Has Matt Cooke really changed? Hell, yeah!

Matt Cooke

When Matt Cooke of the Minnesota Wild stuck his knee out and caught Tyson Barrie in Game 3 of the first-round series against the Colorado Avalanche, the first instinct was to label Cooke as a clown who had not changed one iota from his reckless past.

That’s understandable. When you have a rap sheet as long as Cooke’s, you’re never going to get the benefit of the doubt. The fact that the NHL actually surprised everyone by making a bold supplementary discipline decision to suspend Cooke for seven playoff game put the exclamation mark on it. I believe the headline we used here at thn.com went something like this: “Matt Cooke: Once a rat, always a rat”.

There’s little doubt Cooke got exactly what he deserved when he was handed the seven-game suspension. It’s generally accepted that one playoff game is the equivalent of two games in the regular season, so it was not an insignificant amount of time for him to sit out. The knee on Barrie was a reckless play and it caused the Avalanche to be without arguably its best defenseman and a player who has displayed a penchant for making huge plays in overtime.

Cooke has spent much of the intervening time trying to convince people that he actually has changed since missing the final 10 games of the 2010-11 season and the first round of the playoffs for an elbow to the head of Ryan McDonagh and the incident with Barrie was an isolated one.

As much as it may seem counterintuitive to my stance against recklessness and violence in the game, I believe him. Because prior to the Barrie hit, Cooke has been, relatively speaking, quiet as a church mouse. The only incident in which he was involved was when Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson had his Achilles tendon severed on a Cooke hit. Despite a “forensic investigation” by Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, there was no evidence there was any nefarious act or intention.

If you don’t believe that Cooke has actually changed, just look at the numbers. The fact of the matter is that over the past three seasons, Cooke has had more penalties for diving (one) and delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass (one) than he has had for charging (zero).

He has been most guilty over the past three seasons, in which he has played the maximum 212 regular season games, of tripping and interference (including those on the goaltender), penalties of which he has received nine minors. There have been eight minors for roughing and seven for slashing. Cooke has received five unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and four each for highsticking and hooking and two each for crosschecking and holding.

The most telling stat in those numbers is not only the complete dearth of charging penalties, but the fact he has received only three minor penalties for boarding over the past three seasons. And he has not received a major penalty for anything since 2011.

The reason Cooke was considered such a villain was the reckless way that he attacked vulnerable players. But there is ample evidence to suggest he simply does not do that anymore. Until the hit on Barrie, Cooke had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he was a changed man.

So when Cooke takes to the ice for Game 4 of the Wild’s second-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks Friday night, there is no reason for him to tiptoe his way around the rink. He can play a physical grinding game without going over the line. He has proved it the past three years.

Milan Lucic throws another spear on Alexei Emelin – no discipline coming

Milan Lucic

Milan Lucic, the big player who insists on playing as small as possible.

The Bruins bruiser can throw his weight around with the best of them and turn the momentum of a game (or a career, if you ask Mike Komisarek) with a big check. But he’s not just a physical player – Lucic can score too. He’s reached 30 goals once and 20-plus goals on two other occasions. The moral of the story: Lucic has a place in the NHL.

But, holy moly, what’s with his cheap stick tactics? Read more

Imagine if Matt Cooke had scored the winner? Maybe it’s time for a referee in the press box

Jason Kay
Colorado Avalanche v Minnesota Wild - Game Three

How could you not like the brilliant goal Minnesota’s Mikael Granlund scored to get the Wild back into their series with Colorado?

It was an outrageous display of effort and skill, punctuated by an-the-ice/falling down maneuver that makes any goal seem more dramatic.

And, most of all, it wasn’t scored by Matt Cooke.

Read more

Matt Cooke injures Tyson Barrie with knee – is a suspension next?

Matt Cooke

The Colorado Avalanche are already without leading scorer Matt Duchene due to injury – and now they may lose a scoring blueliner after Tyson Barrie’s run-in with Minnesota’s reformed bad guy annual recidivist Matt Cooke.

Midway through the second period of Game 3, Barrie had the puck near the benches, looking for a play up ice. Cooke came in to apply pressure and lay a shoulder check – only he stuck out the knee instead. Read more

Seabrook suspended 3 games. Would it be more in regular season?

Jason Kay
Chicago Blackhawks v St. Louis Blues - Game Two

We sure hope the time of year had nothing to do with the length of suspension the NHL handed Brent Seabrook.

The Chicago defenseman got three games for charging and interference, not to mention knocking David Backes into a different dimension during Game 2 of the St. Louis-Chicago game the other night.

Fair enough. The NHL department of player safety explains its decision in the video below. That Seabrook is not a repeat offender factors into the punishment.

But too often we hear that because it’s the playoffs, when more is on the line, disciplinarians modify the suspension. That is, one playoff game equals two or three regular season games, giving the offender, ostensbily, a lighter sentence..

The problem with that thinking is the same holds true for the victim – in this instance, Backes and Blues.

Time of year should not matter. When the stakes are higher, so are the consequences and the perpetrators should be held fully accountable.

Mike Rupp suspended four games for late, high hit on T.J. Oshie

T.J. Oshie

Last night was a great night to be a Minnesota hockey fan. Not only did the Wild’s John Curry, a native of the state who grew up rooting for the North Stars, make 43 saves in his first NHL appearance in four years to knock off the Blues, but the NCAA’s Golden Gophers also advanced to the Frozen Four final on a last-second goal.

The only thing that took away from a great night of Minnesota hockey was Mike Rupp, who hammered St. Louis’ T.J. Oshie with a hit that was obviously in violation of Rule 48 and also ruled to be too late.

As Patrick Burke said in the NHL’s supplemental discipline video: “Rupp hits Oshie at a point where he is no longer eligible to be hit. And in doing so he takes an angle that picks Oshie’s head.” Read more

Mike Rupp gets match penalty for hit on T.J. Oshie, suspension surely to follow

T.J. Oshie

It first looked like Douglas Murray’s hit on Johan Sundstrom was going to be the most controversial of the night, but Mike Rupp went ahead and laid a hit that was clearly much, much worse.

Mid-way through the Blues-Wild game Thursday night, St. Louis’ T.J. Oshie was carrying the puck around the perimeter of Minnesota’s zone when Rupp stepped up and into his head.

This isn’t a question of if there will be a suspension, but for how long it will be. Read more