Whether it was accidental, or whether it was reckless, or whether it was intentional, to me it doesn’t matter. It’s something that never should have happened. This player should never be playing in this league. It’s a league for elite players.”

Eugene Melnyk’s personal crusade against Matt Cooke has continued into tonight’s match-up that takes Ottawa’s public enemy number one into hostile territory first time since the now infamous Erik Karlsson incident.

The purpose of this article isn’t to rehash all of the suspension and misconduct issues that Matt Cooke has dealt with in his career.

It’s not about the farcical and circus-like forensic investigation that Melnyk launched as a result of losing Erik Karlsson for the majority of this season.

The point here is what Matt Cooke does on the ice and how it relates to the success of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Are his numbers elite? By no means.

Are they the numbers of a no-talent goon that belongs in the CHL?

Absolutely not.

There have been a lot of asinine comments made by those outside of the Pittsburgh hockey universe in regards to Matt Cooke over the course of the last two months.

Perhaps the worst of which is Mr. Melnyk’s assessment of Cooke’s game. From his standpoint, Cooke shouldn’t even be playing in the National Hockey League. He’s a goon, a wreckless wildcard that skates around the ice serving no purpose outside of injuring players and mucking it up for the stars of the NHL.

According to Mr. Melnyk, Cooke has not only failed to change his game, he’s incapable of doing so.

Those are some pretty outlandish allegations, no? You’re saying that not only is Matt Cooke an non-reformed goon, his presence on the ice is actually a deterrent to good hockey, and he has no place in the league whatsoever.

It’s pretty clear that Mr. Melnyk doesn’t watch the Pittsburgh Penguins all that often.

Let’s look at the facts when it comes to what Matt Cooke brings to the table.

In his 348 games as a Pittsburgh Penguin, Matt Cooke has registered 65 goals and 80 assists while spending most of his ice time with the third line or on the penalty-kill.

Cooke averages 2:14 of short handed time on ice per game, good for 5th on the team and 2nd among all active forwards. His 36 shot blocks are good for 7th on the team and tie directly into the phenomenal job on the penalty kill that he does for the Penguins on a nightly basis.

His 91 hits put him among the team leaders for the Penguins, and has played an integral role in allowing his teammates to find open space.

Cooke’s net differential on penalties taken per 60 minutes of play and penalties drawn per 60 minutes of play is .02. Meaning, Cooke takes .02 more penalties per 60 minutes of play than he actually draws. Not bad for a reckless, no talent goon.

Matt Cooke leads the Penguins in IPP, or individual points percentage, meaning that Cooke registers a point on 88.2% of the goals scored while he is on the ice.

Cooke also finds himself 8th on the Penguins in IGP, or individual goals percentage. Essentially, for every goal scored when Matt Cooke is on the ice, he’s responsible for the goal 29.4 percent of the time.

Cooke is 9th on the Penguins in points scored per 60 minutes of play at 1.67, that’s tied with Jarome Iginla, for some perspective.

Of Cooke’s 10 assists this year, seven of them came directly off of his stick for the goal scored, giving him only three secondary assists on the year.

I’m not going to embarrass fans of the Ottawa Senators by posting the same attributes for their beloved Chris Neil.

The bottom line is this: if Ottawa wants to run around and gun for Matt Cooke all night tonight, they can have at it.

Ottawa is trying to fend off the Winnipeg Jets for the 8th spot in the post-season. And if they want to play games at the end of the year, let them. It won’t deter anything, because Matt Cooke owns no responsibility in this situation outside of the fact that it was his skate that made innocuous contact with Erik Karlsson’s leg to cause the injury.

For the number one seeded Pittsburgh Penguins, the results of this game are about as meaningful as Eugene Melnyk’s assessment of Matt Cooke’s game.