St. Louis Blues’ Ian Cole Made Healthy Scratch for First Time in 2014-15


So far this season, the St. Louis Blues have been very patient with their defensemen despite some occasional miscues in the back end. None of the team’s projected top six—Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Kevin Shattenkirk, Carl Gunnarsson, Barret Jackman, and Ian Cole—had been a healthy scratch yet this year, with the only differentiation in the lineup coming due to injuries.

That changed on Saturday afternoon against the New York Islanders, as Cole was a healthy scratch, with rookie Petteri Lindbohm sticking in the lineup after an encouraging performance Thursday. It’s a familiar feeling for Cole, who has seemed to be in the doghouse of head coach Ken Hitchcock for the large majority of his Blues career.

Just by looking at the stat line, you would think that Cole was one of the Blues’ best defensemen. He has a plus-minus rating of plus-6, which ranks only behind Kevin Shattenkirk and Carl Gunnarsson among the Blues’ defensemen, and puts him significantly ahead of guys like Barret Jackman and Alex Pietrangelo in the category. With that said, Cole has made some costly mistakes in the defensive zone which have resulted in otherwise-avoidable goals for the Blues’ opponents.

It also doesn’t help that Cole has been more of an offensively-inclined defensemen throughout his career, but has struggled to produce in that area so far this season. Cole’s played 26 games this season, which matches his total from both 2010-11 and 2011-12. However, Cole only has three points this year, while he had four and six, respectively, in those two seasons. In addition, Cole had shown himself as more of a viable offensive contributor last season, scoring three goals and notching eight assists through 46 games.

Another factor could be a desire for more physicality and intensity. When the Blues traded Roman Polak this offseason, they wanted Cole to be able to pick up some of the slack in his absence, as they had long been able to rely on Polak to be the bruiser in the defensive end. While Cole hasn’t necessarily lacked in that area this season, Lindbohm is very overtly physical and seems to have more of an edge to his play than Cole does.

It should be interesting to see what happens when Bouwmeester returns to the Blues’ lineup. It’s probably not likely that Lindbohm sticks around, as the team would prefer to get him regular playing time in the minors during his first American professional season. However, with Chris Butler‘s recent positive play, it’s a more likely possibility that he could stick in the lineup with Cole becoming the seventh defenseman.