The Cooke Conundrum

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To say Matt Cooke is on a short leash with the NHL would be an understatement. The next illegal blow he delivers to an opponent could very well be his last in the league. So, out of necessity, Cooke has pledged to change his ways. No more questionable hits from #24.

But therein lies the problem. With Cooke so focused on NOT crossing the line, just how effective will he be for the Penguins?

I’m on record saying I like what Cooke brings to the team…cheap shots excluded. His absence from the lineup absolutely killed the Pens in the playoffs against Tampa. He is a good player, and he’s proven he can contribute offensively, defensively and on the PK. My concern is Cooke’s mental state. Can he focus on the task at hand with the constant threat of another huge suspension looming? Can he be a physical presence when he knows damn well just one more debatable check might end his career?

It’s an interesting, and perhaps unprecedented, situation. A player who’s made his livelihood playing on the edge can no longer afford to do so. I don’t doubt Cooke when he says he’ll change his style. I just hope he can still be the third-line winger the Pens need him to be.