By now we’re all well aware of what’s gone on with Matt Cooke with his dirty elbow to the head of Ryan McDonagh yesterday and while we await word of how long he’ll be suspended for, others around the league are letting their voices be heard.
The Penguins are in Detroit to take on the Red Wings tonight and while Cooke won’t be playing tonight (more than likely) players from both teams weighed in with their thoughts on what Cooke did yesterday and the résumé he’s built up. Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review gathered the thoughts of players from both teams today and while some Wings players were more outspoken, Penguins players were reserved with the exception of coach Dan Bylsma.
“It’s disappointing to see that kind of hit on that situation, given the timing and the circumstances. That’s a hit we don’t want in the game. Considering the time on the clock and in the game that makes it that much more disappointing. It put our team in a bad spot with 10 minutes to go in a 1-1 game.”
Bylsma’s position is tough because he’s got to be the guy to judge where the line is for Cooke between being an effective checking forward and being completely reckless and a detriment to the team. It’s a truly unenviable position.
Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg didn’t hold back in his feelings.
“You have to give him a suspension that will hurt him. You can’t just go 4-5 games. It clearly doesn’t work. You have to set a standard here, especially with what we’ve been going through this year. We just had big meetings with the general managers, the main subject was hits to the head. HEre we go a week later and he goes out and does it again, it’s going to be interesting to see what they’ll do.
“We have to be harder on suspensions. Especially guys who do this over and over again. You gotta be harder on them. But also, it’s about the respect among us players too. We have to respect each other as a player. You can’t go out and hurt a guy like that. It could be career ending.”
As for how long he should sit for, Zetterberg made it clear.
“At least the season. I don’t think he should play any more this year. And then we just have to see what we’re going to do after that.”
New York Rangers forward Ruslan Fedotenko has been a teammate and an opponent of Cooke’s and even he’s got reservations about what he’s doing out on the ice. Jesse Spector of the New York Daily News heard from Fedotenko and you can sense the conflict he’s got in speaking about him.
“Every player has a style of game, and his style of game is more dirty,” Fedotenko said. “I mean, trying to be in the rules, but pushing the envelope. Trying to hit, and hit hard, and get under the skin to the players. Like I said, that’s his style of game, and in a lot of areas, he’s effective, but when it happens like that – I don’t want to throw him under the bus, but use your head.
“Watch ‘NHL on the Fly’ or any kind of news, it’s been headshots, headshots, headshots. There, clearly – I didn’t see it during the game, but this morning I saw it on the replay, and he was missing the guy, so he just put the elbow right in the head. It was obvious. I don’t know what he can say for that. I don’t know. And with the NHL trying to crack down on it, I’m sure it will be a big issue, especially with what’s happened with his teammate, Crosby, there. So we’ll see what’s gonna come from there.”
It’s that sort of thoughtlessness that Cooke seems to embody through all this that makes most people scratch their heads and get angry at him over what he does on the ice. After all, it’s not as if this new territory for Cooke as his history of questionable and dirty hits is a long one.
His teammates love him for what he can do on the ice and they care for the guy as a man and a friend, but as a teammate he’s a distraction and for a team as banged up as the Penguins are, he’s a negative influence by putting them down a man for minutes at a time and then getting banned by the league. It’s a rough crossroads for the team, but they have to feel as if they’re in the position of having to do something soon to cure their ills.