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!