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Monday, February 11, 2013

Face-Off Woes, Time To Deal With Cole...

Good Morning Addicts!!!

Three straights losses, the latest being a lackluster effort against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Habs' fans are beginning to wonder if the wheels have already fallen off the bus for this season. There are certainly things that can be improved, but there are too many issues facing this team to expect a quick turnaround.

Starting with the face-off efficiency issue, the 45.6% percentage boasted by the Canadiens ranks them only ahead of Edmonton and Buffalo, 28th in the 30 team NHL. When evaluating a team's ability to win, puck possession always starts at the face-off dot. Vertically-challenged first line centre David Desharnais has a measly average of 43.9%, while his linemate Erik Cole has a secondary average of 22.2%.

Even the team's best centre, Tomas Plekanec, is just a couple of percentage points higher that Desharnais, at 46.6%.

One could argue that Cole is not, and never has been, a natural centre, but in order to implement the system Head Coach Michel Therrien is trying to use, gaining control of the face-off is paramount.

A major part of the problem is, as has been discussed ad-nausium, the below-average size of the centres on this team. Bigger centremen always have more leverage, thus winning the draws more consistently, and furthermore causing Habs' centres to cheat and getting thrown out of the face-off way too often.

While percentages are unavailable to substantiate my claim, simply watch a couple of games, and it is easy to see that our drawtakers get thrown out much more often than other NHL teams.

Whether it is their size, or perhaps a lack of technique, this is one problem Therrien must address immediately, if he has any desire to move this team forward.

The other major issue is accountability. From the beginning of the season, we've seen Michel Therrien lay the law down when it came to the undisciplined play of sophomores Ryan White and Lars Eller. While his reason's cannot be denied, why does Therrien not do the same with some of his veteran players.

If you look at the contributions made by Erik Cole so far this season, it's clear his heart is no longer into the game of hockey. Beginning with his claim that he contemplated retirement due to the differences he had in the CBA negocaitions and their subsequent resolution, Cole just hasn't been the same player thus far this season. And after Saturday's effort, it's clear than Cole's issues have little to do with his propensity to start the season slowly, and more to do with his advanced age, his battered physical state, and his lack of desire.

If there is truly a "No Excuses" policy in the locker room, then Cole is due to have his keister nailed to the bench, and if he continues to be a thorn in the side of the Canadiens from a media perspective, perhaps the Habs' brass should consider Cole on the list of possibilities for their second compliance buyout.

Sure, the idea is a bit extreme, as far as the buyout is concerned, but unless Cole shows a desire to tow the company line, then maybe keeping Tomas Kaberle is indeed to lesser of two evils.

16 comments:

Lines at practice had cole on 3rd line rw with prust and DD. Galchenyuk and Gallagher on 2 with Pacioretty rw.
about time

To me the simplest answer fits this situation - not "it's clear than Cole's issues have little to do with his propensity to start the season slowly, and more to do with his advanced age, his battered physical state, and his lack of desire."

You really lost me at 'battered physical state'. Here is a guy that everyone loved at game 82 last year. Then he’s OFF for 9+ months. Now in 11 games he’s battered. Not once over the summer did this site or any say he is beat up so lets get rid of him. Now I n 11 games and 4 points he’s heartless and lets buy him out. Unreal.

I think it's simply the fact that this line is now targeted as a dangerous line. Last year they caught teams by surprise, this year no way. They are playing against the top lines or top checking lines and are finding it difficult. Want evidence, look at the Pleks line. They are producing. You know why, they are not playing against the top opposing lines. All this speculation is from one or two comments he's made and not a hard analysis of what lines that particular HABS line has faced. Sorry guys this is not the type of analysis I've seen come out of this site. This is the typical ramblings and blow ups of the Montreal media.

@sanman_11: For me, I find it interesting that we're not talking more about the failings of DD.

Yes, Cole is a notoriously slow starter. But, imo, a bigger issue on that line has been the no-go status of DD.

Except for 1 game and a flash here or there, he has been completely useless.

I also have to disagree with you, Coach!

Personally, I think the move to try was Eller up the middle with Patches and Cole. All of the other lines were working but, instead, Therrien demotes Cole and breaks up other lines (that were working), to try and salvage something.

Wrong move, imo, and begs the French/English question.

How much more rope does DD get before it is clear he is being favoured as a Francophone?

Coach K, while you're spot-on about face-off percentages, the rest continues your usual poor judgement. People come here for reasoned opinions, and luckily they always show up in the comments to your posts.

