For the better part of the decade, the Montreal Canadiens have lacked a big-body presence up front that can wreak havoc in front of the opponent's net and can also bury scoring opportunities. This has become a well known fact that opposing teams have often taken advantage of, especially in the postseason.
On July 1, Canada Day to some, Canadiens' general manager Pierre Gauthier went out and addressed his team's longstanding lack of size up front by signing left winger Erik Cole to a 4-year contract worth $18 million.
Cole, 32, weighs in at 205 lbs. and stands relatively tall at 6' 2". Compared to the rest of the Habs' top six forwards, Cole is the only one who measures more than six feet and weighs more than 200 pounds after the enigmatic Belorussian winger Andrei Kostitsyn.
However, unlike Kostitsyn, Cole can play solid two-way hockey consistently and can kill off penalties, all while putting up solid offensive numbers (as evidenced by his 26 goals last season).
Factoring in Cole, Montreal's offense is vastly improved, giving them some size to compete with rivals such as Boston and Philadelphia, teams that have overpowered the Canadiens physically in the playoffs.
One big body cannot completely overhaul one offense by itself though.
With the eventual return of fellow American Max Pacioretty, the Canadiens' offense will be much more sizable and potent in 2011-2012. And if Andrei Kostitsyn can find a way to address his issues with consistency, it could be argued that Montreal possesses one of the top five offenses in the Eastern Conference.
The question that needs to be asked though, and one that must be on many a fan's mind at this point is what took so long for Canadiens management to sign a player such as Erik Cole to address one of their biggest needs?
The lack of logical action in this regard by previous general managers is simply mind-boggling.
While not all these problems have been solved in Montreal and despite the improvement of many Eastern Conference teams, a critical step in the right direction was taken with the signing of Erik Cole.