It's really a shame, too, because Riley is truly a great guy. He does a ton of work in the community and works with several charities, especially those involved with fighting against multiple sclerosis, which his sister has. And his hockey career has been one that's defined by hard work and determination.
After playing his junior hockey with Prince Albert of the Western Hockey League from 1998 to 2002, Cote's eligibility ran out. He had not been drafted by an NHL team, something he calls a "blessing in disguise" today. He walked on to Toronto Maple Leafs training camp that year and left with a job. It was a Central Hockey League job, but a job nonetheless.
Playing for the Memphis Riverkings of the CHL, Cote tallied up the penalty minutes. He sat in the box for 241 minutes in 51 regular season games. After the Leafs passed him up the following season, he got another chance in Columbus. The Blue Jackets signed him to a two-way contract with their AHL club in Syracuse. He never played in the NHL that year, in fact playing most of his games with the organization's ECHL affiliate in Dayton. But the ECHL was a step up from the CHL, and Cote made his name known in that league.
It was in his time in Dayton that I first saw Riley play hockey. I was a season ticket holder of the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies, and Dayton came to town quite a bit. Cote was one of the better players on the Bombers, and he had a knack for ticking you off with his play. I always referred to him as one of those players who you'd love to have play for your team, but you'd hate to play against. Even from the stands, I could realize how hard Cote worked. My seats were right near the visiting team's tunnel, and as the Bombers walked back to the dressing room, I can distinctly remember seeing the fire in Cote's eyes. I was impressed by him. His hair was a little shorter back then, too.
For Cote to stand out to me, a visiting fan in an ECHL city, who saw hundreds of different players walk into the arena that season alone, is impressive. You can imagine how I felt the following season when he was signed by the Philadelphia Phantoms.
He quickly turned into a fan favorite in Philadelphia. His hard-working, physical style was perfect for this town. He played 61 games in 2004-05 with the Phantoms, tallying up 280 penalty minutes. That's a helluva number. He was a key role player -- an assistant captain, even -- in the team's run to the Calder Cup that season, and the following year, with the NHL lockout over, he would finally break through to the NHL. He played just eight games, but the following season, he stuck for good. He's been with the Flyers ever since.
And that's where the problems arise.
He doesn't score. Obviously. In 150 NHL games, Cote has one goal and six assists. It's a shame, too, because way back in juniors, while pugnacity still defined his game, he did show an ability to put pucks in the net. Some offensive prowess, if you will. Unfortunately, those skills never carried over to the pro ranks, as they so often fail to with so many players.
But it's the one thing he does do well, the fighting, that he in fact doesn't do well.
We could all cite about 20 different videos of Cote's fights in which he puts in a showing like this. But now we have some numbers to cite, as well.
Jonathan Willis at Hockey Or Die! has compiled a few numbers for fighters who fought at least ten times last season. Compiling numbers from the voting at hockeyfights.com, Willis tried to figure out the best and worst fighters in the league. Who had the most losses last season, of all the fighters in the NHL?
Yep, Riley Cote.
- Most Losses: Riley Cote, Philadelphia Flyers (5-14, 26.3%)
- Runner-Up: Jared Boll, Columbus Blue Jackets (5-11, 31.3%)
Riley Cote carried on the Flyers’ penchant for dropping the gloves, but his success rate left something to be desired, as he accumulated more losses than any other player in the league.
When 5 minutes, 38 seconds is the most time on the ice you've seen in a game all season and the only thing you're on the roster to do is fight, you need to win those fights. If you can't, you serve no purpose. It's become clear over his NHL career that Riley Cote cannot fight NHL enforcers. He may be a great guy, but John Stevens was too. It's time to part ways.