The Fort Wayne Komets are more inconsistent than a politician trying to remember a promise.
They can compete or beat the ECHL's best teams one night and lose to one of the worst the next. Their biggest problem isn't the new coach, the young defenseman or a lack of overall talent. It's much more simple than that, but almost everyone is missing it so far.
The Komets may need a No. 1 goaltender.
That sounds harsh after Cody Reichard played so well and won his first Komets game on Saturday night, but he's been giving up some long-range goals. Andrey Makarov may get there someday, but no matter how much talent he has, he's only 20 years old. Would you trust your business to a 20-year old?
Under the current ECHL rankings, Makarov ranks as the ECHL's 32nd goaltender, and Reichard ranks 38th. That means they are good enough to probably be solid back-ups in the 23-team ECHL.
Both are outstanding young men who are playing hard and doing their best, but the Komets can't settle for that. They need a top-flight goaltender. The rest of the team has proven it is good enough to compete with anyone in the league, but they need someone to back them up and erase the mistakes a young defense will make until they mature in about another 30 games.
That's what very good ECHL goaltenders do. Every night they make their teams competitive and every once in a while they steal a game when their teams are not.
The book on the Komets is that their forwards don't play consistent defense. If opponents play solid defense and shut down Fort Wayne's skilled forwards, they'll get their chances to score at the other end as long as they are patient.
The problem is the Fort Wayne goaltenders have been giving up one soft goal per game, and that soft goal is killing their team in crucial moments. Whenever those soft goals happen, the rest of the team deflates as happened Thursday and Friday. As soon as it happens, the skaters put their chins in their chests and the rest of the game is decided.
The Komets are asking Makarov and Reichard to perform as No. 1 ECHL goalies when they aren't quite ready for that spot yet. They are being asked to prop up a very inconsistent offense and a young defense while playing above their ability. Is that fair to Reichard or Makarov? No, not really, but they are professional goaltenders and this is part of their job description. It's also why goaltender is the most unforgiving position in team sports.
The really tough thing is the Komets had this role filled perfectly with John Muse at the start of the season. A former ECHL playoffs Most Valuable Player with a great playoff track record, Muse could do all the things that make his squad better, but he was called up to the American Hockey League after playing one game in Fort Wayne.
The chances are probably slim he comes back, and the Komets can't afford to base the rest of their season on a hope that he does.