Building the Herd – Ricky Skene

#?? Ricky Skene

Position: Defence

Born: Chicago, Illinois, USA

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 20th November

Back once again - having initially retired after spending last season with Guildford, Ricky Skene is returning to the ice as a member of the Basingstoke Bison. (c) 5 Hole Photography

Back once again – having initially retired after spending last season with Guildford, Ricky Skene is returning to the ice as a member of the Basingstoke Bison.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

With injuries and impending absences causing issues for the Bison’s blueline corps, Bison coach Doug Sheppard today announced the short term return to the Herd’s roster of experienced defenceman, Ricky Skene.

The 32 year old American born blueliner initially retired at the end of last season, bowing out after Guildford’s playoff semi final loss to the Bison at the Skydome. Skene played parts of 9 seasons with the Spectrum based side and won 3 EPL titles and 2 EPL cups in Flames colours.

Having made his senior debut for Slough in the 2000/01 BNL season, Skene played for the Flames in the BNL and the Jets in the EPL before his lone season of EIHL hockey with the Bison in 2004/05. For 2005/06, Skene would return to Guildford and spend 5 productive years in Surrey before leaving in 2010 to join the Bison for the 10/11 campaign. Skene scored 16 points (1+15) in 47 games before moving to Peterborough to start the 2011/12 season. Skene had an unspectacular start to his time in Cambridgeshire and was released after 21 games and 2 assists. He quickly linked up with Bracknell and scored 15 points (1+14) in 29 games down the stretch as the Bees missed the playoffs. For 2012/13, Skene returned to the Flames for the last two seasons, breaking the 400 EPL games mark and winning the league and cup in 2013.

With a Bison defence that has been missing Matt Selby for a while and set to lose both him and Declan Balmer to GB under 20 duty before too long, Doug Sheppard needed to make some contingency for covering the blueline. Without Selby, the Bison’s current top 4 defenceman (Reynolds, Vantroba, Balmer and Baird) were having to overplay and were starting to look tired. 14 goals conceded in two away games is a number that needs to be reversed quickly. Skene, despite having not played since early April, is no slouch and arguably has been signed at the right time. Before Balmer leaves, he’ll be an adequate 5th defenceman and his rust on ice will be countered with the fact that his overall fitness (Skene runs his own personal training company) will be quite high. Someone taking that one shift in two or three that can give the other guys a rest is vital.

What happens when Balmer and Selby go off on international duty remains to be seen because there’s one big question in all this; what about Brendan Baird?

There are some (and it’s an argument I understand) that will say if we want Brendan to develop then he should be playing rather than sitting on the bench doing nothing; let him into the rotation. This position throws up a couple of questions, one long term and one shorter term that Doug Sheppard will have had to consider when first signing Brendan and then consequently bringing Skene out of retirement;

Is this young player worthy of an EPL roster spot and whatever ice time they get so we can develop them within our system? I’d argue that given he’s still visibly on the roster, getting the odd shift and hasn’t been shuffled off with no word like he’d run over someone’s cat like Elliott Dewey was, Shepherd’s thinking on this is yes.

Given the circumstances we find ourselves in, is said young defenceman capable of stepping into an EPL side to play 15-20 minutes a night? That question is harder to answer and you could make a case both ways for it. Sheppard’s decision on this one is his own to make.

Ultimately, Rick’s announced 1 month contract will help the Bison out in a tight spot and for those heavily concerned with the development of our younger players, it’s another experienced defenceman with trophy winning pedigree to learn from albeit for a short while.

Welcome back, Rick; just couldn’t stay away could you.

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