Building the Herd – Dean SkinnsPosted: 04/07/2013
#?? Dean Skinns
Born: Basingstoke, Hampshire
Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 4th July
The worst kept secret in English Premier League hockey has officially and finally been let out of the bag with Doug Sheppard announcing the return to the Bison of home town boy Dean Skinns to be the Herd’s number 1 guy between the pipes.
Skinns, 28 enters his third spell with the Bison having famously made his début in September 2001 at the age of 16 when he was called off the bench when Stephen Foster was too ill to continue during a Findus Cup game in Slough against the Jets. Skinns remained with the Bison through their time in the BNL and into the Elite League as the team’s backup making 30 appearances over 4 years before the call of more ice time proved too strong.
In 2005, Skinns moved to the EPL and has been there ever since. He played the 05/06 season with Bracknell dressing for 48 contests and finishing with a 2.91 GAA and .897 goals against average as the Bees finished 5th in the EPL and made the playoff final where they were edged out by Milton Keynes.
Skinns moved to Slough for 2006/07 and spent 3 seasons with the Jets. The Jets never finished lower than 4th with Skinns in net including a second place finish in the 2007/08 season. Skinns backstopped the Jets to a playoff title in 07/08 in which he had a phenomenal 1.84 GAA in the 7 playoff games he played. Skinns made 118 appearances over his 3 seasons with the Jets before he moved for 2009/10 to Guildford. Skinns dressed for all 54 contests with the Surrey side but found his ice time reduced as the season wore on with the return to form and fitness of Mark Lee. Skinns was part of the side that won the EPL cup and finished his one campaign at the Spectrum with a 3.57 GAA and a .904 GAA.
For 2010/11, Skinns came home to Basingstoke under coach Steve Moria. He started as backup to Tom Annetts but when Annetts’ form dipped, Skinns grabbed the number one spot and refused to relinquish it. Skinns backstopped the Bison to the EPL cup final which the Herd lost over two legs to Slough. Skinns started 2011/12 as the Bison’s number one but a mild injury, an average defence and a loss of form saw him first usurped by Matt Colclough as the Bison’s number one before Skinns was released and replaced by Stephen Wall. Skinns’ second stint in Herd colours lasted about 18 months with a total of 44 appearances.
However Skinns landed on his feet and was quickly picked up by Swindon Wildcats where he spent the rest of the campaign after an injury to Tom Murdy, making 20 appearances to round off the 11/12 campaign before being re-signed for 2012/13. Skinns made 42 appearances for the Wildcats last season finishing with a 3.55 GAA and a .902 save percentage. He was in net for both legs of the Wildcats’ see-saw playoff quarter final battle with the Bison where the Wiltshire side were sunk by Joe Greener’s overtime powerplay goal.
Finally, we can all properly talk about this. It’s been gossiped about for so long that Dean Skinns was back with his home town and it’s been providing a topic of discussion for a while.
There is a legitimate concern. You don’t need a long memory to remember how Skinns’ last stint with the Bison ended; he bombed, hard. After a promising first season where he stepped off of the bench to take the starting spot, Dean ended up getting outplayed by a rookie netminder and his head appeared to have dropped so far into his chest that he seemed to only have a view of his rib cage. His save percentage when he left the Bison was .852. If you’re not one for hockey stats I’ll translate for you, at EPL level that’s bad. The EPL has moved on and up in terms of quality since then and there’s a fear that history will repeat itself. With Connor Standing waiting in the wings, some are worried that we’ll end up sending an inexperienced 18 year old into the breach. (Hang on a second, that sounds oddly familiar)
Is this a concern? Yes but by the same token we need to consider a couple of factors.
Whilst it’s safe to say that Skinns didn’t play his best hockey for the Bison before his release, he was replaced by Stephen Wall who didn’t fair much better. The Bison were an average team that season. It was a team that prompted me to question the very goal of the organisation, we need to take that into account when considering Skinns’ performances that season. An all star goalie in Wall also tanked here to a degree.
Flip that and consider the defence that Skinns will have in front of him this season in Basingstoke with 3 questions; is it better than the defence he had that season, is the defence better than he had in Swindon and is the defence better than the one Lyle had in front of him? From my personal perspective I’d say yes, yes and maybe. Yes we need to see this season’s defence in action but given the blueline corps that Sheppard has put together, I understand the apprehension but I don’t share it, at least not to the same degree. The 2010/11 Bison defence was average, the Swindon defence last season was average bar Paul Swindlehurst but this season’s Bison defence looks better than average.
The other factor to take into account is how Skinns has played since he left Basingstoke. It’s certainly not like he was a bust at Swindon. When Murdy came back from injury, Skinns’ play was good enough to keep Murdy out of the side. Murdy’s not a slouch either; Elite League experience and a former GB u18 and u20 international and played into second fiddle by Skinns. Skinns’ stats were actually better than those of Stephen Fone, the keeper that won the playoffs. Skinns had a higher save percentage having faced on average 6 more shots per game with a worse defence in front of him but which keeper would people rather have?
The situation is not as black and white as some would make out. Sheppard’s assertion that he’s upgraded the team in other areas is something I’d agree with. I don’t disagree that Skinns has something to prove to the Bison fans. His last stint here tailed off spectacularly but by the same token he proved at Swindon that he could do the business again. I am prepared to let Skinns take to the ice with this defence in front of him before I condemn the Bison to a mid table finish and scrambling for the playoffs. With an import forward and a Brit forward to come it really may not be as bad as everyone thinks. The eyes will be firmly on Skinns because there are some unanswered questions. The thing is folks, the answers that come might just be positive.
Welcome home, Dean.