I'm kind of surprised they didn't consider dumping Neelix
He was the only truly "alien" looking cast member and besides Kes and until Icheb, the only DQ native. Neelix was also a flawed hero which added more depth to his character. It was this lack of dramatic depth IMO that made Kes hard to write for.
a "flawed hero?" If you say so. I do get the DQ alien thing, but in terms of pure practical terms, Neelix was by far the most expendable, he was no longer even the guide, just a cook. Also, he was deeply unpopular, the Binks/Wesley of Voyager.