 points before he returned to the mainland in 2005 to join Bracknell. Baird was part of a Bees side that was one of the big dogs in the EPL at the time before the end of the Taylor era nearly ended both Bracknell and Basingstoke. Joe was part of the 2007 league championship side and scored 64 points in 271 games. Baird also guested 3 times for the Bison in 2007/08.
After his time at Bracknell came to an end, Baird moved on to Swindon where he has spent the last 4 seasons and was alternate captain for the 2012/13 season. Injuries have hampered Baird but he has been popular with the Wildcats faithful. The 4 seasons have garnered 180 appearances and 52 points.
Baird represented Great Britain at u18 level 9 times and 8 times at u20 level where he tallied 1 goal and 1 assist.
“He is a guy I have had my eye on and it is a straight swap for Alex Symonds who has joined Swindon,” Sheppard said. “He is a very physical player, which I found out the first time I played against him.” – Basingstoke Gazette 23rd May
Off the bat, I think people have taken this statement too literally. I read that more as “we lost our defenceman to them, we got one of there’s back” but some are saying that it’s an indication that Baird is going to literally replace Symonds and I don’t agree there.
Baird himself readily admits what his game is; he’s a physical, stay at home defenceman. Good, we like those. We need those kinds of players and I won’t argue with a player like Joe Baird being that guy. He’s a pest for players to muscle past, will hit anything that moves, isn’t afraid to get stuck in to the mêlée when needed and will drop the mitts if needs be. The fact he’s a Bison junior returning home is a nice added bonus that we get to cheer more of the players that the junior system here produced.
I don’t however think he’s the like for like replacement for Symonds in the sense that I don’t think Baird plays top line minutes. Baird hasn’t been used as a top line defenceman at Swindon and has generally gone no higher than being number three there so why are the Bison instantly going to be using him as a number 1 or 2 defenceman?
Baird brings a ton of skills to the table; he’s got tons of experience, he knows the level of the league well, has good hands, makes good outlet passes and hits. His PIMs total, once well into the 100s has been below 40 the past two seasons. That’s likely partly due to injury but where Baird was once seen as a penalty liability isn’t born out in the recent numbers. There’s an argument there that he’s adapted his game ever so slightly as he’s got older though many will hold a contrary view there.
I’ve always hated watching Joe Baird when the Bison have played Swindon because he’s a sod to play against. He’s always been a decent shut down defenceman but I don’t see the logic of throwing a guy off of two injury hit seasons into playing 20-25 minutes a night including pk and second powerplay unit as Symonds was doing right away. If he stays fit, great because you want someone with that sort of experience around the team and involved in the games as much as possible but I believe that Baird starts as 4th or 5th defenceman and gets moved around as the season progresses.
The Herd is slowly coming together and we’re not far off the season ticket night in the bar which traditionally sees the announcement of some big signings. In the meantime, welcome home Joe. You know where stuff is, I don’t think it’s changed that much.