The Angry Budgie Live

Thursday, 27 May 2010

The Phoenix 09/10 Review - The Forwards Part 1

Next up for the Budgie, the first offensive review of the 09/10 EPL season:

Number 7 - Andre Payette The often mocked Andre Payette came to the Phoenix with such a reputation. Most of you who read this blog will be well aware of this reputation, but in my eyes Payette has been a revaluation this past EPL season. The expected goonage never really came out, partly because Tony wouldn't let it, and partly because very few players in the EPL would step up! Because of this a side of Payette's play was able to shine through, and one which many a Phoenix fan was grateful for. Payette would often do the kind of work that others would not, the type of work that goes un-noticed or rewarded. That was working the corners, working the boards, creating traffic and obstructions in front of goal, and, possibly most importantly, he did so much work looking after/mentoring the Phoenix youngsters. He would often be seen talking to each player, geeing them up, and consoling them. This type of work is so valuable and yet is never rewarded. I don't know what Andre's intentions are for next season, this Phoenix fan would not mind seeing him back in Phoenix colours for 10/11!

Number 8 - Greg Wood
Young Gred had a fantastic 09/10 season and quickly became a fan favourite. No one shift would sum him up more than during the Phoenix semi-final game versus the Slough Jets at the finals weekend when, on the penalty kill, Greg took the puck up the ice into the Slough zone, and held off three Jets players to kill a good minute of a penalty kill! While not the biggest of players on the ice Greg was often the most hard working, short but full of skill. Greg contributed well offensively and would always give his best on the ice. Greg's season with the Phoenix was disrupted by his GB absence, thankfully by the time he returned to the ice he hit the ground running. Greg's impact on the season and on the Phoenix faithful resulted in much delight on the forums to the news he would return for the 10/11 season. Greg is a real gem of a player, and one I hope the Phoenix can hold on to. The only worry being, if he continues to excel in Phoenix colours, how long will it be until the Elite league comes calling?
Number 9 - Tony Hand The greatest player in the history of UK ice hockey had another great season, often ripping opposition teams apart. It is a tribute to the man that his point contribution did not let up in the EPL, his vision and creativity on the ice as good as ever. Often in games, and especially during the Phoenix dark patch around December/January, Tony would be single handedly grabbing the squad by the scruff of the neck to get them over the line and get the points. Having lead the club to 3rd place and a finals weekend, Tony now knows what the EPL requires, and im sure the 10/11 squad will be a cracker. Other than assembling a squad, the only big decision for Tony will be, Should I play on? Tony has the skill/ability to play a good few more years in the EPL, but throughout his time leading the Phoenix, the team have lacked that off-ice help. If Tony does play on in 10/11 he will need to secure a good bench-coach, one who can help tactics while Tony is busy playing on the ice. Whether he play's or not, the Phoenix are so lucky to call Tony their leader.

Number 11 - Robert Lachowicz
Possibly one of the most talented young British players on the ice, Robert came to the Phoenix from the excellent Nottingham junior system and it showed. Along with Greg, Robert was one of the Phoenix most skill full and quick players. The only thing currently holding him back is his build, Robert is a very slight player, and one who, at times, could easily be bounced off the puck. His stature never deterred him, and Robert would be willing to get stuck in and do the work. The Phoenix faithful were greeted with sad news during this off season that Robert would not be returning, despite wanting to it seems the difficulties with his course at university and the call of the Nottingham Panthers would prove too much. As the EPL is a development league, the Phoenix were never going to be able to keep Robert for long, he is good enough to play in the EIHL. I just hope the Panthers show him the respect he deserves and give him a decent amount of ice time! Good luck Robert, and thanks for excelling at the Phoenix.

Number 12 - James Neil
A small hardworking guy, who seems to have played just about every position he could for the Phoenix. A forward he signed and was played in defence to start with, it took James a while to adapt to his new role and really settle in. But when he did, he quickly became one of the Phoenix more consistent performers. James was part of the fab four who departed the Phoenix ranks in December for GB duty, and again took a little time to settle back in. James did get to play his more preferred forward role, and maintained his place in the squad. Most Phoenix fans are delighted that James has re-signed for the 10/11 season, and it looks like James will be employed in his more natural forward position for the campaign.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The Phoenix 09/10 Review - The Defence

Next up for the season review, is the defence...............

Number 4 - Luke Boothroyd

I will admit to being one of the Phoenix fan's who thought the captaincy a little overawed the young blue liner. But this 2009/10 season really has seen Boot's mature so fast and become, possibly, a Phoenix franchise player. Luke, never the less, has had another good season, he has continued to hold his own on the ice, despite being a small lad, and towards the end of the season really became the Captain he should be. It was evident in the early day's of the season that Luke didn't 'seam' to be the captain. He wouldn't approach the ref, didn't 'seam' to lead the team huddle. But as the season progressed he began to assert himself more and more. So much so that in the last month or so of the season he began to really take the team by the scruff of their neck in the charge to the playoffs. Luke has already signed up for the 2010/11 season with the Phoenix, and the return of the captain is a big signature for the organization. Luke is a player who could quite easily play in the EIHL, and to retain his services is a big boost to the Phoenix.

