Monday, March 21, 2011

Is Matt Cooke Worth the Aggravation?

Let me preface this by saying something. I like Matt Cooke. Off the ice, he's a good family man, good to the fans, and overall a kind soul. I defended the Savard and Tyutin hits, saying that they were both instances of Cooke not trying to be a goon, but trying to make some sort of a play (the Savard hit, perhaps not as much).

But this is getting old, and I'm not sure there's any legitimate defense for this type of play.

Cooke leads with his left side, stick solely in his right hand, and lifts his elbow straight up into the face of Ryan McDonagh. Cooke isn't making a hockey play here; it's a cheapshot, pure and simple. Much as I dislike that team, I'm impressed at the Rangers expressing some self-control during the remainder of that game, not reverting to Cooke-like tactics.

Not to mention, Cooke's penalty, along with an unfortunate high stick from Matt Niskanen, in all probability cost the Penguins two extremely valuable points.

So the question becomes, do Matt Cooke's redeeming qualities on the ice outweigh his dirty play? Perhaps yesterday was the tipping point. We're a city full of Cooke supporters, but I don't hear a lot of people defending his hit on McDonagh. It was wreckless at best; dangerous at worst. Cooke should count his lucky stars that McDonagh is okay, otherwise I'm not sure what kind of suspension he would be looking at. He could still be looking at not seeing the ice until the playoffs (or perhaps, worse). As a Pens fan, it's difficult to watch. We know the talent that Cooke has. Everyone around the league does. Players like Matt Cooke win championships.

But what good are Cooke's talents when he's suspended, at home with his wife and kids? This has been an incredibly trying and difficult season for the Penguins, the "A" on Cooke's jersey should be a reminder of how rough it's been. He should know that this team needs him, and they need him to play by the book. It's tough enough to win games without the likes of Crosby, Malkin and Orpik. We shouldn't have to deal with these kinds of issues from Matt Cooke. Definitely not in the heat of a March playoff run.

The hit was bad. The timing was worse.

Given his wild inconsistencies, it's difficult to predict exactly what punishment Colin Campbell will dole out. Given that Cooke is a high-profile troublemaker, I wouldn't be surprised if we don't see him for a long while, perhaps the rest of the season. And if that were to be the case, it's justified.

Regardless of what penalty Cooke receives, the relationship between he and the Penguins brass may be in trouble.

UPDATE: Per Nick Kypreos, Cooke has been suspended for 10 games plus the first round of the Playoffs.

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