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!