Just days after the NHL Board of Governors meeting in Florida to discuss a myriad of topics, not the least of which was head-shots, Matt Cooke decided to demonstrate precisely what type of hit is illegal.
Yesterday afternoon, amidst a close game against the New York Rangers, Cooke played “Mr. Selfish” once again, deliberately raising his elbow to hit Ryan McDonagh square in the jaw.
Five. Ten. Game.
It’s a routine Pittsburgh Penguins fans have grown accustomed to with Cooke, and the next steps also are becoming all too familiar.
Undoubtedly, Cooke will be contacted by league officials and will have a disciplinary hearing. Because he’s a repeat offender — actually, I think he’s the definition of a repeat offender — his suspension will be longer than the norm.
And it should be.
Cooke, known as one of the dirtiest players in the NHL, has made a string of bad decisions of late, all while team owner Mario Lemieux and general manager Ray Shero push to get such shots banned entirely from the NHL.
In the past, it’s been a bit easier to defend Cooke. He’s an extremely effective defensive forward, pest, and penalty killer, who forechecks ferociously and even creates some offense.
Those attributes make him a desirable player for all 30 teams.
Problem is, his other attributes are a complete turn-off.
As the league looks to come down on dirty hits and dirty players, Cooke just continues to play with reckless abandon and no regard for his opponents — or his team, for that matter.
Fortunately, McDonagh returned to the game relatively unscathed, but the Penguins, meanwhile, suffered drastically from Cooke’s shenanigans, giving up four third period goals following his ejection, ultimately losing 5-2.
We’re at the point now where Cooke just might have written his ticket out of town.
On a team that is at the forefront of the anti-head-shot movement, Cooke is the one who forced league officials to adopt a mild version of the rule in the first place.
The Penguins, quite simply, can’t afford to employ a player who so frequently goes against what they’re trying to eliminate. It’s bad for their cause, as we’ve seen through the media. It’s bad for their opponents, as we saw with former Cooke target Marc Savard. And it’s bad for their team, as we saw yesterday.
If Lemieux, Shero, and the Penguins truly want to make a statement about their stance on head-shots, Cooke should be suspended by the team beyond what the NHL suspends him.
If that means playing without one of the team’s better penalty killers and more established veteran grinders, so be it.
Cooke needs to go, and I strongly believe this will be his last in the black and gold.