Alright: In advance of Eric Cole’s Carolina homecoming – It’s Eric Cole appreciation time.
The guy has been an absolute beast for the Canadiens this season and I feel as though its necessary to call myself out.
Cole’s name had arisen in Habs rumours over the past few years at the trade deadline – and each year I was among those who said “No Thanks” to Eric Cole. I didn’t feel as though Cole brought what the Canadiens needed to the lineup – a genuine elite goal scorer. And while Cole still shouldn’t be considered a pure or “elite” scorer, I need to come out and state very clearly: I was a huge idiot.
Eric Cole is quickly becoming my favourite player on the team. The fact that we could have had him at multiple points during other seasons only makes me wish that Gainey/Gauthier could have landed him earlier. His bull-in-a-china-shop approach is so fantastically perfect for this team its incredible. His pairing with Max Pacioretty has given the Habs a line that is almost impossible to defend. Get too close to them in the neutral zone and they’ll blow by you with incredible speed. Give them too much space and they’ll burn you with their dangerous passing and shooting skills. Get into a corner with them and you’re likely to end up on your seat.
Yes its been a somewhat trying season thus far – but you have to celebrate the successes that we’ve had or you miss the development of a great tandem. Eric Cole has given the Canadiens a veteran presence coupled with incredible athleticism – and most importantly SIZE. He plays big, and although his stats thus far have not been ideal, you cannot ignore the impact that he has made in each and every game for the Canadiens.
Cole is on pace for a slightly sub-par scoring season in terms of his historical success. His point tallies going back to the lockout have been: 52, 16 (injury plagued 40 game season), 42, 61, and 59. He’s currently on pace for 46 points – but could raise his totals significantly if he was used more effectively on the powerplay like his line-mate Pacioretty. Cole currently has 65 shots on net which is second to only Pacioretty in terms of totals for the team, which leads me to believe that as long as Cole is generating offense – he’s due for some puck luck.
Still, Cole’s impact (I believe) has been strongest away from scoring. His 58 hits lead the team by a wide margin, and have opened up space for his linemates in ways which last year’s team could not. His blazing outside speed has caused numerous problems for defenders – including simply playing the Habs as a team that hopes to chip the puck out. Cole likes to carry the puck – which gives the Habs one more option following turnovers and breakouts.
So on a day in which there will be much musing about Montreal’s acquisition of Cole from Carolina – Here’s to a guy who’s effort level has been unmatched by any player on the Canadiens this season. I wasn’t in on the ground floor – but I’m now fully on board with his signing this off-season.