Lovely article about the Phantoms. Not very cheerful, but maybe after Sunday and the recent roster changes, they're going to start to turn this around.
David Unkle, Delaware County Times/Canoe.ca
PHILADELPHIA--After 37 games, a few common themes emerge when critically analyzing the Philadelphia Phantoms' performance this season.
Less than seven months removed from their Calder Cup victory over the Chicago Wolves, the Phantoms are plagued with a propensity to consistently take undisciplined penalties along with an offence that lacks a credible scoring threat.
Case in point: R. J. Umberger, who last appeared with the Phantoms on Oct. 29, is tied for seventh in team scoring with ten points.
When Umberger was recalled to the Flyers following a concussion suffered by Keith Primeau, the Phantoms looked to local favourite Tony Voce.
Voce chipped in 22 goals last season, the most ever by a Phantoms rookie.
This season, Voce has just three more points than Umberger and depending on the night, can either be the offence's albatross or salvation.
Rookie Stefan Ruzicka, who was selected with the draft pick obtained in the Eric Lindros trade has been a disappointment so far and is invisible both on the ice and on the box score many nights.
His 16 points are just six more than Umberger despite playing in 27 more games.
But the real problem may rest in the Phantoms' dressing room.
"It's frustrating," said defenceman John Slaney, "you need six guys working hard on the ice every night."
"As pro athletes, I think you realize that you have to work and compete every night," added Slaney, who was named captain prior to the start of the season.
"We had some guys that looked beyond the team and when you do that, it kind of hurts (the overall team performance)."
Those two players appear to be the-recently departed Eric Meloche and Eric Chouinard.
Meloche was packaged with Patrick Sharp as an after-thought in the Flyers trade for Chicago Blackhawks' centre Matt Ellison.
With just one goal and three points in 10 games with the Phantoms this season, Meloche wore out his welcome, just as he did in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, frustrated both with his role and the team's fortunes this season.
Chouinard, a liability on and off the ice, was sent to San Antonio for Kiel McLeod.
So with a little more than half of the season left to play, the Phantoms search for answers, both for this season as well as next.
Import Pat Kavanagh (12G, 11A) is one of the few bright spots this season. So is the play of their two young netminders, Martin Houle and Rejean Beauchemin.
Separating the Phantoms from the bottom-spot are seven points and the Albany River Rats, a team that has annually excelled at ineptness.
"I don't know why we're at the bottom (of the standings) but clearly our inability to consistently score continues to hamper us," said Phantoms head coach John Stevens.
"Our power play is a reflection of that. If our special teams were better, we'd win more hockey games."
The Phantoms' powerplay units connect with a league-low 10.4% efficiency.
Despite the team's showing to date, Stevens maintains a placid deameanour.
"The way our league is set up, if we get going, we'll take care of our own business and catch the teams ahead of us," said Stevens.
"With 52 games in your division it's very easy...we don't ever think we're out of it."