So we've had the goalies, now lets look at the meanest defence in the EPL!
Number 4 - Luke Boothroyd - Captain
Played: 57, Goals: 0, Assists: 12, Points: 12
Captain Luke Boothroyd returned after a very good debut EPL season, Luke has never been one to put up lots and lots of points. His game is more suited to being a defenceman, he is never a player who will be first up the ice and getting on the net. He is a stay at home defenceman, and one that is often needed in the EPL. He would be the perfect player if he were bigger, but his size is by no means a disadvantage to his game. He uses his brain well enough to negate any size difference to an opponent! I cant remember if I have mentioned this before but, Luke is the guy who has laid Brad Voth out on the ice a good few times. He has carried on doing so ever since! The likeable lad from Huddersfield gets on with his job quietly but with ruthless effectiveness. A great stick handler, Luke can position himself well on the ice and can light the afterburners if necessary. All these things shone during the season just ended and just reward was the EPL championship!
Budgie Rating: Another solid season from Luke, 8/10.
Number 6 - Ben Morgan
Played: 57, Goals: 9, Assists: 31, Points: 40
Ben was a bit of a marmite player at the beginning of the season, especially to those who post regularly on the Phoenix forum. Personally I liked the offensive bias to his game. He did find himself out of position a few times in those early games, but he learnt quickly and became a very good two way defenceman. So much so, that come the end of the year, he is one of the first players Phoenix fans want back next season. Plus judging by the anxiety caused by rumors he is off to Sheffield, the Phoenix faithful want another season from Morgs! A title win in his first season with the Phoenix will be difficult to top, Morgan could play in the EIHL, but icetime would be limited. His development would continue brilliantly in the EPL and he could go on to establish himself as an EPL veteran, if he didn't want to make the step to the EIHL! For me, i'd have Morgan back in a heartbeat! He was good during 2010/11, he will be great in 2011/12!
Budgie Rating: After an initial wobble, Morgan settled himself well! 7/10
Number 13 - Max Drakely
Played: 17, Goals: 0, Assists: 0, Points: 0
A difficult year for Max, but a year he will have learnt alot from! As I have often said Max is at the stage, in his development, Ben Wood was back last season. By that I mean, very limited ice time! The times he was given ice time Max did well. Looked nervous at times, but that's to be expected! Just like Ben, Max is not afraid to throw himself about on the ice. In fact, some people on Phoenix forum, think he edges Ben in terms of physicality! I'd love Max to come back next year, but he faces the same questions as Ben. Do you stick around and take as much icetime as you can get or, do you move elsewhere in search of ice time? The EPL is a development league, and Max is only in the early stages of his, so another year at the Phoenix, another year learning from Tony Hand would stand him in good stead for the future!
Budge Rating: Difficult to give a rating due to limited ice time! 5/10
Number 15 - Ben Wood
Played: 57, Goals: 3, Assists: 1, Points: 4
Another year playing almost every position on the ice for Ben, not that he minds! The tall Macclesfield lad got stuck in and played hard when given the ice time. He has suffered a bit of flack on the Phoenix forum come the end of the season, personally, unwarranted in my opinion. The past season he has learnt alot, he positions himself well on the ice, uses his stick on a great poke-check and can level a player against the boards if needed! He also has a wicked wrist shot, if you hadn't noticed! Ben defiantly saw an increase in his ice time this year, still not getting massive amounts, but he would ice a fair bit in each game. I would be delighted for Ben to return next year to continue his development but Ben, like Adam Summerfield, must decide if regular ice time can be found away from the Ice Dome!
Budgie Rating: Another good year for Ben. 6/10
Number 40 - Pavel Gomeniuk
Played: 57, Goals: 11, Assists: 44, Points: 55
My memory of Gomeniuk from his Stingray days was, that he is a steady stay at home defenceman who is always reliable. Those memories were not wrong, poached from the Scimitars last summer, Pavel came in and was the proverbial rock on the Phoenix blue line. Not the fastest across the ice, but a physical player with a massive slapshot. To have a successful D, and a winning team, you need players like him. Pavel was also a player who could step up to the plate when needed, I remember important goals through the season, the most being the Phoenix first goal in the playoff semi-final against MK. Scored at the opposite end to the Phoenix faithful, his slapshot was seen by everyone lasering to the top left corner, except for Hollyhead in goal! Mr Reliable put his body on the line for the Phoenix on numerous occasions, blocking shot after shot. During the run in to the title, I don't think any other player's body suffered as much abuse as his! Especially his ankles! Now, like Ben Morgan, Pavel is a must re-sign for many a Phoenix fan, me included!
Budgie Rating: Simply superb! 9/10.
Number 44 - Ladislav Harabin
Played: 45, Goals: 9, Assists: 24, Points: 33
Possibly the best defenceman in the EPL, no surprise this offseason that rumors abound that some EIHL clubs are after him! Not a tall guy, but built like the proverbial outhouse! A tough mean eastern European defenceman with a bullet of a shot and some silky skills. He loved to take the puck all the way from behind the Phoenix net, through the opposition, to their goal. My girlfriend and I often wondered if there was a frustrated forward in him wanting to burst out! The man is so tough, it took a severed artery to force him off the ice! If Tambo is to be believed, even that didn't stop him from wanting to carry on! Loved by the fans, he built up a great partnership with Pavel, and where one went, the other followed! Or that could be because Pavel acted as his interpreter, who knows! But in Ladzi and Pasha the Phoenix had one of the best defensive pairings in the league! Come back Ladzi come back!
Budgie Rating: Pure class! 10/10.