Erik Cole Is the Montreal Canadiens' Answer in Front of the Net

Evan LeBlancCorrespondent IISeptember 19, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 29:  John Carlson #74 of the Washington Capitals and Erik Cole #26 of the Carolina Hurricanes at the Verizon Center on March 29, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Ever since Michael Leighton remarked that it was easy to see the puck over the heads of Montreal Canadien fowards, fans have thought about how a larger presence is needed to screen the opposing goalie.

While it might be ridiculous, I cannot help but think of using Hal Gill in front on the power play. But obviously, he does not have enough offensive skill.

That is presumably why the Canadiens went out and signed Erik Cole to a four-year, $18 million contract. Cole is a large body in front of the net at 6'2", 205 pounds, and should be able to create some space for other forwards and improve the power play.

Cole is well known for his excellent play with the man advantage, which is definitely going to be one of the strengths of the Canadiens' game for this coming season. Given the amount of playing time that Cole will have for the Canadiens, I think that he has a chance to score 35-40 goals for the first time in his career.

Cole has a real good scoring touch and joins a better group of passers in Montreal than he played with during his days in Carolina. His previous high in goals scored was 30 goals in 2005-06, a total he scored in only 60 games.

The only concern would be his health, even though he played 82 games last season. Cole plays a physical style; his 225 hits put him in the 10th position for forwards in the NHL. That statistic alone means that he plays a sort of typical power-forward game.

Cole will turn 33 in about two months, and he will need to be careful to stay healthy in order to live up to his contract. I think that he is the answer in front of the net for a Habs team that is looking to get past the first round next season.

Cole's signing is a step in the right direction for a team that likes to stand toe-to-toe with a tough Boston Bruins squad.