The Angry Budgie Live

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Phoenix Champions Review - The Forwards Part 2

Now for the rest of the forwards......

Number 16 - Joe Miller

Played: 34, Goals: 18, Assists: 15, Points: 33 (Peterborough)
Played: 17, Goals: 4, Assists: 6, Points: 10 (Manchester)

Joe joined the Phoenix from the Phantoms during the latter half of the season, the was probably the first time the Phoenix have signed an extra player to enhance the squad. Sharp came in just before christmas to replace a previously departed player, so Miller was an addition to the squad. He really joined at the right time, as the Phoenix had been experiencing a bit of a slump heading into the business end of the season. His fresh energy really was a shot in the arm and spurred the team on during those final months. While Joe's point production dropped from nearly a point a game he was the final piece in a really effective third line for the Phoenix. Joe added some height to the line and a really hard work ethic, as did the whole of that third line. Joe's arrival probably helped the Phoenix win the league. Being able to roll three strong lines helped take the pressure of Hand/Huppe/Kristoffersson in terms of ice time and gave the squad that extra stamina to get over the line. Those of you will remember Miller had iced for the Phoenix before, in their first season as the Phoenix during the EIHL days. Joe struggled in that year, but has come back a better player, and a much better fit in the EPL.

The Budgie Rating: 6.5/10

Number 19 - Tom Duggan
Played: 52, Goals: 13, Assists: 17, Points: 30

Tommy Duggan, what a season! The pocket dynamo, the guy could run the lights at the Ice Dome for the whole season with the energy he generated in one game. I will always remember Tambo remarking, during one podcast recording, 'That Tommy Duggan is a hazard to his own health'.......he is right tho! Tom worked hard every shift, competed for every puck, would take on any player on the opposition bench, and really make a nuisance of himself. Another payer who quickly became a fan favorite, not only for his on ice ability, but his office ability too! Highlight being, playing the national anthem on the ice before a game with his Fender Strat! Some Phoenix fans will also remember his guitar duties during the party in the Ice Dome bar after the title winning game! Tom really had a great season for the Phoenix, and I really hope he is one of the 6 players already signed up by the club. Im pretty confident he is staying, hell, at the end of season supporters do, he said he's staying pretty much! Ok so the words, im signed for next season, did slip his lips, but what he said was just as good as! The only worrying thing now is, if he continues to play as he is, it won't be long until the EIHL come's a knocking!

The Budgie Rating: 8/10.

Number 28 - Marcus Kristoffersson
Played: 54, Goals: 62, Assists: 50, Points: 112

Toffee, or Kristo's Beard according to one twitter user, the big Swede came to Manchester with a question mark hanging over him. After many injury prone years, would he be the top sniper the Phoenix had hoped for. you can see from the stats above, he did just that! Helped by the evergreen Sir Toe Knee Hand, Kristo quickly became one of the leagues hottest properties, backed up by his physical play Marcus had a monster of a slap shot. It would usually take a few goes during a game, but once his eye was in, he was lethal! Some opposition fans will bemoan his antics at times, but quite frankly, his antics were no worse than quite a few players in the EPL. In fact, I would go so far as to say, Marcus is quite tame by some standards. In the end though, he has the stats to wipe the floor with any criticism that is sent his way. Marcus and his family seemed to adapt to life in Manchester well, and it is rumored he is keen to stay but, if certain rumors are to be believed, the season just gone could be his one and only in the UK. I want Marcus to stay, but if he goes, I wish him well!

The Budgie Rating: Has to be a second 10/10 im afraid! Number two point scorer in the league to Tony Hand, can only be a 10!

