MONTREAL, QC. — For many, the thought of Erik Cole joining the Montreal Canadiens automatically translates into more goals and a better offence for next season. After all, Cole had 26 goals and 26 assists last season alone with the Carolina Hurricanes, and he also obtained 34 goals two seasons prior to that.
On three other occasions during his career, he hit 22, 29 and 30 goals, so he can put the puck in the net. Cole’s 206 career assists, accompanied by his 184 goals, demonstrates that not only can he put the puck in the net, he can dish it out and setup his teammates as well.
With Erik Cole in the lineup, on paper, the Canadiens definitely look better than they did last season offensively. Add to this the return of players like Josh Gorges, Andrei Markov and Max Pacioretty (who will hopefully all remain healthy) and the recipe is there for offensive success (possibly.)
Did he just mention Josh Gorges in a statement about offensive play?
Yes I did. Not because of his 9 goals and 59 points in 364 career games, but for his defensive reliability and ability to play a lot of minutes. When you’re not getting scored on, your offence can play with a lot more ease, and this is what Josh Gorges brings to the Canadiens.
A strong offence starts with a good defence?
Yeah, something like that. Now, will this all actually translate into more goals on the ice? That remains to be seen.
With his history of success in Montreal, and if he remains healthy, it would be a fair argument to say that Erik Cole could get within the range of 50-60 points this season, playing on the Canadiens’ top line. I believe so anyways.
I’ve seen a few comments alluding to the fact that if you make a one-to-one comparison, Cole will undoubtedly do better than Benoit Pouliot, who obtained 30 points last season. Sure, it looks very good, on paper.
In reality, Benoit Pouliot only played 15-20 games on the top line all of last season, while Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at them on the wing. One-to-one comparisons like this are all but useless if you ask me, there are too many variables to consider.
If we are looking to answer whether the Montreal Canadiens ultimately can score more goals, and obtain more points next season, then we should look at this on a broader scale.
Can Erik Cole, combined with what will likely be Tomas Plekanec and Mike Cammalleri, put together a better offensive line then both Plekanec and Cammalleri could with everybody else thrown at them last season? That I do believe is possible.
The second line has a lot of potential in my opinion. First we have Max Pacioretty, who if he remains healthy, was on a tear last season obtaining 24 points in only 37 games. He had started the season in Hamilton, and originally expressed his wishes to remain the entire season in Hamilton to work on his game.
After being called up, he showed no signs of someone wanting to remain in the AHL, providing some much needed scoring for the offensively deprived Habs. He would eventually be sidelined after being hit into the stanchion by Zdeno Chara, and we all know the rest.
Then we have Scott Gomez, who many believe can’t do any worse than last season, obtaining a career low of only 7 goals and 31 assists, for a total of 38 points, 10 points less than his previous career low.
So combine a healthy Pacioretty, with a rebounding Gomez, a consistent Brian Gionta, who in his last four seasons has scored over 20 goals (in addition to 45-60 points) and the potential is there for success.
As we move down to the bottom six, things get a little bit more complicated, and speaking of complications, let’s start with Andrei Kostitsyn.
AK Fires Away!
Andrei Kostitsyn was interviewed by Belarussian sports website Goals.by this week, and had the following to say about his coach Jacques Martin, as translated by @SlavaMalamud on twitter:
As is the case with any subject surround the Canadiens, the feelings were mixed following these declarations. Some were to agree with Kostitsyn, sharing their displeasure for Jacques Martin’s coaching style, while others questioned whether the translations were accurate at all. Finally, we have some who were of the opinion that whether Kostitsyn was correct or not about his coach, the comments were inappropriate, non-constructive, and simply not necessary.
Kostitsyn’s comments come at an interesting time, especially since the Canadiens have signed Erik Cole, all reports indicate Kostitsyn should be playing on the third line, which clearly bothers him. Will that affect his play? For now, with the season still a little over 50 days away, let’s simply hope not.
If he’s not traded by this season’s end, you can be pretty certain he will be testing opt for unrestricted free agency.
If he does end up playing on the third line, opinions are split on who will be playing with him. Many assume, me included that Lars Eller, if ready to play following his offseason surgery, should center the line. Will Jacques Martin decide to move David Desharnais to the wing to accompany them, or will he go with a plumber style player like Mathieu Darche or Travis Moen, opinions are very split.
If we assume Desharnais is kept on the third line, for now, barring a move by Pierre Gauthier prior to the start of the season, that leaves us with Ryan White, Travis Moen and Mathieu Darche to complete the bottom six.
The potential is maybe there for a solid third line, which could provide the occasional offensive support, however none of that is available on the fourth line, that I can see for now.
Let’s not forget another factor: James Wisniewski, Roman Hamrlik, and Jeff Halpern are no longer with the Canadiens, and their offensive support will need to be replaced. Add to this Benoit Pouliot, and between those four alone, that’s 120 points that was added to the Habs scoring last season.
Players like Andrei Markov, P.K. Subban, and possibly players like Lars Eller and David Desharnais will need to step up their game to compensate for their loss, mostly Wisniewski and Hamrlik.
In my last column, friend of AllHabs.net @kyleroussel and I discussed the possibility of the Habs having seven 20-goal scorers next season. The players that came up in the discussion were:
- Tomas Plakenac (22 goals in 77 games last season)
- Mike Cammalleri (19 goals in 67 games last season)
- Erik Cole (26 goals in 82 games last season)
- Max Pacioretty (14 goals in 37 games last season)
- Brian Gionta (29 goals in 82 games last season)
- Andrei Kostitsyn (20 goals in 81 games last season)
- P.K. Subban (14 goals in 77 games last season)
- Jacques Martin’s defensive style approach, will limit the players from being able to reach their offensive potential.
- Injuries, which are now “part of the game,” should play a certain role in this equation.
- Andrei Kostitsyn may have struggles reaching the 20 goal plateau, if he is as displeased with his situation in Montreal that he wants us to believe.
- A healthy Andrei Markov, might limit Subban offensively.
Call me pessimistic, or overly safe, but I prefer to be cautious. If the Habs are for real next season, I’ll believe it when I see it. For now, the season is still so very far away. What do you think?
Will the Habs have seven 20-goal scorers next season? Please share your thoughts.
(Video) NHL.com takes a look at the Montreal Canadiens upcoming season.