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.