Number 39 - Curtis Huppe
Played: 54, Goals: 59, Assists: 51, Points: 110

The 'other guy' in the Phoenix all conquering top line, Curtis came to the Phoenix with a certain point to prove. After some disappointing years with Coventry/Hull Curtis is a player who could still cut it in the EIHL. While never as flashy as Marcus, or as switched on as Tony, Curtis is a big tall guy who had a mean eye for the net. Coming in at number three in the leagues top point scorers, and with his own fan song to boot, Huppe had a great year with the Phoenix. Curtis was always the professional, always had time for the fans, and was always last to leave the ice during warm up. I would be delighted for Huppe to come back for season number 2 with the Phoenix. This seasons stats would not have gone unnoticed by the rest of the EPL/EIHL or even European clubs but, with a family back in Belfast I doubt he will go to Europe. After the season he has had, I really do not envy Tony with the decisions he has to make. Do you retain Huppe and keep that top line? Or is the budget there to sign a better import forward? Either way the fans will respect Huppe for what he has done for the Phoenix. All together now. Woooaaahh Curtis Curtis Huppe, Woooaaahh Curtis Curtis Huppe, Woooaaahh Curtis Curtis Huppe, Slapshot, Wristshot, Goal Goal Goal!

The Budgie Rating: The third of the triumvirate, the third 10/10 from The Budgie!

Number 64 - Andrew Sharp
Played: 28, Goals: 2, Assists: 1, Points: 3

A signing that polarized opinion across all hockey leagues/fans in the UK, many forming their opinions from memories from a few years ago and passing judgement before seeing the guy play for the Phoenix! As I can never remember Sharp's play during his time in the UK previously I approached his mid-season signing with an open mind and blank book...etc....! Signed as a tough guy to protect the Phoenix talent Andrew's mission was a simple one. He immediately added some mettle to the roster and injected new life into the squad, and quickly became a fan favorite. While he was more than willing to abide an opposition agitator, Sharpy could play! He had very good awareness on the ice, worked hard everyshift, and would position himself well on the ice to receive the puck. While many an opposition fan would question his use in the league, Sharpy had an effect by just being in the building. Many an agitator would remain quiet all game playing the Phoenix, see messers Wiggins and Grundmanis! Personally I think Sharpy contributed vastly to the Phoenix roster, and helped create some breathing room for the first line, by allowing the Phoenix to roll with three full lines, rather than the usual 2 and a half! A perfectly nice guy off the ice Sharpy would be welcomed back next season by the Phoenix faithful, if he returns or not depends on the Phoenix roster that shapes up over the summer.

The Budgie Rating: 7/10 for Sharp, could have been more but he only played half a season with the Phoenix.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Phoenix Champions Review - The Forwards Part 1

Number 2 - James Archer
Played: 54, Goals: 21, Assists: 23, Points: 44

James has come on so much this past season, a very solid second line forward he has determination and great strength. Plus, come playoff time, a fantastic ability to grow a decent playoff beard! Very important! James is a player who I want back at the Phoenix next season, he is the type of British forward you can use as part of a core group to grow a team over many years. James is defiantly one of those forwards who does not necessarily stand out and wow the crowd, but is missed when he is not on the ice. Archer played well on the second line for the Phoenix and seemed to revel in the locker room banter. Where he plays next season could depend on how the Phoenix roster shapes up, as to whether he will continue on the second line, or if an EIHL club comes in for him. He is another player that, given the ice time, could develop into a quality Brit. Maybe not in the same mold as Lachowicz but more the hard working grinder type player.

The Budgie Rating: A solid 7/10!

Number 8 - Greg Wood
Played: 54, Goals: 11, Assists: 25, Points: 36

Greg is an immensely hard working player, the epitome of which was the Phoenix semi-final in last years EPL finals weekend. Phoenix were on the penalty kill and Greg took the puck up the ice into the Slough zone, and wasted a good minute and a half by keeping the puck. Despite the attentions of two or three Jets players. He works hard all game and gives his all, I just wish he put up more points. That could be his play, or being on the second/third line all year. Despite putting up 36 points, he could have done so much more and possibly run Stephen Wallace as the second highest Brit point scorer on the Phoenix roster. The majority of his point production came in the latter third of the season, so just think what he could have done. It has already emerged Greg is part of the 'mass exodus' (three players) to the Sheffield Steeldogs, where he will be made captain. A surprising move, he doesn't seem like captain material to me, though I could have said that about Luke Boothroyd to be honest! What do I know! Will he be missed? In my! I think the Phoenix can sign a better, more consistent player in his place. But The Angry Budgie wishes him well, he is going back home, is captain and will get much more icetime in Sheffield than he ever could in Altrincham.

