In a Wednesday piece highlighting some of the questions about the St. Louis Blues’ defensive corps next year, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford brought to attention some curious information about the Blues’ plans for former first-round pick Ian Cole in 2014-15:
Cole, 25, played a career-high 46 NHL games last season, finishing with 11 points and a plus-15 rating. But once again, Cole was a forgotten man down the stretch, playing just two of the final 13 regular-season games and none in the playoffs. This offseason, though, both Armstrong and Blues coach Ken Hitchcock have indicated that Cole will be in the starting lineup in 2014-15. “Yeah, Ian Cole will see a little bit more,” Armstrong said. “Ian will be given every opportunity to start in our group of six and all he has to do is maintain that.”
Cole got the most extensive action of his career in 2013-14, playing in 46 games while filling in for injured veteran Jordan Leopold and then retaining his spot for a time after Leopold had returned. At least on paper, he had a rather successful season, registering a 15 plus-minus rating, good for third among the Blues’ defensemen. He did a good job in the offensive zone and had a rather impressive three goals and eight assists. The only real issue was with Cole taking untimely penalties; he racked up 31 penalty minutes over those 46 contests.
If Cole really can stick in the lineup in 2014-15, he should have a great chance to be an asset to the lineup. That doesn’t seem extremely likely considering the Blues’ previous tendencies, however. Cole repeatedly had good strings of performance last year, yet seemed to have the hook pulled on him quickly whenever he committed a costly turnover or penalty. While Cole’s inconsistent play couldn’t just be written off completely, it seemed a little harsh to keep pulling him when other defensemen often made similar mistakes. This was especially true due to the fact that the player replacing him was often Carlo Colaiacovo, a free agent the Blues signed off the street in mid-November.
After four years of shuttling between the Blues’ minor league teams and the NHL club and seeing spotty action throughout, it might have been in the Blues’ and Cole’s best interest to give Cole a fresh start somewhere else. It had been rumored that Cole could be included in a possible trade package for Ottawa Senators center Jason Spezza, who has been talked about as a potential fit for the Blues. But with the Blues seemingly having Cole in their plans for 2014-15, that may not be likely. We’ll have to see how strongly Cole can hold off Jordan Leopold, who will be 34 years old this season and did not have much impact when he was put into the lineup this past season. If the Blues give him a fair chance, Cole could be a nice contributor, but if he’s still going to be stuffed in the press box whenever he makes a mistake, it seems foolish for the Blues to continue to keep him around.