The Angry Budgie Live

Monday, 25 July 2011

Phoenix Summer Update Number 2

Sorry for the little gap in between posts 1 and 2, The Angry Budgie went on its travels to Japan and Singapore. It turns out it takes a fair amount of time to get yourself ready for a trip!

Title Winning Defence returns for another year:

It was said early on in the offseason that the Phoenix had re-signed 6 players from the title winning team and had offers out with 3 other players, and some Phoenix fans were getting impatient at how slow the Phoenix were announcing their new roster. I could see the thinking though, why reveal your hand so early, like the Steeldogs? Slowly slowly catchy monkey or something like that! Anyway the next big announcement from the Phoenix saw the rock steady Luke Boothroyd return for another year. The Huddersfield native quickly becoming a Phoenix franchise player and Mr Manchester Phoenix! The other name, and one name I expected to move on to Europe was the return of Ladislav Harabin. One of the best defensemen in the EPL, and one who could cut it in the EIHL, Harabin was an absolute rock on the blue line. Tough mentally and physically, I will always remember the awful injury he took in Slough, and Tambo telling me on the Podcast that all he was bothered about was, getting back out on the ice. Nutter, absolute nutter!

A Capital reunion and BT Fone's home:
With the departure of Huppe and Kristoffersson the Phoenix had to replace and repair the potent top line. The first piece of the jigsaw and second cog of that first line would see Martin Cingel head south and swap the Capitals for the Phoenix. Reuniting Cingel and Hand from their stint in the Scottish capital back in 2003-06. Many people will look at his point production and say it is a downgrade when put up against Huppe/Kristoffersson. I would say, bunkum, utter bunkum, any player who can put up a point a game (more or less) on a terrible Capitals roster has the talent to rip up a league if put on the right team and line. You would be a brave brave man to bet against Cingel having a career year with the Phoenix alongside Tony Hand. Huppe is the only player from last seasons first line who can say he was up in the points before coming to the Phoenix, Kristoffersson certainly wasn't, both players point production went through the roof last year. Cingel has produced consistently during his time in Edinburgh and im looking forward to seeing him in Phoenix colours now!
Steve Fone is another returnee, and someone who improved vastly during the 10/11 campaign. The great thing with BT is, during last season he emerged as one of the best keepers in the league, and he still has so much room for improvement. Always a calm head between the pipes, Fone will often contort into some weird shapes to keep the puck at bay. Fone is part of an emerging Phoenix backbone/franchise players, along with Boothroyd and Duggan these three form a great spine from which to build the Phoenix.

Two more pieces fall into place:
The next two signings announced by the Phoenix were two players on my 'must sign' list. James Archer and Stephen Wallace, one a hard working grafter and the other the silky smooth showman of the second line. James Archer came to the Phoenix and slotted right in and hit the ground running. A player who will skate and skate and skate and then skate some more Archer combined well with the rest of the second line to add real depth and quality to the Phoenix lines. Along with Wallace, the Phoenix of 10/11 finally had a quality second line who could contribute and, at times during the season, carry the squad while the top line misfired. Wallace, the skillful winger from Billingham returns for his third year, really impressed last term. My favorite player of last year Wallace could get the puck round any player in front of him, and would often leave goalies on their backsides and score into an empty net. If he can hit the ice running next season Wallace could become a top 5 point scorer in the league!

Phoenix new blood:
Any UK hockey fan will tell you, a roster changes almost 100% year on year. So far this offseason the Phoenix have announced one new arrival in Martin Cingel and a hell of a lot of departures. The latest announcement sees former Basingstoke Bison tough guy Ciaran Long and former Panther Josh Ward arrive in Altrincham. From memory I am glad the Phoenix have captured someone line Long, last years experiment with Andrew Sharp showed that in some instances an enforcer has a place in the EPL. However Andrew's point production really was not good enough, and the Phoenix could not afford a player of his type for a full season. The toughness must come from each existing player on the roster and Long will bring some of that needed toughness to the Phoenix. For more in depth knowledge of Ciaran Long I strongly urge you to head on over to my good friend @84arussel and his blog: Banners on the Wall. I believe he is soon writing a farewell peace for Ciaran Long and has passed on the treasured mantle of #LoveCiaranLongTime to the Phoenix!
I must admit to now knowing much about Josh Ward, but anyone who can force his way onto the NIC ice must be half decent! Another Panther youngster who heads to the Phoenix for icetime. He may well end up treading the Lachowicz route to a full time roster spot with the Panthers. A year under the tutelage of Sir Tony Hand will do wonders for Ward. He is one player I look forward to seeing come the first puck drop in September!

