Friday Morning Warmup - Has Erik Cole really been terrible?


Looking through the fancy stats last night, I think we might be getting on Cole a bit too much. Here's why:

Erik Cole has the reputation of being a slow starter. Through 6 games this year he has 1 goal and 1 assist. He has 14 shots, placing him 3rd on the team behind Brian Gionta and Tomas Plekanec.

I don't think anyone would argue that Cole's timing is a little bit off so far, but as for the other criticisms, are we just seeing things after a stretch of very little production?

Sometimes when goals aren't going in, we look for reasons as to why, and instead of observing what may be happening, bad luck over a small sample size, we force a perception on to explain the results.

I was guilty of this recently, noticing that Cole wasn't blitzing down the right wing for scoring chances as often, I thought maybe the 34 year old had lost a bit of his legs. While he's probably not in midseason skating form after a long lockout where he was in a board room instead of a locker room, upon further reflection I think I was off base.

Cole has still started the season as a possession beast. His 28.41 Corsi/60 ranks him 7th in the entire NHL among players who've played 5 games. Among forwards he ranks 5th.

Cole's 32.3 Relative Corsi ranks him 6th in the NHL, and 4th among forwards. This is not the performance of a struggling player.

Cole had 16 shot attempts of his own at even strength through the first 5 games, which tied him with Rene Bourque for second on the team behind Tomas Plekanec (who has 17), and puts him ahead of Brian Gionta (who has 15).

Cole also hasn't had the benefit of playing with the Habs' one good possession pairing, Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin. Only 30% of his ice time at even strength is paired with them. Through the first five games Cole's Corsi percentage without Markov and Emelin is an extremely solid 57.7%. With them? 74.1% Yes it's a small sample, but that is incredible.

Odds are that Markov and Emelin remain behind the Plekanec line going forward, but the return of P.K. Subban creates a second good possession pairing that is likely to back up Cole, which could be what tips the scales and sets Cole on the right path.

So what are your thoughts, is Cole slowing down, or are we just overreacting?

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