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2015-16 Pensburgh Recap: Ian Cole

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Ian Cole had a nice season in 2015-16, and here's a recap of it.

Ian Cole celebrating with Lord Stanley's Cup during the Penguins' victory parade.
Ian Cole celebrating with Lord Stanley's Cup during the Penguins' victory parade.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Today our season recaps take us to arguably Pittsburgh's second-most popular Cole, Ian Cole.

Age and Contract Status

Age: 27 (February 21, 1989). Will be a free agent on July 1, 2018. Contract carries an AAV of $2,100,000. In 2016-17, Cole will earn a base salary of $2,300,000 with a cap hit of $2,100,000.

Preseason Expectations

Fresh off of signing a 3-year $6,300,000 contract in the 2015 offseason, Cole was seen as a bargain signing for a presumptive top-four defenseman who could drive play as well as outscore the opponent. Oh, and his defensive partner during his short glimpse of action last season was Rob Scuderi...

In his 20-game sample with the Penguins last season, Cole made GM Jim Rutherford look like a genius by acquiring him for Robert Bortuzzo and a 2016 seventh-round pick as well as by racking up seven assists and eight points.

Going into this season, the Pens' defense corps was surrounded in uncertainty. The only solidified spot was the (presumable) top-two pairing of Olli Maatta and Kris Letang. Ben Lovejoy and Ian Cole would have rounded out the top-four, leaving a third pairing with either Brian Dumoulin or Derrick Pouliot paired with Rob Scuderi.

Well, the season rolled around and the team's first lineup against the Dallas Stars featured Cole paired with Letang. Maatta was flipped to the second pairing with Ben Lovejoy and Dumoulin was paired with Scuderi. Oh how the times would change...

Verdict

Cole played 70 games, registering 12 assists, with no goals scored. We'll get to goal-scoring in a little bit. As the season progressed, the roster would obviously change with injuries and trades. When Mike Sullivan was hired in December, the scheme focused on the breakout and the ability to transition quickly into the offensive zone with a pinch of speed, hence the Carl Hagelin and Trevor Daley acquisitions and out with Rob Scuderi and David Perron types that weighed the team down. Cole would eventually land on the third pairing with the mid-season acquisition of Justin Schultz and would thrive in a sheltered role with Schultz during the run to the Stanley Cup.

Future

Ian Cole will be entering the second year of his 3-year extension. With a measly cap hit of $2,100,000, he could be shipped as a part of a larger deal to free up cap space. In a trade with a fellow goalie, perhaps? Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves here, but Cole will more than likely have a chance to be featured in a bottom pairing role with the newly resigned Justin Schultz. Cole will also probably be competing with Derrick Pouliot throughout training camp and into the preseason for that role. If history tells us anything, it's that Pouliot should probably get used to the press box nachos.

2015-16 Stats

Ian Cole's HERO Chart Compared to Derrick Pouliot

Via: Own The Puck

Let's not kid ourselves here. Derrick Pouliot should be playing over Ian Cole. This HERO Chart proves that statement. In his limited playing time, Pouliot shined. Yes, he was a turnover machine against Washington, but he was also playing in his first ever NHL playoff series, more than likely thinking to himself: "Don't make a mistake. I don't want to go back to the press box." Let Pouliot make and learn from his mistakes. But, this is an Ian Cole season recap and I have digressed.

2015-16 Game-by-Game Analysis

(From HockeyViz, explained here)

Distribution of Teammates and Competition

(From HockeyViz, explained here)


GIFs of the Year

The first GIF highlights Ian Cole's first goal in, oh, 105 games. Yes, you read that correctly. Cole hadn't scored in over a year until Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final to give the Pens a 1-0 lead. The Penguins would go on to win that game and go up 3-1 in the series.

The following two GIFs highlight Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole during Game 4 of the ECSF as he enthusiastically leads a "Let's Go Pens!" chant on the big screen and later being told by an usher that knocking on the glass to heckle Alex Ovechkin and company is a big no-no.

You get Pittsburgh's two Cole's for the price of nothing!

***

Feel free to vote in the poll below to grade Ian Cole's season on a scale from 1 to 10. Vote based on your expectations for him coming into the season -- i.e., 1 being "he's the Penguins' worst defenseman not named Rob Scuderi", 10 being "he is Kris Letang's equal".