The Dallas Stars and their fans have seen their share of streaky players over the years. Names like Mike Ribeiro and Michael Ryder come to mind. Some players are just like that. When they are on, they can be point per game guys capable of carrying a team, but when they are off, they can be cold as the ice they skate on.
Erik Cole is one of the streakiest Stars on the current roster. When Cole is on his game, he is a bull in a china shop. We have all seen him fly down the wing, either blowing by the defenders or bowling them over. We have seen him score highlight reel goals, like that breakaway on Mike Modano’s jersey retirement night. We have also seen him score the “garbage” goals on rebounds, using his 6’2″, 210 pound frame to box out the defenders and cause havoc in front of the opponent’s net.
When Cole is off his game, he has looked lost, ineffective and generally out of place. He would slide down the depth chart, and even dropped far enough to get scratched during half of the Stars playoff games. He was the epitome of the word streaky this season. Cole registered five points in 12 games in October, then four points in 12 November games. December was Cole’s best month of the season, as he contributed 11 points in 15 games, about one third of his total production for the season. But then Cole went cold, scoring only 9 points between January and March.
So which Cole will show up for Dallas in 2014?
The Stars have plenty of players who can bring the offense on the roster, but perhaps Cole might be the most vital piece to their offensive game plan. No doubt that the focal point of the offense is Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, but clearly guys like Jason Spezza, Valeri Nichushkin and Ales Hemsky are going to be counted on to produce. A productive Cole will take some of that pressure off Spezza and Hemsky (who will most likely need time to get acclimated to their new situation). It allows Lindy Ruff to keep the Seguin-Benn-Nichushkin line together and alleviates a little bit of pressure from the top line to carry the team.
A struggling Cole does the exact opposite. More pressure will fall upon the top line to produce. It could potentially force Ruff to juggle the lines, leading to the possibility of chemistry falling apart. It could lead to relying on players like Colton Sceviour, Ryan Garbutt or Cody Eakin to take on a bigger offensive role than they are capable of producing.
There is some talk about Sceviour being able to replace Cole in the top six, as Sceviour and Cole’s shooting percentages were almost identical, but if Sceviour can maintain that shooting percentage over a full season is yet to be determined. It also remains to be seen how much more effective, and perhaps consistent, Cole can be with top tier playmakers like Hemsky or Spezza.
Simply put, the Stars don’t need Cole to carry the offense, but they will need him to avoid those prolonged dry spells. Perhaps being utilized with better players and not being relied on to drive the play could be all Cole needs to be more consistent, perhaps he is what he is – a pure sniper with a great shot who goes through hot and cold streaks. If he can stay on his game, the Stars have two very solid scoring lines at their disposal, and could be a very dangerous team in a deep Western Conference.
As always, I welcome your comments. Thanks for reading and go Stars!