Corbin Baldwin isn’t what you’d call a big-time scorer. In fact, the Steelheads defenseman has only netted seven goals during a professional career that spans nearly 250 games.
But there is more than one way to contribute to a winning hockey club, and there is no doubting Baldwin’s value to the Steelheads. The 6-foot-5 blue-liner ranks fourth in the ECHL with a plus-28 plus/minus rating — a statistic that measures how often a player is on the ice for goals scored (pluses) versus goals against (minuses).
“It’s a team effort,” Baldwin said. “I’ve been playing with good players and good goalies, and I’m just reaping the benefits. It’s nice to be out there (for pluses), but if you look at my offensive numbers, you know it’s the guys around me who are scoring most of the goals.”
That Baldwin is quick to deflect the credit is no surprise given his humble demeanor and uncanny knack for getting his long arms, legs and stick in the way of opponents’ shots. But there is no denying his effectiveness. Through 62 games, Baldwin has set a career high with 17 points (three goals, 14 assists), and he forms half of a dynamic defensive duo next to smooth-skating partner Shawn Boutin.
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“I couldn’t be happier with the way those two guys are playing,” Steelheads coach Neil Graham said. “The plus/minus numbers they are putting up are extremely impressive — especially considering most of their shifts are coming against other teams’ best players.”
Going head-to-head with top scoring lines comes with the territory for a No. 1 defensive pairing. And it’s a challenge Baldwin and Boutin have welcomed with open arms.
“Our job is to be a shutdown pairing,” said Boutin, who is plus-15. “We play against a lot of the top players, and if we can limit their scoring chances, it gives our team a great chance to win.”
The solid play of Baldwin, Boutin and the entire Steelheads defensive corps is thanks largely to another Baldwin — Corbin’s older brother and Idaho assistant coach Gord Baldwin. The brothers were two franchise building blocks for Graham, and the move is paying off.
“I knew if I got the job, Gord was the guy I wanted as my assistant coach,” Graham said. “He was the first phone call I made, and I think Corbin was the first player I signed. So, it was big to get the Baldwin brothers on board from day one.”
Corbin Baldwin is enjoying working with his brother, who played eight pro seasons as a defenseman.
“Not a lot of guys get to have this experience,” Corbin Baldwin said. “So it’s pretty cool.”
The elder Baldwin agrees.
“We get to spend some time together away from the ice, which has been great,” Gord Baldwin said. “But we know how to draw the line at the rink and keep it professional.”
Many coaches might have balked at the idea of putting siblings into such contrasting locker room roles. But with Corbin having a career year and Gord helping Graham steer the Steelheads toward a West Division title, the results speak highly of everyone involved.
“It takes two special people to manage a situation like this,” Graham said. “And to their credit, they’ve handled it beautifully. You don’t see them talking about Thanksgiving dinner — they always have the best interests of the team in mind. So to me, the only thing better than one Baldwin is two.”
The Baldwins’ professionalism hasn’t allowed for any on-ice horseplay. But, with Corbin measuring in as the team’s biggest player, you won’t hear any complaints from Gord.
“It’s been a while since I’ve beat on him,” Gord said with a laugh. “He does pretty well for himself now.”
STEELHEADS OPEN FIVE-GAME HOMESTAND
▪ Who: vs. Rapid City Rush
▪ When: 7:10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
▪ Where: CenturyLink Arena
▪ Radio/TV: 1350 AM/Cable One channel 72
▪ Tickets: CenturyLink Arena box office or idahosteelheads.com
▪ Notable: Idaho is home for five consecutive games — two this weekend versus Rapid City, two next weekend versus Colorado and one March 30 versus Utah. All five games are divisional matchups as the Steelheads look to add to their four-point lead atop the ECHL West Division.