Many were shocked to come home around 6:45 PM and find out that Erik Cole had been traded to the Dallas Stars for former Canadien, Michael Ryder. Immediately everyone was caught with their pants down asked themselves: why was this deal done?
“Ryder? The former Hab who should have won the Calder Trophy in 2003-2004 and then we booed out of town?”
“COLE IS GONE?” “He was a hero for us last season”…. “But he has sucked this year. He wanted to retire cause of the lockout.”
At first glance one can note a clear difference in the number of points they have this season. Erik Cole has 6 points in 19 games, with a plus-1 rating. He also has 10 PIMs, 41 shots on goal, and a powerplay point — an assist.
Michael Ryder on the otherhand has 6 goals, 8 assists, six powerplay points (2 goals, 4 assists), is plus-4 and he has 42 shots. He has quietly been Dallas’ second best player all season. He is a major threat on the powerplay.
Most fans were worried about Cole when he suggested retirement was a real possibility as a result of the lockout. Lo-and-behold, when he returned to the ice it became painfully obvious Cole had not played hockey very much in the off-season; had lost his first step power and quickness, and also his puck handling ability. Numerous times this season he would attempt to explode down the right wing like he did all of the 2011-2012 season, when he would overpower defenders and drive straight to the net. However, Cole was doing nothing like overpowering defenders or blowing by them with speed. He would often lose the puck and be unable to generate much speed through the neutral zone. Importantly, his shot, which was never very hard, has been both weak and inaccurate for parts of this season. Still, he has shown signs of improvement. He had a goal and an assist against the Rangers the other night, and generated four shots on goal against Ottawa.
With Cole struggling and the Habs powerplay struggling, management came to two conclusions:
The Canadiens had several big bodied or gritty wingers on their roster: Pacioretty, Cole, Bourque, Prust, Gallagher, Eller (C/W), Galchenyuk (C/W), Armstrong, Moen and White. Of these big bodied or gritty wingers, only 2-3 of them get off their wrist shots powerfully, accurately, quickly and with velocity. Gallagher and Pacioretty are the best at it. Galchenyuk has the shot, but is not releasing it quick enough at the NHL level.
The team had a plethora of power-forward and grinding wingers.
Which leads to conclusion two:
The team lacks surefire snipers as the last one was Cammalleri. The powerplay has lacked the ability to maintain possession in the zone. Offensive zone entry has also been an issue. However, I think management believes that if they add a REAL shooter they can diversify the powerplay, therefore making it less predictable. Also, Ryder has good hockey sense and knows where to be to score. Get him the puck anywhere in the slot and he will bury it. Marks my words.
A Ryder snipe from the slot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kc66V3x0OXY
The Habs wanted to diversify and make their offense more dynamic. Cole was an underachieving player giving them the quality and type of hockey they had in several other players (Armstrong, White, Moen, Prust, etc.). By acquiring Ryder the coaching staff now has more flexibility.
Who else has a quick, accurate, and powerful wrist/snap shot? Gionta? No. He shoots and generally hits the net, but never causes any problems for the goalie or creates any rebounds. Plekanec? He has a good shot, but he is more of a playmaker.
Habs also acquire third-round draft pick as part of deal:
The Canadiens also acquired a third-round pick in this coming 2013 NHL Draft. The draft itself was highly touted coming into the year, but scouts have apparently been questioning how deep it actually is right now. Nonetheless, the pick gives the Canadiens one draft pick 1st round, two in the 2nd round, and three in the 3rd round. That is six picks in the first three rounds. This now gives the Canadiens two options:
Salary cap implications:
Lastly, the Habs SAVE $1 million dollars on the salary cap by shipping Cole and his contract of $4.5 million a season, with two years remaining (total $9 million) to the Stars. In contrast, Ryder’s contract is up at the end of the season. If the Habs are pleased with him, they will likely re-sign him to a similar contract if possible.
Roster flexibility and cap flexibility.
Will trading Cole effect leadership and chemistry?
One last concern remains that cannot be measured by a player’s stat-line. Will the loss of Erik Cole weaken the chemistry and leadership core of the Habs? Difficult to answer, but one has to believe that he may not have been as implicated this season regarding a leadership role as last season. For all we know he has been just sitting in the background.
Personally I do not think Therrien would have given Bergevin his blessing to trade Erik Cole if he had truly been a major cog in the chemistry and leadership core. I am sure some guys were sad to see him go, but at the same time, they realize that its a business and Ryder will probably help their team more right now.
Stars rationale for trading Ryder for Cole:
From Dallas’ standpoint, management realizes that its top six is not the fastest or most physical in the West. I believe Cole was acquired to inject speed and energy onto the Jamie Benn-Jaromir Jagr line. Benn is a great player, but needs someone who can help retrieve pucks for him to work with. They hope that is Cole.
Should be very interesting how this deal plays out. But right now, it appears that the Canadiens just pulled off a coup.
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