"The Cole Train" pulls back into his old station | Sports
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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

"The Cole Train" pulls back into his old station

Posted by on Wed, Mar 4, 2009 at 5:16 PM

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Rutherford’s New-People-Phobia strikes again! In a move that should have been surprising (but really wasn’t,) ‘Canes GM Jim Rutherford has executed a three-way deal that will put fan favorite Erik Cole, who was drafted by the ‘Canes in 1998 and played with Carolina for 418 games, back in a red sweater. Cole was traded to Edmonton this summer for Joni Pitkanen. Cole has 16 goals and 11 assists in 63 games with the Oilers so far this season.

Of course, the ‘Canes couldn’t get “The Cole Train” back without giving up something in return. Oft-injured ’06 vet Justin Williams was sent to the Los Angeles Kings as part of the three-way deal.

Here’s how the trade breaks down:

Carolina receives: Left winger Erik Cole, LA’s 2009 second round draft pick, Edmonton's fifth round draft pick

Gives up:  Justin Williams, Carolina’s 2009 second round draft pick

Edmonton receives: Center Patrick O’Sullivan, 2009 second round draft pick

Gives up: Erik Cole, Edmonton’s 2009 draft pick

Los Angeles receives: Right winger Justin Williams

Gives up: Patrick O’Sullivan, 2009 second round draft pick

"Erik was an important player for our team for a long time, and will be an integral part of our push for the playoffs," Rutherford said in a press release. "We thank Justin for all he has done for us. It is difficult to part ways with Justin because of what he has meant to our organization. The last few years have been tough on him and our team with his injuries, and we wish him all the best in Los Angeles."

It may seem sad to lose a rising talent like Williams, but the ‘Canes have gone without him for nearly two full seasons and fans will probably not see a difference. Williams tore his ACL and MCL early last season, which caused him to miss all but one game during the rest of the season. He tore his Achilles tendon earlier this season, and once he finally recovered, he broke a bone in his hand before he could really get back into the swing of things. He is still recovering from the latter injury. Los Angeles was willing to take a gamble with a player that has experienced great success in the past and whose best years may still be in front of him, if he manages to stay off the injured reserve list. Though he held on to him because of his potential and that important, memorable empty-netter in game 7 of the 2006 finals, Rutherford must have tired of waiting for former All-Star Williams to get back to form. He orchestrated a trade that will bring back a strong player and a face that all ‘Canes fans know and love.

Cole was also traded because he just couldn’t find that breakthrough season that he’d been on the cusp of for so many years, but now he will have another try with Carolina. He hasn’t put up impressive numbers with Edmonton, but Rutherford seems open to the possiblity that a glorious “homecoming” will be just what Cole needs to help the ‘Canes make the playoffs for the first time in three years. Cole and his family reportedly kept their house in Raleigh, so there will be no need to into a local hotel and live out of a suitcase, a la Jussi Jokinen.

Former ‘Canes coach Peter Laviolette, contributing for a Canadian news network for the trade deadline, cited Cole’s inherent chemistry with Eric Staal as one of the obvious reasons for the trade. Staal had Cole on his wing through the first four years of his career, and Cole without question helped him to develop into the player he is today. If this move wakes up Eric Staal and allows him to get hot down the stretch, no one will question the trade.

And can we please talk about how much Rutherford fears new people? If that’s not the case, he somehow feels some sort of attachment to players he brought aboard. If he drafted you, you’re pretty much branded with that circular logo for life. Second or even third go-arounds are not uncommon for a former ‘Cane, and while we all expected to see Cole again sometime, few expected it to be this soon. Is there some sort of master plan at work here, perhaps? Hmmm…

In other former ‘Cane news (as in, the ones who didn’t wind up back in the Triangle) Craig Adams was picked up off waivers from Chicago and is now a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Martin Gerber was also plucked off waivers by the Toronto Maple Leafs so that the Leafs can shelve injured starting goaltender Vesa Toskala.

Welcome back, Cole. And best of luck to Justin Williams, who will join a very promising young Kings team. Though the Kings looked like they had a shot to make this year’s playoffs, they have faltered lately and now sit seven points outside of eighth place. He will join ‘Cane draft pick Jack Johnson, the budding superstar defenseman that got away, and hopefully revitalize his career.

The ‘Canes will take on Calgary on Friday night at home. Puck drop is at 7 pm, and Triangle Offense will be *liveblogging starting at 6:30*. Perhaps Cole will treat fans to one of his signature barreling drives to the net right off the bat? We'll see.

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