In the wake of Matt Cooke’s monstrous suspension by the NHL that sees him being sat down for the rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs, our curiosity turned towards what those in the Penguins front office would say about the situation. After all, when a player is disciplined by the league the usual response is to support the player and show disagreement with the league for the punishment.
Not this time.
Penguins general manager Ray Shero issued a statement today via the Penguins website showing that this isn’t the usual kind of situation.
“The suspension is warranted because that’s exactly the kind of hit we’re trying to get out of the game. Head shots have no place in hockey. We’ve told Matt in no uncertain terms that this kind of action on the ice is unacceptable and cannot happen. Head shots must be dealt with severely, and the Pittsburgh Penguins support the NHL in sending this very strong message.”
This kind of talk from Shero echoes what owner Mario Lemieux spoke out about in the wake of the Islanders-Penguins night of brawls and nonsense back in February, only this time around it applies to someone in house that they employ. It’s no secret that these sorts of plays are the types of things you’ll get out of Cooke but considering the Penguins have him under contract for another two years after this one, we’re guessing this is a “we’re doing this because we love you” kind of situation.
Where suspensions and fines have failed in getting through to Matt Cooke before, perhaps public shaming will finally get through to him. If that doesn’t get him to knock it off with the cheap stuff, where do you go next? At this point, those who say that if the Pens dropped Cooke there’d be 29 other teams ready to pick him up could be wrong.
That sort of negative PR isn’t worth it for teams these days. Perhaps after years of toiling away as a vagabond and public pariah would get him to mellow out (like it has with Todd Bertuzzi) but if teams know a guy is going to play with that particular edge to his game and cost them games and money, forget it. As it is, Cooke will play again for Pittsburgh eventually whether it’s in the second round of the playoffs or next season.
The next step is in Cooke’s hands for how he wants to carry forward in the league and the word from the Penguins seems simple: Shape up or ship out.