Since he was signed to a four-year, $18 million contract on July 1 by the Montreal Canadiens, there has been a lot of talk about Erik Cole.
Because of his ineffectiveness on the Edmonton Oilers when he was traded there in 2008, whether Cole can excel on a different team than the Carolina Hurricanes has been put into question.
Cole is currently 32 years old; his age has had skeptics worrying about a possible decline from the 26-goal campaign he put up with the Hurricanes last season.
Obviously, these questions—or worries, if you will—cannot be addressed until Cole suits up in a Habs jersey and plays some games with his new club. It may take some time for him to adjust with the team, so we probably won't get a good assessment of the acquisition before November.
What we do know, however, is that Cole should prove to be a wonderful role model to Max Pacioretty.
Both forwards are American and about the same size (Cole is listed as 6'2", 205 lbs. while Pacioretty as 6'2", 196 lbs.).
Much like Pacioretty, Cole suffered a fractured vertebra. He sustained the injury in March 2006, and just three-and-a-half months later, he returned to the ice for Game 6 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals.
Pacioretty will have had the entire summer to rehab the serious injury, and I'm sure he'll be looking to Cole for some pointers.
Since coming back, Cole has not taken anything off his big-hitting game. The power forward still goes to the corners regularly. He registered 225 hits last season, good for 13th overall in the NHL.
In fact, in the season following his injury, Cole still managed 222 hits. He had the ninth most in the league in that category.
Hopefully the veteran will be able to show the 22-year-old Pacioretty the way. Cole is a great example of how to regain your form after a devastating injury.
Although he has great hands, Patches may want to work on his foot-speed and perhaps train with Cole, who was one of the faster forwards in his prime.
We've already seen Hal Gill take a couple of young defensemen under his very large wing, and I'm sure Brian Gionta has provided some tutelage for some of the smaller forwards on the team.
Max should certainly look up to Cole, who has made his mark as a very effective power forward over the past decade. Judging by the class and intelligence I've always seen from Cole, I'm sure he'll embrace the responsibility and Habs fans will be rewarded with quite the power forward tandem on the team's top two lines.
Jason is on Twitter: @jhytel