BLOG: Forget the stats, Dundee are in safe hands with Fullerton

As we wait for even the faintest whisper that might hold the answers to the recruitment drives being undertaken by all twelve sides, trembling with the inevitable excitement that that generates, it is hard not to be caught up in the wheeling and dealing synonymous with the off-season.

Often our next steps will be to peruse online databases like Elite Prospects, scouring the statistics and trying to picture how one recruit could hold the key to next season’s hopes and aspirations.

We are all guilty of paying too much attention to stats, drawing flimsy conclusions from numbers that, while shedding light on the type of player acquired and the role they might slot into, reveal little of course about how they might adapt to their new surroundings and the types of systems and expectations they will have placed on them.

The reality of the summer months is that the anticipation of simply having a player put pen to paper can be an extraordinary and drawn out process.

Just ask Fife Flyers fans eagerly awaiting any news while simultaneously claiming the unwanted tag of being the last Elite League club to confirm a single deal.

Dundee Stars, meanwhile, exceeded all expectations to reach a maiden play-off semi-final last season but lost a key piece in forward Justin Faryna, while winger Vinny Scarsella will inevitably be attracting interest after a stellar 87-point campaign in all competitions.

Marc LeFebvre has wasted little time in assembling his roster ahead of the curtain raiser in September with the new additions standing at six. Four players, Joey de Concilys, Craig Holland, Kris Inglis and Cameron McGiffin, have even committed their futures on Tayside.

One Dundee acquisition that will attract debate though is that of goaltender Travis Fullerton. It would be easy to look at his goals against average (3.88) and save percentage (89 percent) from 2016-17 and scoff at the suggestion that Fullerton is an upgrade on Joe Fallon.

Yet when you delve a little deeper and you consider that he was operating behind a shaky Edinburgh rearguard, Fullerton’s performances – when viewed in isolation from the stats – deserve credit.

Dundee with Fallon were a play-off team while Edinburgh had to make do with propping up the table having missed the post-season for a fourth straight year. Comparisons between the two are therefore at best ill-advised and at worst irrelevant.

Given that Dundee, as one of the smaller budget sides in the EIHL, will expect to face a similar barrage of rubber night in and night out next campaign, Fullerton arrives having operated in the same trying circumstances at Murrayfield.

Teams would pepper him with shots from every angle in the hope of scooping up rebounds, an area that for some detractors became something of a weak point. It is however worth remembering that a normal night for Fullerton involved in the region of 40 shots, as Edinburgh struggled time and again to keep the shot count down.

He was amongst Edinburgh’s most consistent performers despite giving up five or more goals in almost a third of his starts. Time after time it was Fullerton who bailed out Edinburgh during the frequent lapses in defensive coverage that sadly characterised an inconsistent season. That cannot be disputed.

He’s locally based with a knowledge of the league and the Gardiner Conference following an earlier stint with Braehead Clan during the 2015/16 season. That familiarity should be advantageous when you consider the turnover from season to season that clubs, including but not limited to the Stars, face.

Without Fullerton it is not inconceivable to argue that the Capitals would have been out of play-off contention well before their fate was sealed in March, as LeFebvre himself rightly pointed out.

Some might argue that, after a super start in which Fullerton was named EIHL player of the week in mid-September, his stats fell away as both Edinburgh’s defence and, more importantly, Fullerton, began to be found out.

It is worth recalling though that the Capitals struggled mightily when Fullerton was absent. With his visa delayed Edinburgh’s campaign, incidentally against the Stars, got off to a disastrous start when they shipped eight at home.

Then, over the Christmas period, perhaps the most defining time of the season given the volume of fixtures, Fullerton’s absence through injury magnified their reliance on the Canadian.

Despite cameos from Jordan Marr and the impressive Jordan McLaughlin, the Capitals nosedived and lost seven straight over Christmas and the New Year – the kind of form that Edinburgh never really recovered from.

The poor run undoubtedly contributed to a sense of restlessness among those connected with Edinburgh who were longing for Fullerton’s return. When he did recover from injury it is not hyperbole to suggest he was the catalyst in their (in vain) attempts to keep their play-off hopes alive.

Time will tell whether Dundee have made the right call to pursue Fullerton, though in LeFebvre’s words he has landed a player that he has courted for a number of years.

With Fallon playing such a starring role in Dundee’s march to the last four, the pressure will be on Fullerton to perform to similar standards.

But the reaction from some sections of Capitals fans to his departure shows the kind of esteem in which the New Brunswick native was held.

Fullerton was too often left exposed by a defensive unit that struggled for any semblance of consistency. If LeFebvre and the Dundee front office can avoid the defensive struggles that persisted during Fullerton’s time in Edinburgh, he will surely flourish.

Building from the back is the cornerstone of any recruitment drive. In Anthony Mastrodicasa, the archetypical shut-down ‘D’ man signed from Rapid City Rush, and the re-signings of de Concilys, Inglis and McGiffin, that process is well under way.

Dundee fans and observers across the league should not bother themselves too much with analysis of the stats for any new signing – Fullerton included.

While they provide an indicator of consistency and performance, they fail to shed light on the little details that are often overlooked or missed entirely, placing too much emphasis on one individual rather than analysing the rest of the roster or team performance.

Rest assured Fullerton is a solid and reliable performer who has the ability to win games single-handedly, in the same mould as Fallon.

Just ask Edinburgh fans who were privy to his undoubted brilliance night in and night out. There were a fair few of them who wanted nothing more than to see him re-sign at Murrayfield. Edinburgh’s loss is Dundee’s undoubted gain.

(Image permission: Ian Coyle)

1 Comment

  1. In my opinion Fullerton will be a very reliable last line of defence for the Stars. He has a solid all round game in terms of athleticism and positioning and perhaps most importantly a solid knowledge of the EIHL circuit, it’s demands and most of ( except Guildford and Milton Keynes ) all the way that the other rinks are set-up. Stars you will be just fine.

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