Number 10 - Joe Graham

A mixed year for youngster Joe Graham, much sentiment on the Phoenix forum was that Joe went walkabouts too much during the regular season. There may be some truth to that, as it certainly seemed there were a few games where Joe's performance was a little anonymous. There were a few occasions where the pressure of various games got to Joe and he would make one or two costly mistakes. Im sure if you listened back to many a Phoenix podcasts, comments were made. Myself I am willing to give Joe the benefit of the doubt, he is a young player who needs to gain experiences. This past year in the EPL will have aided his development alot, and as with the rest of the Phoenix, his performance really started to move up a few notches in the run up to the playoffs. Joe has yet to sort out his 2010/11 plans, I would be open to him returning to the Phoenix, alot will depend on the budget and whether Neil/Tony can afford to sign a more experienced blue line.

Number 15 - Ben Wood
2009/10 was the breakout year for the young lad from Macclesfield. For so long in the season he was forced to play up front, out of his usual position, and he struggled. After a few chats with him, he is honest enough to admit that. You can only do as good as you can, the real marker was when Tony switched Ben back into his more natural defensive position. During December/January when the switch was made Ben broke out! His stick handling improved beyond measure, his speed across the ice improved and his physical style of play carried on at the high level of intensity he has always been known for. So much so that Ben has quickly become a fan favorite for the effort he gives on the ice. The only issue I see that holds Ben back a little, is his build. Ben is a tall slim lad, and could really do with adding some muscle. While he does not get out muscled on the ice, he could do with some size to really intimidate the opposition. Im delighted that Ben is returning to the blue line next season, and 2010/11 could really be the season when Ben establishes himself as a top EPL player.

Number 2 - Andre Mattsson
Talk about a marmite kind of player! The big Swede divided the Phoenix faithful with his performances across the season. For some he is way to offense minded, and will often be found out of position leaving the Phoenix goal vulnerable. For the others he is a solid defenseman, who puts up some very useful pointage! For me, I will admit to being a fan of Andre, however I am not so naive enough not to acknowledge his shortcomings. There were many occasions on the ice where he had pressed so far forward, that when possession was lost and the opposition transitioned back to the Phoenix zone, Andre was no where to be seen. Personally I loved his big presence on the ice, his big shot and the offensive points he contributed to the cause! Andre has not re-signed for 2010-11 and there will be many who do not want to see him return. I'm undecided, while his offensive contribution was valuable, im not comfortable with how often he left our goal exposed. On that basis, I would say thank you very much Andre but good bye.

Number 25 - Ryan Johnson
The big man from Sheffield, a quite surprising signing during the season, one that caught many Phoenix fans out! Another defenceman who came in and was seemingly played up front. This really did nothing for Ryan, as he does not have the speed or tight control required of a forward. He does have the perfect aspects of a defenceman, while not being very tall, he is big! After seeing him warming up in a few games he really is a beefcake too! A very strong player with a useful shot too, Ryan really helped shore up the defencive lines when Tony sent him out onto the ice. I would be pleased to see Ryan back on the Phoenix blue line, he certainly helps to add size to our defencive corps.

Last one is the forwards!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The Phoenix 09/11 Review - The Goalies

So sorry for the lack of updates on these pages recently, working for an airline, and the recent volcanic activity has lent itself to some interesting work hours! Im defiantly not cut out for early starts!

Anyway, this is the first of my end of season reviews of the 2009/10 season. Up first are the goalies!

Number 31 - Stephen Fone

I will admit this now, before the season I was a big big fan of Stephen Fone. The admiration really came from the few games Stephen came in to help the Phoenix out when Smurf got injured in the 2008/09 season. Stephen played brilliantly, and seemed to settle into the team really well. So I was delighted the Phoenix had signed him from Coventry to give him his first season as a starting goal keeper. Stephen has a great glove hand and is really quick around the crease. He does tend to leave that crease a little more often than I would like, and over the course of the 2009/10 season the Phoenix would concede a fair few goals due to Foney being out of position. Stephen's season was affected greatly by a dislocated shoulder, suffered away in Swindon (I think) at the beginning of December. This combined with 4 lads going off for GB duty, really de-railed the Phoenix season, and neither Stephen or the Phoenix really regained that early season form. Stephen was not quite the same goalie upon his return, his upper body movement not quite what it was. He was understandably protecting his shoulder. The news that he would go for surgery in the off season would show that for the second half of the season he was not 100% fit.

Such a shame!
Despite this, I would have Stephen back as our starter for the 2010/11 season, for a number of reasons! Firstly, with a repaired shoulder Stephen should hit the ground running and hopefully be at peak fitness for the whole season. Secondly, as I said early he seems at home in Manchester, the team loves him and the fans love him. Thirdly, can we afford a better keeper? Stephen is still young, only 23, looking around the league the only keeper's I would swap him for would be Slough's Greg Rockman, or even Guildford's Mark Lee. Both of whom would likely cost more.
Number 30 - Adam Summerfield The young Congletonian had a very good season, despite sitting on the bench for most of it, when called upon during December he really stood up and was counted! He never looked overawed, he played well and consistently and is starting to iron out a few of the mistakes he has made in the past. Adam is defiantly a keeper (pardon the pun) however he is at the stage of his career where he needs more ice time. He is already signed up for the Phoenix EPL squad for 2010/11 so that's next season sorted, but after that, he may well want to be moving into the starting keeper role. So for the 2011/12 season he may well have to drop to the Phoenix ENL side as a started or head elsewhere in the EPL. Even so he is a cracking little keeper, and one the Phoenix fans love!

Up next will be the defensive corps of the Phoenix!
If any of you out there have any pictures of the Phoenix players that I could use for each review, I would be very grateful!

Roll on September!