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Cole Mining: uncovering why the Erik Cole experiment is not working

Posted By Corey Krakower On Oct 18 2011 @ 1:12 pm In Montreal Canadiens | No Comments

I’m going to make my point right away so there is no confusion: a serious error was made by management when they decided to sign Erik Cole. This is not an Erik Cole issue as he is a very good hockey player. In fact, at the time, many (myself included) were encouraged when GM Pierre Gauthier signed the power forward to a 4 year deal that would see him earn an average of $4.5M per season.

Here’s the issue; when you pay a forward $4.5M, it is generally assumed that the player can play on your top 2 lines and will see some time on the powerplay. If the player can’t be counted on for both, then the value that forward adds to your team is limited. To put it bluntly, the team in question would have drastically overpaid, considering there are less than 70 forwards in the league (including those injured) who earn that kind of money.

Right now, here are Erik Cole’s average time on ice numbers per game:

13:29 at even strength (#6 among Habs forwards)
1:08 on the powerplay (#9 among Habs forwards)
0:00 when shorthanded (last among Habs forwards)

TOTAL – 14:37 (6 other Habs forwards average 15:52 minutes or more, and that’s not including Mike Cammalleri)

To put that into perspective, here is a chart listing all active forwards who carry a minimum cap hit of $4.5M; sorted by powerplay time on ice per game.

POWERPLAY MINUTES PER GAME
FORWARDS (MINIMUM $4.5M CAP HIT)

RANK PLAYER TEAM PP TOI
1 Ilya Kovalchuk NJD 6:33
2 Shane Doan PHX 6:04
3 Tomas Fleischmann FLA 5:43
4 Phil Kessel TOR 5:05
5 Jeff Carter CLB 4:51
6 Rick Nash CLB 4:46
7 Brad Richards NYR 4:45
8 Zach Parise NJD 4:39
9 Anze Kopitar LAK 4:38
10 Patrik Elias NJD 4:35
11 Henrik Sedin VAN 4:31
12 Danny Briere PHI 4:29
13 Daniel Sedin VAN 4:28
14 Ryan Getzlaf ANA 4:27
15 Eric Staal CAR 4:26
16 Tomas Plekanec MTL 4:24
17 Henrik Zetterberg DET 4:23
18 Corey Perry ANA 4:21
19 Patrick Marleau SJS 4:21
20 Joe Thornton SJS 4:20
21 Pavel Datsyuk DET 4:19
22 Patrice Bergeron BOS 4:19
23 Mike Ribeiro DAL 4:17
24 Patrick Kane CHI 4:15
25 Jonathan Toews CHI 4:12
26 Steven Stamkos TBL 4:10
27 Evgeni Malkin PIT 4:04
28 Mike Richards LAK 4:01
29 Brian Rolston NYI 3:54
30 Nicklas Backstrom WAS 3:50
31 Martin St. Louis TBL 3:47
32 Vincent Lecavalier TBL 3:45
33 Marian Gaborik NYR 3:44
34 Jason Spezza OTT 3:44
35 Alex Ovechkin WAS 3:43
36 Dany Heatley MIN 3:36
37 Alexander Semin WAS 3:36
38 Thomas Vanek BUF 3:33
39 Andy McDonald STL 3:29
40 Mikko Koivu MIN 3:26
41 Marian Hossa CHI 3:19
42 David Legwand NAS 3:19
43 Brian Gionta MTL 3:18
44 Mike Cammalleri MTL 3:16
45 Jason Pominville BUF 3:14
46 Ryan Malone TBL 3:05
47 Paul Stastny COL 3:03
48 Scott Gomez MTL 3:00
49 Martin Erat NAS 2:58
50 Daymond Langkow PHX 2:58
51 Jarome Iginla CGY 2:55
52 Ryan Smyth EDM 2:50
53 Brooks Laich WAS 2:49
54 Daniel Alfredsson OTT 2:47
55 David Backes STL 2:35
56 Shawn Horcoff EDM 2:17
57 Bobby Ryan ANA 1:38
58 Erik Cole MTL 1:08
59 Ville Leino BUF 0:28

A summary of this research: 56 forwards who earn as much or more than Erik Cole spend DOUBLE the amount of time per game on the PP. The #57 forward (Bobby Ryan) still plays 30 seconds more per game on the PP, but his average time on ice per game in all situations is 18:39 (4 minutes more than Cole).

If I’m the owner of the Montreal Canadiens, I’m sitting down with my General Manager and asking him the following question:

When you signed Erik Cole, were you expecting that he wouldn’t be getting poweprlay time and that he wouldn’t be among the top 6 forwards in terms of total time on ice per game?

If the answer is yes, my follow up would be: why are we the only team in the league that pays a guy like that $4.5 million dollars?

If the answer is no, my follow up would be: how is it possible that our pro scouts, who are supposed to be experts on our own team, completely miscalculated where he would fit in to our lineup?

It’s unfortunate because if this continues, I can see fans getting on Erik Cole like they do on Scott Gomez. I’ll be the first to say that it’s not deserved. Cole is a good player who will be useful to the team, but at this point, he seems to be a victim of bad pro scouting and poor cap management.

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