Since returning from my trip the Phoenix have added two more players, I will get working on a post to cover their arrival!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Phoenix Summer Update Number 1

First off I wanted to apologize for the length of time it has taken me to get round to a new blog post. I must admit the hockey off season is not the best for producing long/witty and thought provoking pieces! But what the hell let's give it a go!

Before we launch right into it, I must bring your attention to a new Phoenix Blog written by a good friend of The Angry Budgie: Gemma Howarths hockey blog. Go take a look, it offers another perspective on all things hockey and Phoenix related!

Anyway to this blog post, so far the Phoenix have taken a very sedate route to announcing their signings. In stark contrast to our friends from over t'hills the Steeldogs. Who, after only a couple of weeks, had announced pretty much their entire roster! Including a few of the Phoenix title winning squad in Greg Wood, Ben Morgan and Pavel Gomeniuk. I guess being a Phoenix fan, while looking at this offseason, it would be rude not to start here!

Steeldogs Bite the Phoenix wings:
Early on I remember rumors regarding certain members of the Phoenix roster moving over to Sheffield appearing, initially I shrugged them off thinking, why move from a title winning side to Sheffield? It was at this time that silly rumors started flying around, some saying half of the Phoenix roster was on the move. That one was a little silly! As the week's passed it become more obvious that Woody, Morgs and Pasha were on the move. When it was later confirmed by the Steeldogs I was gutted, really gutted. But then, when a level head returned, I quickly turned to the well know status of 'Meh'! Of the three im only really sorry to see Ben Morgan go. Decent British defensemen are a) hard to come by and b) expensive! Pasha well, was brilliant on the Phoenix blue line, and I loved his booming slapshot from the blue line. But he is an import defenseman, plenty of those available. Plus, if we are to be cheeky, of the Ladzi/Pasha pair, i'd much prefer to hold onto Ladzi! A move to Sheffield also makes sense for Pasha, he signed for them last summer before the Scimitar's problems and, living in Hull, the Steeldogs are a better fit for him. Anyway I digress! So to Greg Wood, a feisty little player who spent most of his time on the third line with the Phoenix. Not sad to see him go really, as he never really consistently produced the goods on the ice. He had a good start to the 10/11 season, went off the boil and then only picked up again during March! The main surprise with this departure is, Greg is to be made the Steeldogs captain! He's a good player, but captain material? I guess the same could have been said for Luke Boothroyd before he was made Phoenix captain!

The Great One Returns:

Well this had to be the most ridiculous rumor of the summer. Sir Tony of Hand was off to Fife to coach them during their debut EIHL season. So many people on twitter and THF decided this was a done deal and, despite evidence to the contrary, and took great delight in belittling myself and other Phoenix fans for believing otherwise. All this despite Tony entering the final year of his contract and making no noises at all about departing the Phoenix. So you can imagine how big my smile was when the Phoenix and Tony Hand announced a new 3 year contract for the great one, keeping him in Altrincham until 2015:

Out of the gloom, a chink of light:
Prior to Tony Hand's announcement above, all the Phoenix had to dine on were rumors of players leaving. First it was Marcus getting unsettled as no contact had been made from the Phoenix. Then it looked like Huppe was on his way to the Flames. Needless to say alarm bells were ringing amongst the Phoenix faithful. I tried to look at it in a different way, yes I would be gutted if Huppe/Kristoffersson left, but I was comforted by the fact that, every season we see top imports leave, only to have them replaced by equally good imports! I think back to Molin/Tallari/D Beauregard/Hagelberg all fan favorites, all have left, all have been replaced! I am confident this year will be no different! So, gloom dominated the early offseason for Phoenix fans, until the Tony Hand announcement we had nothing to celebrate. Until the 10th May when the re-signing of Tom Duggan and the signing of Slava Koulikov from the Slough Jets. What a way to start the roster building! Sign up a fan favorite and one of the standout Brits from 10/11 and one of the best British forwards in the EPL. I'm over the moon Duggy is back, he provides so much grit/determination and effort on the ice, he alone can lift his linemates. Koulikov is a player I have admired on the ice, very skillful and will fit in perfectly on the second or first line depending on the makeup of the full roster.