The Budgie Rating: 6/10 for Greg.

Number 9 - Tony Hand
Played: 54, Goals: 25, Assists: 108, Points: 133

Have you seen the point figure above? I mean have you? Seriously? The British Great One (tm), the reason 'The Code' (tm) was set up, Tony has had another stellar year, though made all the sweeter by capturing the league title. A PPG of 2.46 shows the old man is not slowing down just yet. For better or worse, he is at the heart of everything Phoenix, the vast majority of attacking play goes through him. The tried and tested line on Tony is, he doesn't need to be on the ice to get an assist is so true! Only 25 goals but 108 assists! The man frustrates the hell out of me when he will not shoot the puck, but more often than not he passes to someone else who will score! There have been some amongst the Phoenix faithful who have called for Tony to step down, retire or go completely, for me that's utter bull poo! If the Phoenix were ever to let Tony go, do they even have the money/ability to find another guaranteed 100+ point player? There are not many of those nocking around! During the first month or so of the offseason there was a rumor Tony would be leaving to take the reigns at Fife as they entered the EIHL for the 2011-12 season, I remember being shot down in flames on The Hockey Forum and on twitter for suggesting he wouldn't as he was under contract for the Phoenix until the end of that season. Lo and behold not only will he be staying, but he has signed an extension to that contract to keep him at the Phoenix for an additional three years. Im not one to gloat, but it felt good when that was announced! Long live Sir Tony!

The Budgie Rating: Cant be anything other than 10/10 for the legend!

Number 12 - James Neil
Played: 54, Goals: 3, Assists: 11, Points: 14

One of the most popular guys on the Phoenix roster this past year, James spent his time on the third line with Tom Duggan and Sharp/Miller, that is, when he was not playing D on the top line and being part of the powerplay unit. James began the year playing his normal position but, as Ben Wood has done so for many a season, became the Phoenix second, i'll play anywhere kinda guy! James maybe a small lad, but he was never shy of a hit or covering every inch of the ice. A nifty player with decent pace James could be disappointed with his point production this year but, as we all know, points are not the only contribution a player can make. James had a good season on the ice, and has become a firm fan favorite over the 54 games, and I know the vast majority will want to see him back next year. While he is not quite ready to make a regular contribution in an EIHL roster just yet, James will want to improve his ice time and stats next season. I really feel like the Phoenix will have a very strong second line next year, if so this will mean James will remain on the third line, but with regular appearances on the powerplay unit as he has done this season just gone. While the Phoenix could improve on James, a better player would have to fit in the overall budget, so that may not be possible. I would be more than happy to see James ice next season with the Phoenix, as he is immensely reliable. Plus he is another of the 'core group' of players i'd like the Phoenix to hold onto for a few years!

The Budgie Rating: 7/10.

Number 14 - Stephen Wallace
Played: 54, Goals: 25, Assists: 25, Points: 50

A player with silky skills, nearly a point a game, and maybe if you imagined Tony Hand at 75% you could well arrive at Stephen Wallace! Stephen is a solid second line player and excelled last season. One of my favorite players on the Phoenix roster, Wally is quick, can stick handle out of any situation near as damn it, and has become a very difficult player to take the puck from. He used his wicked wrist shop to great effect over the season, and deservedly became the second highest Brit scorer on the Phoenix bench. I will always remember when the Phoenix played the Phantoms on their last visit to the Ice Dome, Wallace had the puck right in front of Stephen Wall only to deak Wall and leave him on his ass. It's cruel to say it, but it looked hilarious! But that sums Wallace up, his hands are so quick he really can undress you and leave you for dead. A real quality Brit forward Stephen is always high up on my re-sign pecking order and, if the Phoenix want to retain their league championship, Wally's quality will be needed on the second line once again!

The Budgie Rating: 8/10.