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Erik Cole has been a shadow of the man Canadiens fans saw rack up a career high 35 goals last season. One of the lone bright spots in a very forgettable season, Cole has failed to reach a glimmer of the player he was last year.
There have been glimpses of his old self throughout this young, yet nearly half done season. Every once in a while he’ll get the wheels turning and make those barrelling rushes down the boards past a helpless defenseman and charge onto goal. Last season, it was more a matter of how many times he’d do it, rather than when would he do it.
There were reports that he was dealing with a lower body injury in the offseason and he wasn’t looking too sharp in the first few games of the year. But, we’re now 17 games into this shortened season and he is riding a nine game pointless streak.
At this point last season, he had twice as many goals and assists as he does now. Two goals and two assists in 17 games are simply not enough. With the Canadiens near the top of the conference, he’s been able to dodge the real media/analytical heat, but, if things turn sour over this 11 away games out 15 stretch beginning after Saturday’s tilt with the New York Rangers, you can bet the house that Cole will get his fair share of lickings in the press.
Now, he had a similar stretch to start last season, but his play is more worrisome this season. Last year you felt like it was only a matter of time before he would begin producing, he wasn’t getting the bounces. This season, he just doesn’t look the same.
His passes are off, he’s having trouble receiving passes, his positioning is suspect, he’s not moving his legs the way he should with and without the puck. However, Cole’s dedication to the team was crystal clear after taking accountability after a three game skid earlier in February with a personal text message to his team.
So, the commitment is there, it just seems like the body isn’t. I don’t think anyone was expecting him to score at a better, or maybe even identical, pace as he did last season. That being said, four points in 17 games is disappointing.
Ultimately, if the Canadiens manage to keep this type of point-pace going, what Cole accomplishes on the scoresheet will be more or less irrelevant. He is, by all accounts, a great team player and we’ve seen what he’s capable of when he gets in the zone. Hopefully he finds that zone sooner rather than later.
His game against the New York Islanders is a start despite being held off the score sheet.