If you were to make a list of the Oilers' weaknesses, what would it include?
A lack of size? Perhaps a need for more grit and passion? Poor penalty-killing? Trouble scoring goals?
Erik Cole was supposed to help shore up all of those areas. He'd put up between 51 and 61 points in the three seasons since the lockout playing for the Carolina Hurricanes. At 6'2", 205lbs, he represented a big body in the Oilers' top-six. He won a Stanley Cup in 2006 after coming back from a broken neck to play in the finals.
He represented the biggest disappointment on the Oilers' roster in 2008-09.
None of this is meant as an attack on Cole, but rather as an explanation for some of what went wrong last season. Kevin Lowe made some mistakes in the summer (mistakes that seem destined to be made again this summer) but also made some solid moves, highlighted by the acquisition of Lubomir Visnovsky.
One of the moves Lowe made was to bring in Cole for enigmatic defenseman Joni Pitkanen (it feels wrong to write about Pitkanen without using the word "enigmatic" - with the exception of "Russian", I'd guess Pitkanen is the most common counterpart ot "enigmatic" in hockey writing). In many ways, the acquisition of Visnovsky and the acquisition of Cole were joined at the hip; Lowe replaced a very good defenseman with a better one, and replaced Jarret Stoll (not nearly the player he once was, probably due to injury) with a sure thing in Cole.
Except Cole turned out not to be a sure thing - and that's something I think Lowe shouldn't be blamed for. Cole had the track record and looked like a logical fit somewhere in the top-six; either on LW with Hemsky and Horcoff or on RW on the second line.
His poor performance in Edmonton isn't easy to explain; he was still scoring goals, but finished with just 27 points over 63 games. He added other things, but not enough to justify his contract or keep him on a scoring line.
In many ways -and better than any other player on the roster - Cole's time in Edmonton reflected the Oilers season: hyped at the start, disappointing by the middle, and over far too soon.