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Erik Cole surpassed expectations last year, scoring a career best 35 goals and matching his career high 61 points, despite being held off the power play and playing 3rd line minutes for the first fifth of the season. Cole also proved to be an excellent mentor and veteran in the room, as we all found out during young Louis Leblancís first NHL games in California. For those who are unaware, he paid to have the rookie's mother and father fly down for the games on his credit card! That aside, can Cole repeat the career numbers he posted last year? I may be skeptical, but letís look at what may change for better or worse.
He had just 3 goals and 3 assists heading into the 17th game of the year, and had almost no power play time. On November 14th at the Bell Centre, however, something changed and Cole played the most minutes in a game he had all year. He ended up scoring a goal and adding an assist, turning his season in the right direction. Erik Cole created space for David Desharnais, and also was an excellent mentor to the recovering Max Pacioretty Ė both of whom also had career years. Looking ahead, I would have to believe that Cole will be given as much, if not more, ice by Michel Therrien, who is a coach that has previously relied heavily on his veterans.
Season StatsGP: 82 G: 35 A: 26 P: 61 +11 rating 48 PIM 11PPG 6 GWG 241 Shots 18:31 ATOI
5 Year Averages
2012-2013 RoleErik Cole will be a top 2 line winger for the Canadiens. There is no doubt about that, but what remains to be seen is if Michel Therrien will break up the Canadiens' top line from last season. Cole will need to remain healthy, and hopefully can come close to the superb numbers he put up a year ago with a better start to the season. That being said, a lot has to go right for Cole. Montreal will need to have other lines scoring, or Cole, Desharnais, and Pacioretty will be facing top defensive units far too often. No matter what Therrien decides to do, Cole must continue to drive the net and beat defencemen with his excellent inside speed.
Projected StatsCareer highs for a 33 year old is quite impressive and he has definitely fit right in with the club, but staying healthy and doing it again may be difficult. I believe Cole will have a better start to the year, but a few injuries and being checked by better opposition will lead to a slight drop in goal production. Despite this, Cole will still contribute and be an excellent leader for some of the teamís younger players.
Assists: 30 (would be a career high)