There’s no denying that Matt Cooke may be the most hated player in the NHL. That’s like saying water is wet or the Pirates suck. Whichever analogy you prefer is up to you, but both the fans and the players alike hate Cooke. However, is all this Cooke hatred really as justified as people make it? Is Cooke somehow worse than say, Trevor Gillies? Is he somehow the dirtiest player to ever play the game, ever? I honestly don’t think so. Perhaps Cooke’s reputation leads him to be such a villain. Perhaps not.
Cooke has 126 career goals and 301 points. Gillies has one goal… ONE. Cooke has never taunted a player who he had injured, as he lay motionless on the ice. Never. Maybe you see him doing such things in your own mind, but he has never done such a thing in actual reality.
I know I’m going to take some heat here and that people are going to say that I’m blindly and biasedly a Matt Cooke apologetic, but to say that defending Cooke is somehow like defending Jeffrey Dahmer seems pretty insane to me. Unlike a player like Trevor Gillies, Cooke fills a purpose on a team besides taking runs at players and fighting night in and night out.
More after the jump
He Stabilizes The Penalty Kill
With Jordan Staal out for the majority of the season, the Pens penalty kill could have easily been buried into the middle of the pack in the NHL. Instead, they boasted one of the best penalty kills in the league and Cooke was a huge part of that PK.
Players like Cooke and Craig Adams are the backbone to such a solid PK and it’s mostly because they bring a physical element to their game. Creating opportunities where the other team is forced to make a play, their physical element usually results in a turnover and a clear.
Now that Staal is back, some may make an argument that Cooke is replaceable, but a team can never have enough solid penalty killers.
Cooke can notch on average 12-15 goals a year. His goal output is typically on par with players like Tyler Kennedy. Cooke is currently 7th on the team with 30 points, (12 goals and 18 assist.) Three of his 12 goals are short handed goals. As a result, he provides great third-line depth to this team and does so with a very reasonable contract.
To the Pens Fans Who Want Cooke Gone
The state of hysteria in the league these days is ridiculous. Could you imagine if the “Blame Matt Cooke” fans where around when former Pens defenseman Ulf Samuelsson kneed Cam Neely or when Kasparitus was laying out Eric Lindross
If you’re a Pens fans that wants Matt Cooke gone, stop your crying… You’re going to need Cooke in the playoffs on some big time penalty kill. Bank on it. Stop calling for his head.
What To Do, What To Do…
Does a message need to be sent? Yes. Obviously. The shame of it all is that Cooke is actually a talented player. There’s no doubt about that. No matter how biased you may be against him, he plays a unique role and it’s a role in which he plays well. He plays his game with an edge and sometimes he makes stupid decisions. That’s the give-and-take with a player like Cooke. You know what you’re getting.
Simply put, his decision-making needs to be better though. It just does. There’s no defending that. He needs to keep in mind that he needs to have a healthy respect for the other players on the ice. Now, we don’t really know what Dan Bylsma, Ray Shero, or Mario Lemieux are saying to Cooke behind closed doors, but hopefully it’s loud and clear.
Cooke will surely face a suspension from the league, especially since he is a repeat offender. If he has one thing going for him, it’s that it appears that Ryan McDonough wasn’t seriously injured on the play. Some of Cooke’s victims are not always as lucky. Just ask Marc Savard. He’s still peeing in a dark room because bright lights give him migraine headaches.
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