Cole Could be Raising Interest

January 15, 2009

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Jeff Ponder

Cole Could be Raising Interest

2008-09 has not been a friendly season for the Edmonton Oilers. After 42 games played, the Oilers rank tenth in the Western Conference with 45 points (21-18-3), which is one point out of eighth place. Not too shabby, but looking at this team’s roster and payroll, one would think this roster would be able to produce a lot better point totals. Scoring just 2.76 goals per game (placing them 19th in the league), the scorers do not seem to be present every game. Edmonton’s shots per game totals are pretty miniscule as well, ranking 26th in the NHL with 27.9. The biggest surprise might be where the goals and shots are coming from.

The team-lead for goals-scored is held by sophomore forward Andrew Cogliano and defenseman Sheldon Souray, both notching 12 apiece. Cogliano is not much of a surprise, considering he is a top-prospect for the Alberta franchise. Souray is definitely known for his heavy shot and smart passing ability, but there should be many players that outrank him for the team lead. Souray also leads the team with 132 shots on goal, which is 30 more than second-placed Ales Hemsky. This team needs a more balanced offensive attack, and many players have not been contributing where they could be.

One player that has been on the hot seat is recently-acquired forward Erik Cole. Brought in from a trade that saw Joni Pitkanen head to Carolina, Cole has notched just eleven goals this season. The added blow to the Edmonton team is that Pitkanen has been a strong force for the Hurricanes thus far this season, being a top defenseman for the club.

Cole has scored over 50 points for each of the past three seasons, reaching 60 points once. Erik is a good player to throw in front of the net because he is so hard to move. This season has been a different story though.

Cole scored just four goals and nine points in his first 31 games played, but since has scored eleven points in eleven games, including a hat-trick Tuesday night in a 5-2 win over Washington. His play has picked up and he looks more confident on the ice. Cole was playing between 13-15 minutes a game, but Head Coach Craig MacTavish had him on the rink for just over 18 minutes Tuesday night.

With the sudden outburst by Cole, interest may be surrounding the thirty-year old forward. Cole is a proven player in the NHL; he just seems to be facing hard times this season. If Edmonton were to trade him, they could receive some very interesting offers in return.

Maxim Afinogenov is having a tough year in Buffalo, especially considering this is the last year of his contract. In 34 games played, Afinogenov has just two goals and ten assists. While he has struggled more than Cole, a change of scenery can do wonders for a player. Packaging something together on both sides of the trade could lead to a very interesting deal.

The Chicago Blackhawks are enjoying a very strong season, but will face some issues come free-agent period. They have little room for negotiations with upcoming UFA Martin Havlat, who has notched 12 goals and 34 points in 40 games. Havlat has been a victim of the injury bug much of his three-year stint with the Hawks, but can be very effective with the right line-mates.

Holding on to Cole may be just as smart of a move as trading him though. If Cole can keep playing like he has been for the past 11 games, a point-per-game player could be all the Oilers need to make that extra push into the playoffs.

Edmonton has a few games in hand on the Phoenix Coyotes and Vancouver Canucks, who currently hold the sixth and seventh spots in the West. If Cole can keep getting points like he has as of late and the defense keeps chipping in as much as they have, the Oilers could be the team to watch during the rest of the 2008-09 season.

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