Armchair GM: Indy Fuel Offseason Edition


After a quick playoff exit in their inaugural playoff campaign, the Indy Fuel front office now has the off-season to look forward to. This season was full of roster moves and many of them worked out in favor of the Fuel.  There are a few moves GM Bernie John and the members of the front office could make during the offseason to make this organization better for 2018-19.

First of all, According to the ECHL rulebook, a team may not have more than four veterans on its roster at any time during the season. The ECHL website states that “A veteran shall mean a player, other than a goaltender, who has played in at least 260 regular season games of professional hockey.

The Fuel currently have five players that meet that veteran threshold on the active roster: captain Michael Neal, defenseman Zach Miskovic, and forwards Josh Shalla, Ryan Rupert, and Darian Dziurzynski. Of the five players, four of them finished in the top five on the team in points.

At 32 years old, Miskovic might have seen his last season with the Fuel. The ECHL veteran has played the most games in a Fuel sweater in club history (186). In those 186 games, he has registered 55 points. The point total is not bad for a defenseman, but he is not producing like the Fuel need.

Miskovic seems to be far past his prime and unable to keep up with the speed of today’s ECHL game. In the three seasons that Miskovic has played with the Fuel, he has also had a -32 rating. A reasonable progression for Miskovic to continue his association with the Fuel might be a move behind the bench as an assistant coach.

Strengthening the defensive core is also something the Fuel could concentrate on in their long offseason. Defense has always been a weakness of the team and bringing in a solid offensive defenseman would be great. One of the best defenseman in team history, Robin Press, will most likely see more time with Rockford than he does with Indy next season. That would leave the team with only Brandon Anselmini, which would be fine, but he’s not the type of player you build your defense around.

Bringing in a legitimate goal scorer is something the Fuel have yet to do in their four-year history. Former Adrian College captain Mathew Thompson might be a player who would be worth bringing back for next season. He showed great potential after being brought in at the tail end of this past season. Thompson’s speed, skill, and a hint of physicality comprise just the type of skill set Indy has missed. Playing him along side Shalla and Dziurzynski could be a lethal option for the Fuel next season—if they all return.

Goaltending will also be an issue for the Fuel going forward. Unexpected breakout Etienne Marcoux may end up in the AHL with a team like the Chicago Wolves next season.  Based on his outstanding performance between the pipes in Indy, teams will take a look at him as a potential backup. Matt Tomkins might be back for another season, but it should be a priority for the team to find a backup goaltender over the offseason.  The Fuel’s AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, have an abundance of goaltenders now with four on their active roster.

Something that differentiates the rest of the remaining teams in the playoffs from the Fuel are smart decisions in their own end, and not turning the puck over. In the defensive end, the Fuel seem to struggle with execution, such as making one simple pass to get it out of the zone or having the confidence skate the puck out past the blue line.

All too often, the defense either just ices the puck or blatantly turns it over in the slot. Focusing on these details early on in training camp and the preseason should help the Fuel get out to an early lead in the standings.

If the Fuel continue to make smart decisions in the front office and make the moves that will help the team in the long run, they could build on the playoffs this season make a deep run in the 2019 Kelly Cup Playoffs.

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