Defensive-zone board-work hurting overall grade
Erik Cole was brought in by the Montreal Canadiens to solidify the forward group; more specifically the top-6. Through 2 games this season Cole has the lowest overall grade (60) and overall risk/reward rating (0.74) of any player. His grade is 8 percentage points below the team average, while his risk/reward rating is 0.41 points below average. Expressed differently, Cole's risk/reward shows that he makes 1.46 successful plays for every 1 mistake or lost puck battle.
Cole has actually been more involved in the play as a Montreal Canadien than he was as a Carolina Hurricane. Cole averaged 3.10 events-per-minute as a Hurricane, but increased that total to 3.61during the preseason, and 3.89 through the regular season's first 2 games. That said, his risk/reward has dropped slightly. He had a 0.98 overall risk/reward with Carolina, a 1.0 risk/reward during the preseason, and a 0.84 risk/reward so far this season.
Cole played better in the offensive-zone during the preseason than he did with Carolina last year, or through the first 2 games of the current season. His offensive-zone risk/reward was 0.39 during the preseason, compared to 0.10 with Carolina and 0.11 following the Toronto and Winnipeg games. As with his overall risk/reward his events-per-minute have increased with Montreal; 1.26 last season, 1.88 during the preseason, and 1.86 through 2 games. His o-zone rating will improve as he gets more pucks to the net. Cole has seen 70% of his attempted shots either get blocked, or miss the net entirely.
Cole's play in the defensive-zone has been both disappointing and informative. He averaged more time in the d-zone through the first 2 games than he did during the preseason or last year with the Hurricanes. He managed 1.02 events per-minute in the defensive-zone this season compared to 0.71 last year, and 0.79 during the preseason.
Cole has not won enough defensive-zone puck-battles. He won 72% of his d-zone puck-battles with Carolina last year, and 67% of his d-zone puck-battles during the preseason. But, he has only won 27% of his defensive-zone puck-battles through the first 2 games of the regular season. Many of these lost battles have occurred along the half-wall in the defensive-zone. The location of these lost puck-battles have also contributed to the increase in d-zone events, as lost puck-battles along the half-wall directly result in a failure to clear the puck out of the defensive-zone.
Cole plays his best hockey in the neutral-zone. It is in this zone where Cole consistently produces his best risk/reward rating. His speed, ability to win neutral-zone puck-battles, and make solid puck-decisions are what endear him to most coaches. Cole's neutral-zone events have remained consistent. That said, his neutral-zone risk/reward rating (0.60) through 2 games this season is substantially higher than his totals during the preseason, or with Carolina last year. Expressed differently, Cole produces 4 successful plays in the neutral-zone for every 1 mistake or lost puck-battle. In comparison, the Habs team average is 2.44 successful plays in the neutral-zone for every 1 mistakes or lost puck-battle.
Cole needs to win more puck-battles. His overall grade has been adversely affected by his work along the wall in the defensive-zone. He also needs to get pucks through to the net. Number 72's grade and ratings will indubitably increase if he improves these aspects of his game, while maintaining his strong work in the neutral-zone.