Goodnight and Good Luck – Dean Skinns

After months of negotiating with him to remain with the club, the Basingstoke Bison today announced the departure of netminder, Dean Skinns.

Dean Skinns has been confirmed as not returning for the Bison in 2015/16 (c) 5 Hole Photography (this is also one of my favourite photos from Grant)

Dean Skinns has been confirmed as not returning for the Bison in 2015/16
(c) 5 Hole Photography (this is also one of my favourite photos from Grant)

What have we lost?

Purely focussing on Skinns alone, the Bison lose an established EPL starting netminder. Arguments about his long term consistency aside you can’t argue that on his day, Dean Skinns was a top tier netminder in the EPIHL. When he was in the zone, Skinns would make saves he had little to no right to make. He would see everything and stop everything. Like most goalies he is a confidence player and when that confidence was high he was close to unstoppable. The defence of double winning Bison side of 2013/14 was set up to benefit Skinns; with people grumbling about a downgrade after losing Stevie Lyle to Swindon, people predicted the Bison wouldn’t even make the top half of the table but a defensive strategy that played to Skinns’ strengths worked well which meant that when things didn’t go as planned, Skinns went into Superman mode and would pull out the stops.

I’ll get into the wider picture below but had the club managed to persuade him to stay alongside our new import, what a combination it would have been.

Where has he gone?

At the moment, officially nowhere but rumours abound thanks to the nature of the Bison’s press release.

Who replaces him?

Tomas Hiadlovsky, the newest import and the first non-British netminder the club have signed since joining the EPIHL will replace Skinns as starting netminder.

Final thoughts:

I think if we’re honest with ourselves, this piece has been a long time in coming. Since the announcement that the club had signed Tomas Hiadlovsky, people have been expecting that Skinns would go. It was however never a certainty.

Since the decision was made for Sheppard to become a spare import and the Bison would sign Hiadlovsky, my understanding is that the club and Skinns have been in constant contact over the summer with a view to Dean remaining with the team as the back up. This would have been extremely useful given the new 3on3 overtime rule meaning only 1 import is allowed on the ice. However the wording of the Bison’s press release is somewhat clear, something has come up that would allow Skinns to start elsewhere and as such he has chosen to depart. The official line from the club in the press release seems to be that the split is mutual; that this opportunity has come up, Dean wants to take it, the club understands and so they part ways. At least we hope that to be the case.

What this instantly makes us wonder is where has he gone? Most EPL and NIHL1 South teams have announced starting netminders (I don’t venture Skinns playing much above the midlands) but I have to think that something has fallen through for a club somewhere and have offered Dean the starting role. For me this is the likeliest outcome; less than impressive stats last season or not, he’s a starting netminder in the EPIHL or a big coup signing for a top end NIHL1 side and where he’s maintained contact with the Bison and something was being worked out for him to stay, a team somewhere appears to have pulled the trigger and said “we want Dean Skinns” and they’ve got him.

It was mentioned on my appearance on the Bison Bites podcast that the Bison allowed the second fewest shots in the league last season but had one of the worst save percentages. It’s a stat that hangs in the air and you have to think ultimately led to the club choosing the import netminder route for this season. I still strongly believe that after taking 2 very hard shots to the mask in a game against Guildford last season that Skinns was not in a position to continue and should have been removed from the game. I don’t think Dean was the same that season after that point and the club could have addressed the situation better. That ship has now sailed and here we are.

What we can likely all agree on is the place that Skinns rightly occupies in Bison history. He is the club’s record holder for minutes in net, he is the joint holder of the shutout record with Curtis Cruickshank and was the netminder for the most successful season in recent times. Blips in form or whatever, when the history of the club is spoken about at the 30th anniversary or further down the road, the name Dean Skinns will be mentioned; the local lad thrown in the deep end at 16 who went on to ply his trade for a number of local teams but eventually came back and helped end the trophy drought as part of a team that was labelled as destined to fail.

The ending wasn’t a fairytale one but you can’t help wonder if this isn’t so much “goodbye” as “see you later” in more than one sense.

All the best, Dean.

UPDATE: An hour after posting this on Friday night, Dean was announced as having signed for the MK Lightning. With MK announcing that James Hadfield had a “lower body injury” that is reportedly a broken leg, this move makes perfect sense for both parties; Dean gets to play, MK get a starting netminder that can easily slot into the side.  In some ways, Dean is the real winner in this situation because as the only keeper of his calibre left available he’s likely been able to name his price to a degree.

I’ll get into the changes in strategy that MK will have to make in their Standing in the Way piece.

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