WASHINGTON, D.C. - If you ask Ian Cole how he's fit in so well in the 20 games since his trade to Columbus, he'll say it's because he's "just chill."
Taking things in stride is kind of his thing.
"That's the best way to describe it," Cole said Wednesday, after practice at Capital One Arena.
Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella has noticed this quality, too, on and off the ice.
"There's no adjustment in his game," Tortorella said. "He could be playing Pee-Wee hockey and he'd still be playing the same way. He makes his decision. He lives with it. He's aggressive. A better puck-handler than I thought he was, through playing against him and watching him over the years."
Cole was first traded by the Pittsburgh Penguins, whom he helped win the Stanley Cup the past two seasons, to the Ottawa Senators. In turn, they moved him to Columbus on Feb. 26, hours before the NHL Trade Deadline.
The Senators made it clear they intended to flip Cole to a contender for a draft pick, so he was instructed stay in Pittsburgh. So the veteran defenseman hopped in a car and drove to Columbus, where the team was playing the Washington Capitals.
Upon arriving at Nationwide Arena, he was given some Blue Jackets attire, his uniform, and jumped right into the fray - playing with the similarly-bearded David Savard.
"I was pretty fortunate," Cole said. "Drove in and was able to play on the same day. I was fortunate to be paired up with a great hockey player, David Savard. He makes the transition really easy."
Cole and Savard have played every game together since that first one. Tortorella credits Cole with helping Savard revitalize some aspects of his play that he once had with former partner Jack Johnson.
"We think it's helped Savy's game," Tortorella said. "And Ian Cole has just been a very good player for us. I wasn't sure if it was going to work. Same thing with the [forward lines]. I'm not sure if it's going to work, but I just have to have a little common sense. If it's working, don't screw it up. So, we've kept them together and they've been a very good pair for us."
It's hard to miss Savard and Cole, both with their trademark beards, one red, one brown, affectionately dubbed the "Lumber Jackets" by the Blue Jackets fanbase.
"He talks a lot, I try to talk a lot," Cole said. "We feed off each other pretty well. We're still developing, we're still getting better communication, better chemistry. It's been going well and we're gonna try to keep it going."
Off the ice, Cole barely needed any time at all to acclimate himself to his new surroundings and teammates. His focus immediately flicked to helping his new team win, especially in the postseason.
"This team is a great group of guys and they've been very accommodating and very hospitable and really make you feel at home really quickly," he said. "It was tough leaving a lot of really good friends in Pittsburgh, but the guys here have been more than great to be here. Very excited to be here and very excited to get this playoff run going."
There's always some risk involved in adding a player late in the season. He might not fit in with the room or existing team chemistry might be thrown off. Not so with Cole.
"I think the biggest adjustment when you get these guys at deadlines is those first few days, when they come into a new locker room," Tortorella said. "And he has such a great personality. And I think people respect him immediately, as far as his resume. That was seamless."