Skip to content

THE MOJ: Hardened by years of playoff battle, Cole setting Canuck tone

Veteran defenceman has seen it all and it helps him keep his team on an even keel
Canucks defenceman Ian Cole the most playoff experience of any Canuck and will be relied upon this post-season. photo

116 versus 143.

That’s the number of playoff games Vancouver’s Ian Cole has participated in versus the combined total of J.T. Miller, Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Thatcher Demko entering this post-season.

Take Miller and his 78 games out of the equation and that’s 116 games versus 55.

When it comes to playoff experience, Cole is the dean of the Canucks dressing room.

The 35-year-old native of Ann Arbor, Michigan was part of back-to-back Stanley Cup championships with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017 and has been part of playoff runs with Colorado and Carolina.

For Cole, the playoffs are familiar territory.

While most of his teammates were soaking in the rabid atmosphere at Rogers Arena on Sunday night when Vancouver defeated Nashville 4-2 in game one of their first round series, Cole didn’t let the moment get too big.

Although he appreciated the fan support, the veteran defenseman didn’t try to soak it all in.

“No, not really to be honest. All that stuff is awesome and you can feel the energy but personally for me I do better when I block out all the external stuff,” stated Cole.

He admits that having experience in that type of environment does help in terms of focusing on the task at hand.

“When you go and you step out here, it’s your fans and the atmosphere is so great. It’s like ‘wow, this is amazing.’ Then you go to Nashville, and you’re like, ‘wow, this is so intimidating.’ Well, it’s neither. It’s great here. Yeah, I feel the energy and use it. And there? It’s going be loud. It’s not intimidating - feel the energy use it,” explained Cole.

“It all should be the same mindset right? It shouldn’t matter where you’re playing, there’s going to be energy everywhere at this point of the year. The fans were great. They were awesome and you could definitely feel that but I don’t think focusing on it is beneficial.”

As a veteran on the team, Cole picks his spots when to say things and is always open to helping out teammates when asked.

“You try to say some things here and there but I also don’t want to stand up here and pontificate ‘oh, I’ve done this and this is what we need to do.’ No one really appreciates that either. When guys come to you and ask questions, you answer them. If you see things that you think you can add some insight to or fix, you do that when the time is right. But again, I don’t think standing up and telling people what to do or how to play…we got here for a reason.

“We’ve got a great hockey team. We’re deep. We’re skilled. We have elite players from our goaltending all the way through our ‘D’ all the way through our forwards. So let guys do their job and let guys experience it for themselves and grow and learn.”

Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet recognizes that Cole’s experience is valuable and pointed out and example of it from earlier in the year.

“There’s been times this year I felt our team get a little antsy and Coler’s demeanor after the game has helped our team. I’ve seen it. It’s easier when it comes from the player or their peers than the coach when you have that player that can settle guys down,” said Tocchet, referring to a four-game late-February swoon that was snapped with a 3-2 win over Boston at Rogers Arena. “I think we lost four in a row one time and Coler talked to the guys. The next night we played we had a good night. Some of the older guys I think won us that game.”

Cole is the epitome of what Tocchet and the organization want from players in terms of a mental approach.

Now in his 14th NHL season, Cole has seen it all yet he doesn’t get too high after success or too low after failure.

“I mean, listen, we’ve talked about this many times over the course of the year, which essentially is ‘hey, we win a couple games everyone’s riding high. They’re amazing! Or we’re gonna win the cup!’ Well, it’s not true. We got to win a heck of a lot more hockey games.

“Or just like if we had lost the first game and got blown out 8-1. ‘Oh man! They’re a phony - they’re a fake. They’re not there.’ That’s not true either.

“Let’s try to stay level-headed through this whole thing. Let’s try to stay even-keel. We have a lot more hockey games to win. They (Nashville) are going to push back. They’re going to come back even better. And we need to be ready for them.”


* The discussions have already started about the ‘coaching adjustments’ that take place in a series but don’t kid yourselves. You don’t change the foundation of what got you to the post-season. The adjustments are more like ‘tweaks’ according to Tocchet. “Let’s face it. They know us. We know them. There might be some stuff they might adjust to and we have to be ready for it and vice versa. A lot of times there are in-game adjustments too whether you take a guy off a line or try different things. You can’t be afraid to do that in-game. I think that’s important,” stated Tocchet.

* Asked if he learns anything more about his team after watching game video, Tocchet said it reinforces what he sees from the bench during the course of a game more so than any eye-opening revelations. “For me in real time I kind of know. I don’t need the next day to validate it. There is the odd time where I may have misread (what occurred in the game) but I kind of know what I thought last night is what I watched today.”

* Tocchet believes the main purpose of looking back at games is to use the video as a tool to help players moving forward. “To me, good coaching is how do you present it to the players without being negative or even too positive. I think it’s important you tell the story. Whatever our story is today with the players is going to help us tomorrow. I think that’s what I look at video for – creating your narrative to the players. What can we do to get better?” he explained.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media.

READ MORE: Canucks star goalie Thatcher Demko unavailable for Game 2: Coach

READ MORE: THE MOJ: Canucks stick with the plan and it pays off with Game 1 victory