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Cole glad to be back 'home'

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Erik Cole still has his house in the area, still considers Raleigh home and plans to retire here when his hockey career ends. But a lot has changed for him in the past year.

He has a new team, the Montreal Canadiens. He has financial security. Still, things could have been different.

Over Thanksgiving last year, Cole was hoping to stay a Hurricane. He had a big role on teams that reached the Stanley Cup final in 2002 and then won the Cup in 2006, and he was hoping to receive some sign from Canes management that there was serious interest in re-signing him after last season.

Cole said his agent, Steve Bartlett, met with general manager Jim Rutherford in Boston when the Canes faced the Bruins after Thanksgiving, but did not receive any strong assurances about a new contract.

"I wanted to get a feel for what their plan was for me," Cole said. "That wasn't a great response. C'est la vie."

And had there been a better response?

"I think as the season wore on, I think they were a little more open to the fact of re-signing me," Cole said. "When it came time to have those discussions there wasn't a tremendous amount of dialogue, based on the first conversation they had had. My agent from that point didn't feel like it was something to call back on. It's all part of the process, I guess."

Cole, an unrestricted free agent, took the best contract offer, which came from the Canadiens: four years, $18 million.

"Things happen for a reason," Cole said. "I feel like I'm in a real good place."

After a slow start this season, Cole has six goals and six assists in 21 games. But he has three goals and four assists in the last six games and ranks seventh in the NHL in hits with 58.

"There are parts of the business you just can't control," Cole said. "But no matter who you're playing for, or where you're playing, you've got to come to work every day and work hard."

By the way, Cole said he studied French for five years. He said he's not fluent, but can understand conversations going on around him.

"I don't tell everybody that because you can sit and just be a fly on the wall," he said, smiling.

Cole had a number of players over to his house Tuesday night, and some friends from the area. There was a little time to relax.

"When you come to a place where you spent so much time, you want to see as many people as you can that have been good, good friends for a long time," Cole said. "It was good. Good food, we were able to throw some games on TV and guys were able to lounge around."

For Cole, this Thanksgiving will be different.

"For the first time in my career my kids are going to spend Thanksgiving with some family -- back home, that is," he said.

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Nobody misses Erik Cole more

Nobody misses Erik Cole more than Eric Staal.

That speed and power down the wing opened up a lot of space for Staal.

And the revolving door on the top line has continued ever since

When Cole wasn't made an

When Cole wasn't made an alternate captain last season, I wondered if something was up. Appears to me that JR had already made up his mind to let Cole walk, irrespective of how Cole performed in 2010-11. Remember, JR had decided once before that Cole was expendable.

The irony is that JR made a 3-year commitment at $4+ million per season to Kaberle, who is older than Cole. 

Perhaps Cole will have cooled off by the end of this season and Kaberle will have warmed up. Otherwise, JR blew this one big. 

How Horrible

Cole is gone and making $6M.  He has 12 points.

LaRose makes $1.5M.  He has 14 points.

Most here seem to drool over having Cole back and want LaRose sent to the minors or at least have his TOI reduced to 4th line time.  

Maybe the fans here are as bad as Canadians claim.

Now now

You can't compare year to date stats like that to justify salary.  Cole may be overpaid for a power forward with his career numbers but other teams wanted him, Chad is overpaid grinder who is stuck in Carolina because we are the only team that will play him. Which player would you rather have if you were a GM and it's late 3rd period, down a goal or tied?  Chad has been fortunate this year to see tons of ice time and have very little in the way of defensive attention. He has maybe 2 skill goals and the rest, while they count the same, are garbage goals. Had Dalpe, Boychuck or Bowman been in his position all season I believe they would have much more stats to show for it. 

Extreme

My point was extreme.  I don't think LaRose is a better player than Cole.  Cole's speed and strength bring a unique factor to a team.  Still, the mob mentality hear of blaming LaRose for damn near everything is nauseating.  The cost differential is significant.  Skill or effort it doesn't matter as long as the puck goes in the net.  Also, it's a joke to blame Staal's poor play on LaRose.  

So far tonight Staal has been on a line with Ruutu and Skinner and yet he's been brutal.  He's been lazy on the back check usually being the last forward in the defensive zone.  On the PP Staal stands on the wall watching until the defenseman comes in and takes the puck from him...twice!  Finally, after LaRose hustles in and checks Subban and causes a loose puck which is finally returned to Subban, Staal comes in and instead of physically engaging Subban he gives Subban a quick hook and then attempts a slash all of which does nothing.  These are all basics that minor hockey players learn.  

Staal has no one to blame but himself for his problems.  He should listen to his teammate, Brandon Sutter.  He said something to the effect of, "When you work hard defensively and don't cheat on the offensive side you end up with the puck on your stick more often and get more chances."  Listen up Eric.

I agree.  Staal has nobody

I agree.  Staal has nobody to blame but himself for his wretched play.  It isn't helping that he has LaRose on his line at times; but Staal is under-performing no matter which player is on his line.  It's not up to Staal's teammates to drag him out of the mud; and instead, Staal needs to keep himself in gear.  If this season is a wasted season, a significant part of the responsibility is on Staal's shoulders.

slight correction

Cole is making ~$4.5M per year;  i.e. an $18M total contract.

If I remember correctly, JR offered him about the same annual rate, but for just 3 years;  i.e. a ~$13M total contract.     The 4th year made the difference.

I miss #26 !

Not Exactly

Cole is making $6M this season.  The next three years he will earn $4M.  

www.nhlnumbers.com

Capgeek has it differently.

Capgeek has it differently. I think the reality is that the Canadiens and Cole never released the details. All we know for certain is that the contract is four years and $18 million. 

Really?

I don't feel like there is some sort of groundswell of support for returning Cole to the Canes. Most fans appreciate what he has meant to the organization but they also feel he is injury prone and probably not worth the money Montreal is paying him. And if you think LaRose deserves anything more than 4th line time then you are indeed as bad a fan as some Canadians claim.

Cole and LaRose

I agreed with the decision by Jim Rutherford not to meet Montreal's bid for Cole even though I admire Cole.  On the other hand, I can't imagine anybody seriously saying that LaRose and Cole are comparable players.  I'd be happy to have Cole in the top 6.  He's big, fast, physical, and can get the puck to the net where more highly skilled players can put the puck in the back of the net. 

LaRose is LaRose.  He is all hustle; but his hockey sense is quite low.  He takes wretched penalties at very inopportune times.  As a fourth line wing, he's quite good.  He can handle third line duties but limits the offensive effectiveness of his linemates.  His pass to Ponikarovsky shows what good things happen when he can make the right pass to his teammates.  The penalty he took for hooking was almost inevitable because it is exactly what he has been doing for years.

Interesting comments from

Interesting comments from Cole.

Shame we don't keep good organizational assets like him, Whitney, Cullen, etc.

But we keep Mo.

Says a lot in my book.

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About the blogger

A Raleigh native, Chip has worked at the N&O since 1979 and is the Canes beat writer. He can be reached at chip.alexander@newsobserver.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @ice_chip.
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