I love Matt Cooke and his fiesty playing style. I love that he is an agitator and that he’s good at what he does. I love that he sometimes takes liberties that maybe he shouldn’t for what he thinks is the good of the team. I love that he likes to think that there’s no easy ice when he’s out there. I even love how, in true hockey player style, he’s missing one of his front teeth. However, as much as I love him, I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t at least a little disappointed in him.
I guess this is where the downside of having someone with such an aggressive personality comes in. It’s great when that personality gets in the face of his opponents in order to create space and to make things happen. But, it’s not so great when he lets it get the better of him and he does something stupid that ends up hurting the team.
We all know about Cooke’s reputation and, more often than not, we think it’s kind of funny. We may even get an odd sense of pride from it because, to a lot of us, he’s a no nonsene player who does what he has to and he won’t take crap from anyone. Occasionally along the way some opposing players may have to pay the price for that reputation. Cooke usually has to pay a price for it as well.
Anytime a player goes down in Cooke’s vicinity it’s pretty much assumed that he will end up sitting in the penalty box for it. Sometimes it’s warranted and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s worth it and sometimes it isn’t. However, in light of recent events like Sid’s concussion and Chara breaking Pacioretty’s neck people around the league are focusing more and more on the safety of the players. As a result, they are cracking down on those who they think are part of the problem and Cooke currently seems to be public enemy number one.
Cooke is facing yet another hearing in what will likely turn into yet another suspension. With Sid and Geno still being out, with the team still being very Willkes-Barre heavy and with the playoffs looming nearby Cooke’s suspension is far from good. So, has he gone too far this time? Or was it just Cooke being Cooke?
Many will say that it seems like there is a double standard going on in the league and, most likely, there is. Chara didn’t even receive a slap on the wrist for his work in attempting to permanently paralyze Pacioretty. However, Cooke gets a hearing and (probable) suspension for using his elbow in a way that he shouldn’t. The big argument for Chara was that he had a clean record and is known for being an honest player. Cooke may have had a clean record once, but that day is long gone and longer forgotten. He has already been tagged as being the dirtiest player in the league. So, it’s really no wonder why Chara walks and Cooke sits.
It all goes back to grade school politics. The good kids are the ones who are able to get away with everything because no one ever suspects them of anything while the bad kids rot in permanent detention for who knows what. However, this is by no means to say that Cooke is innocent. Most likely he knew exactly what he was doing and didn’t care. For that, he does deserve punishment.
It also doesn’t help matters that Mario Lemeuix himself spoke out against headshots and his desire to see them disappear from the game. To some it may seem like Cooke was spitting in Lemeuix’s face when he threw out that elbow. I doubt that even Cooke would attempt anything that stupid, but the message can still be received that he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks, he’s going to do what he wants to do. That attitude needs to stop now. For the good of himself and the team.
Cooke’s behavior could be detrimental in more ways than one to the Pens. Not only would they have to soldier on without him on the ice, but some players may find it hard to support him off of it, especially since he has been a repeat offender. I would hate to see something like this tear apart a team that has always portrayed itself as being so close knit but people can only be pushed so far before they start to get frustrated, especially when all of their hard work is destoyed. Cooke is already being blamed for costing the Pens the game against the Rangers. Is there more they stand to lose because of him? No one can say for sure, not even Cooke. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.