Free agent signings are all about taking gambles, but by signing Matt Cooke, the Minnesota Wild also risked some serious public relations fallout.
If you know any Wild fans, it’s likely you heard quite the uproar.
The Wild employ former Pittsburgh Penguins front office members including GM Chuck Fletcher and head coach Mike Yeo, so it’s clear they believe he’s worth the risk. Fletcher seems pretty well convinced that Cooke is a changed man (and player), as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports.
“There’s no question when he came into the league, he was an agitating player, a player that was in the league because of his physical play and his ability to get players off their game,” Fletcher said. “He’s really evolved.”
The former Penguins assistant GM thinks people will be pleasantly surprised with the 34-year-old’s versatility.
Cooke admits that there’s still an edge to his game, although he’s consciously tried to be on the right side of the rules.
“I still feel that’s the way I need to play to be successful,” Cooke said. “For me, it was eliminating the high-risk hits, and I always approached it to go out and get the biggest hit possible. With the speed of the game and the way [you can’t] hold up, it just brought in some situations that were a lot more dangerous.”
Much like Raffi Torres trying to win the hearts of San Jose Sharks fans, Cooke will need to overcome some bad memories from his days with the Vancouver Canucks.
“I’m sure there’s a lot of fans that aren’t fond of me and they remember when I played for Vancouver, but hopefully I can change their opinion quickly,” Cooke said.
As Torres would agree, the best way to do that is to help the Wild win.