@anonymous - Here's my reasoning. You can choose to disagree, and that is up to you.

The centre of any line is the catalyst. He is primarily your puck distributor, and not the guy who will score you goals. He is your playmaker, as is the case with DD.

Pacioretty and Cole are your finishers. The guys that will come down the wing and either drive the net wen they have the puck or go to the dirty areas.

While Patches has made a continuous effort to do so, even with his injury, Cole isn't as engaged. He stumbling all over himself, partly because instead of working out like others during the lockout, he decided to bitch about the outcome and stay off the ice.

Cole himself has admitted to being a slow starter. Being the professional that he is, don't you think his time would have been better served getting a few workouts in and getting his legs under him?

That's my biggest issue with Cole.

@Kamal - I agree about Eller. There's no reason he shouldn't be promoted. Since his early season penalty troubles and subsequent benching, he has since become quite consistent in his effort and his discipline has been unquestionably good.

@sanman - What I mean about Cole's battered physical state is just the wear ad tear his body has sustained over the years. Aside from the neck injury, his style of play leaves the body beaten by the end of the season.

As the years progress, the bodies ability to recuperate is diminished somewhat, and that is partially why Cole is having so many struggles to start the season.

His comments about the lockout and his possible retirement have left a bad taste in my mouth, and lead me to believe that his heart may not be into it anymore.

@sanman - You may be right about the "dangerous" line as well. But in that case, the real character of the players on the line is put to the task. And beyond that, you are 100% bang on when you say that it comes down to matchups. However, even though the coach can adjust his line match-ups, it remains that players in the top 6 are primarily there to produce.

Cole is playing like he has two left feet, and DD is getting tossed around like a rag doll. That, in my opinion, has more to do with conditioning and desire than it does with match-ups.

@Coach K your comment 'His comments about the lockout and his possible retirement have left a bad taste in my mouth' pretty much sums it up. You may be more emotionally charged with the statements and not entertaining any other possibilities.

I don't relate his statements to his conditioning or heart. Those were one off statements. If your assessment came out in game 20 I might agree but its early and the fact that the entire line is struggling says the root cause is not desire.

Eller to centre (instead of DD) would have been the logical change because now you can as a coach determine if the centre was ineffective. Now with a double move, you lose reference. However the coach knows best and he has information we don't. As well, he wants to make sure everyone knows he will do whatever it takes - isn't that what everyone complained about last year...Jaques no touch policy on veterans?

Habs will be fine, trust me.

Cole is just following the trends of his other slow starts. Its just being amplified by the short season. The stats back things up:

•2011-2012: In his first 15 games Cole scored 3 goals.
•2010-2011: In his first 13 games Cole scored 3 goals.
•2009-2010: In his first 17 games Cole scored 3 goals.
•2008-2009: In his first 18 games Cole scored 3 goals.
•2007-2008: In his first 21 games Cole scored 4 goals.
•2006-2007: In his fist 11 games Coe scored 1 goal.
•2005-2006: In his first 11 games Cole scored 4 goals.
(courtesy MitchMelnick.com)

After 10 games, he has 2 goals. He admitted to the team after the Leaf debacle that he needed to step up - NO EXCUSES - and against Tampa, had 3 shots on goal, 3 hits, a takeaway and drew a penalty that led to Gionta's PP goal. He was on the ice for an even strength goal against.

I think its too early to say. If he still has 5 or less goals after 20 games, he's done. But he's going to get going again. He's never always been a 35 goal scorer, so a 25 goal pace is more realistic anyway. Lets see if he can get there.

@Nick M, exactly the same figure I thought, 20 games!

Thanks for bringing this one up, Coach!

I agree that the Habs need more out of Cole, but after having reviewed some of the arguments made by fellow readers I feel a bit better about things.

Like the comments immediately above, I feel that by 20 games in we'll see the Cole that the club will be working with for the rest of his tenure with the Canadiens.

Just as an observation Cole looked better last night. Didn't translate into points but better.

On another note Markov looks like he might need a breather. Maybe rest him against a 'weaker' team and bring in Kaberle.

Also Prust is snakebitten in front of the net. I know it might not wrok but I'd love to see Eller/Gally/Gally together. Two centres is a bit screwy though.

Also time to give Whity a chance. No better team then Philly that seems to be the tar out of us a lot.

Hey, where are all the articles? I come here to read as much as I can about habs and lately you guys have been getting "lazy". More articles please.

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