INDIANAPOLIS – To say this season has not been the best one for the Indy Fuel, is a major understatement. We’re 50 games in and the Fuel sit in second to last place in front of the Elmira Jackals, who have only won nine games this season. Fifty games in, the Fuel record sits at 14-32-2-2, the worst record that they have had at this point in time since the team’s inception.
Taking a look at the prior two seasons, at this point in time, in the team’s first season, the record was 19-23-4-4 with the longest winless streak being five games in a row, not horrible for a team’s first year in the league. Throughout that first season, many used the excuse of expansion franchise so that year’s record didn’t really matter. Although, the team only missed the playoffs by about three points, the closest the team has been to the playoffs.
The 2015-16 season was better than this current season but was actually very similar to the inaugural season. At the 50-game mark, the team’s record was 24-24-2-0, just a few games difference from this point in the team’s first season. The longest win streak through the entire season was four games.
This season has gone very differently, to say the least. Fifty games in and the team has gone through 14 and 7-game winless streaks and are currently winless in their last eight games. A streak like that is unacceptable for any team let alone letting it happen multiple times. Only five skaters remain from the opening night roster, all the rest have been traded or have left the team. The Fuel roster has seen 49 skaters and three goalies this season. It is difficult to build chemistry or a championship caliber team if there are new players going in and out multiple times per week.
Prior to the season Head Coach, Bernie John discussed this season’s roster at the Fuel media day.
“We’re always going to continue to tinker with our roster to make sure we’ve got the roster possible to put us in the playoffs,” said John. “Because it’s three years in, the expansion word is now officially over. We’re here to play, we’re here to take the next step, and we’re here to compete for a championship.”
Three years in the expansion word is off the table but the team sits at second to last in the ECHL and have been through nearly 50 players. John wasn’t lying when he said he was always going to be tinkering with the roster but I think it is safe to say that nobody saw this much “tinkering.” The only consistent spot on the roster has been the two goaltenders, Jake Hildebrand and Eric Levine and that’s because their rights belong to Rockford.
What comes with the consistent roster turnover is the loss of chemistry between players and loss of chemistry can create turnovers on the ice, which have killed the Fuel recently. On the offensive side, the team has only put up 126 goals this season, good for second to last in the league, only ahead of the Elmira Jackals with 108.
Along with putting up the least amount goals, they also give up the second-most goals in the league. Hildebrand starts most games and because of him, the team stays in the game. Without him, the team could easily lose games by as many as six to seven goals. The Michigan State grad has made a strong case for a shot at an AHL roster next season.
The case has been made that the Blackhawks organization is more focused on developing players instead of winning. That could be the case with seven players on the Fuel roster belonging to their American League affiliate, Rockford IceHogs. Although, having a winning environment while developing players is also very important. Getting scored on and walked around by opposing teams doesn’t develop anybody.
It is definitely time for a change in Indy but I don’t see anything coming anytime soon. My guess is the ownership will wait until the end of the season for any sort of change. In my opinion, it is time to get away from the local guys. There are plenty of coaches out there who know how to build a championship caliber team if that is what the ownership is looking for.
In no way am I advocating for a firing of anybody, Bernie John and Jan Jas have worked their tails off to try and create a strong team, but it just hasn’t worked out the way Fuel management envisioned. It’s time to go in a different direction with the team and find a leader who will build a team that will compete for a championship while developing players properly.