Pittsburgh Penguins Go From Rags to Riches With Ian Cole


The Pittsburgh Penguins are clearly struggling at the moment, and have been for a few months. They’ve gone 19-17-7 since the start of 2015 and have been watching their playoff chances get slimmer with every loss. But, lost in the chaos and negativity surrounding the Penguins is the value and solid play of Ian Cole.

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A former first-round draft pick of the St. Louis Blues (18th overall), Cole was acquired at the trade deadline in exchange for Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo. At the time of the trade both individuals were struggling to fit in on their current roster, and expectations weren’t very high for either. However, since the trade, Ian Cole has quietly been one of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ top defensemen.

I compared Cole’s CF/60 and CA/60. Chart via war-on-ice.com.

You’ll notice that he has pretty impressive company in Paul Martin and Kris Letang, and is far better than you would expect for someone that was brought here for a bottom-pairing role.  And while it may be harsh referring to Robert Bortuzzo as “rags”, consider that he spent most of his time with the Pittsburgh Penguins manning the press box.  In all fairness, he’s doing very well in St. Louis and the trade looks to have benefited both franchises.

Also, You may know by now that I love WOWY (with or without you) data. It’s a very telling metric that gives you a really good idea of the type of impact an individual has on his fellow line mates. Below is the effect that Cole has on his teammates that he has had the most time-on-ice with.

I also might add, his impressive possession numbers have been accomplished with a few of the worst Penguins in that regard.

You may also know by now that I don’t like basing an opinion purely on statistics.

Ian Cole has done a tremendous job of jumping into the attack in the offensive zone. I guess you can say he “activates” really well. He reminds me a lot of Matt Niskanen in that aspect. A great example is the goal he created against the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 4. Cole pinches to retrieve the puck, wins a brief one-on-one battle along the boards, and sets up a beauty by dishing to Patric Hornqvist who in turn feeds Sidney Crosby for a one-timer. You can find that play here.

Pittsburgh Penguins fans have to be ecstatic about Ian Cole. He’s a restricted free agent after this season, and I assume he’ll get an extension in the offseason. He’s likely to come fairly cheap and can be a big part of this defense.  I mentioned before that he reminds me of Matt Niskanen, and he could have a similar career in Pittsburgh.

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