Leaving behind the mountains and Utah scenery of West Valley City might figure to be a tough move, but the eastward trek to Philadelphia has worked quite well for the Phantoms’ Jon Sim.
Sim, 27, left the Grizzlies on Nov. 14, loaned to the Phantoms for center Peter White. The Grizzlies have limped to an AHL-worst 2-11-0-1 mark to start the season, and Utah management has been forced to make several roster moves in the past two weeks to help salvage the season.
Sim’s new team, the Phantoms, also started the season off poorly, starting the season with bad opening weekend losses to Hartford and Bridgeport.
Sent to Philadelphia only a little over two months after signing with Phoenix, Sim was polite but honest when asked his time with the Grizzlies and about the mood in Utah these days.
“I thought I was going to be a part of their organization out there, and unfortunately things didn’t work out. It’s tough. I’m not going to bad-mouth anybody, but times aren’t good out there right now. Anywhere they wouldn’t be good [with that record].”
But things are very good in Philadelphia, where the Phantoms have not lost since that Oct. 17 game in Bridgeport, rolling off 15 consecutive wins and in the position to tie the AHL mark for consecutive wins when they host Hershey tonight. A perfect 10-0-0 mark on home ice has helped the Phantoms put together the bulk of the streak.
The second game of the home-and-home series with the Bears, Saturday night in Hershey, could see the Phantoms break the mark held by the 1984-85 Baltimore Skipjacks.
Whether or not the Phantoms set a new mark this weekend, Sim knew that a move to Philadelphia would turn his season upside down.
“When I looked at the standings, I thought, ‘Oh jeez, this is going to be great.’ It’s a winning organization. They want to win, and you can feel it as soon as you walk through the door.”
Already hot when they picked up Sim from the Grizzlies, the Phantoms have stepped up their play a few notches since the deal. Sim has been on a serious roll with the Phantoms, picking up five goals and three assists in his five games after coming east. His two overtime goals last weekend in games in Albany and Providence helped the Phantoms keep their winning streak intact.
Sim’s first game with Phantoms was a morning game on Nov. 17, giving him only a little more than two days to make his way from Utah and into the Phantoms’ mix.
“He was kind of thrown right into the fire,” head coach John Stevens agreed, adding, “We have the type of team that’s pretty close and makes people feel comfortable.”
A sturdy 5-foot-10, 190-pound left wing from New Glasgow, N.S., Sim is a typical Phantoms forward who mixes a lot of grit with some decent skill that fits well into the team’s transition-based system.
The Phantoms model much of their system on that used by the Flyers, whose head coach, Ken Hitchcock, coached Sim in Dallas with the Stars. While Sim is still adjusting to his new teammates and a new outlook on life in Philadelphia, the Hitchcock influence has meant that at least the system in place is a familiar one.
“I know Hitch. I know the system. The system is not something new, so it’s easy to jump into.”
Sim, said Stevens, is “a great competitor, who has good hands and creates a lot of scoring chances when he’s out there.”
Now in Philadelphia, Sim is playing in the Eastern Conference for the first time in his career. Sim was a Dallas farmhand in the old International Hockey League before moving to the AHL, where he played in Utah when the Grizzlies were affiliated with the Stars. Besides his time in the Dallas organization, he has spent time in the NHL with Los Angeles and Pittsburgh.
“I’m excited to be here. It’s a whole new division for me, new rinks.”
At least for now, anyway, even the Phantoms’ bus-oriented travel schedule has left Sim excited. Accustomed to flying while with the Grizzlies, Sim is adjusting to spending his weekends busing around the Eastern Conference.
”It’s a new [travel] pace for myself. But I’ve got my track suit on, and I’m going on the road. It’s going to be fun.”