Sports

Chiefs defenseman Baldwin always a good bet

A couple of months back, Darren Kramer laid down a bet for Corbin Baldwin with the most generous of odds at 1 million-to-1.

But sometimes in basketball you can’t buy a bucket, and sometimes in hockey you can’t take a penny and turn it into a quick $10,000 from your team captain.

Not unless you can score.

“Yeah, yeah – I didn’t score. But he should’ve paid me anyway,” the Spokane Chiefs’ defenseman said. “That would have been really nice.”

At least Baldwin is cashing in on other opportunities as one of Spokane’s three overage players this season.

While the three-year Chiefs veteran is the kind of player that can easily go unnoticed by fans – his points are infrequent, and as his game has matured over the last few seasons he doesn’t drop the gloves every chance he gets – he’s exactly the kind of player Spokane needs on the blue line.

He blocks shots. He sacrifices his body. He finishes checks. He competes. And he frustrates his opponents – like the Kelowna Rockets’ world-class forward, Brett Bulmer, in a game earlier this month.

“He threw him completely off his game just with how hard he played him. (Corbin’s) compete level is what sets him apart,” Chiefs general manager Tim Speltz said. “He’s hard to play against and he’s going to be such a key component for us in the playoffs because he’s big, strong and tenacious. He does all the little things he needs to do to give our team a chance to win. That’s something he’s matured into.”

“He even plays that way in practice,” Speltz added. “In fact, our coaches have to be careful he doesn’t go too hard in practice and get injured.”

That’s why the Chiefs’ coaching staff presented the Winnipeg, Manitoba, native with the inaugural Coaches Award prior to Spokane’s final home game of the Western Hockey League regular season as the Chiefs’ unsung hero on the ice.

“It was about recognizing the most valuable player that plays with least recognition,” Speltz said. “A lot of nights this season he’s been our best player, but it’s usually a guy with the most goals or points, or a goaltender that makes a lot of saves that night that gets noticed.”

At 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, it’s hard not to notice Baldwin.

This season in particular, though, he’s had bigger skates to fill after playing his first two seasons behind several talented former Chiefs defensemen, such as Jared Cowen – a first-round NHL draft pick who is now a rookie for the Ottawa Senators.

Baldwin has done so admirably, doubling his career total from last season in goals (six) and finishing the regular season with the 12th-highest plus-minus mark (plus-35) in the WHL.

“(Players like Cowen) set the bar high for me,” Baldwin said. “I’ve tried to take little bits of the guys (who came before) me and apply them to my game. It’s a more important role for me this year and I think I’ve been a bigger part of the team.”

He’s also been a blueliner that the Chiefs can bet on.



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