Building the Herd – Joe Baird

#15 Joe Baird

Position: Defence

Born: Southampton, Hampshire

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 7th May

Joe Baird is back for another season in Bison colours. (c) 5 Hole Photography

Joe Baird is back for another season in Bison colours.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

The steady stream of news continued out of the Bison camp with the announcement of another returning defenceman in the form of alternate captain, Joe Baird.

Entering the 3rd season of his second spell with the Bison, Baird has been a stoic leader on the ice for the Herd with his no nonsense, defensive game taking prominence over points. Since rejoining the Herd in 2013, Baird has tallied 19 regular season points and 204 PIMs along with scoring the crucial go ahead goal in the 2014 playoff final.

Baird made his first senior appearance in the 1994/95 season in a Beavers jersey remaining with the club through the name change to the Bison in the old BHL as well as appearing for the club in the Superleague and BNL before leaving the club in 2002.

Joe went across the Solent spending 3 seasons and making 100 appearances for the Wightlink Raiders before heading to Bracknell between 2005 and 2009, making 179 appearances for the Berkshire side with 64 points and was part of the Bees side that won the 2006/07 league and playoff double along with making 3 guest appearances in the Elite League for the Bison in 2008.

After 4 years at Bracknell, Joe moved to Swindon in 2009 where he would spend 4 years with the Wildcats and would clock up another 180 appearances and 52 points before answering Doug Sheppard’s call in 2013.

Baird has 556 career EPL season games with 182 points (42+40) and 1366 PIMs. With his 3 games as a guest in the Elite League, Baird has the rare honour of having played in 5 different leagues for the club (BHL, Superleague, BNL, EIHL, EPIHL) as well as having made his 500th career EPL appearance for the Bison. Baird is also a former GB under 18 and under 20 international.

It’s the first full week of May and we know half of the Bison defence which is odd though not disconcerting by any means. There’s no reason for Sheppard to massively tinker with the blueline corps that’s regularly been top or close enough to having the lowest shots allowed total in the league.

Many people won’t look at the re-signing of Joe Baird and be rather non-plussed given the other announcements in the league this week. In fact in speaking to one person, they said the Bison had “lost the PR war” this week.

I understand that argument but I’m less inclined to agree with it because 1. as has long been my credo, you can’t have a team of “superstars” as it rarely works and 2. you need the guys who are honest, go to work, no fuss players who won’t score tons of points but will do the job.

Baird will be 35 when the 2015/16 season starts. He’s had a few injury issues in his career and probably isn’t going to beat Grant Rounding in a foot race. He occasionally does get caught out for pace on the rush, he does take a lot of penalties. Even with those downsides, Sheppard keeps faith.

Whilst Baird isn’t the fastest skater in the world, the one thing he is good at is being responsible in his own zone. That sounds really obvious to say, a defenceman should be responsible in his own zone but think of defencemen caught of position chasing the man or chasing the puck and leaving gaps, not sticking to the system. This is rarely an issue with Baird. He knows what his job is; take the man, clear the zone, get the puck away from our goal. If others want to race up the other end and do the flashy point scoring bit, more power to them but that’s not what Joe Baird is needed for. He’s an old school player. You’ll occasionally hear of a guy who patrols the blueline and that’s Baird to a tee. Add that to his experience, leadership and the respect he garners in the room then he’s an ideal player to retain. Sheppard has tried to keep a core and feels that Baird is a key part of that. He’s been an alternate captain since his return so we know that he has the trust of the coach as well as his team mates.

Like with Balmer, it’s easy to kind of just look at signings like this and just go “meh”. Whilst Baird has his critics and his shortcomings, there has to be something there. Sheppard doesn’t generally suffer fools or those who can’t contribute gladly. With the loss of Chinn to retirement he needs elder statesmen to be there to show composure in a crisis and show the younger ones the way. It may sound dull to say he’s reliable but without reliable in hockey, you have little.

Welcome back, Joe.

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