Matt Cooke’s dirty hit on Fedor Tyutin: Poor excuses and time for the NHL to take a stand

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By now we all know what Matt Cooke’s M.O. is when he’s on the ice. He’s going to stir things up by being physical. He’s going to be in your face and chances are a scrum is going to develop thanks to his mere presence on the ice.

Last night against Columbus, Cooke wasn’t in anyone’s face but instead was burying himself between the numbers on Jackets defenseman Fedor Tyutin. Cooke received a five-minute major for charging Tyutin in the first period when he ran Tyutin from behind into the boards skating at full speed from a distance out to do it. (See video of the hit here on YouTube)

After the hit, Derick Brassard grabbed Cooke to fight him and the two threw down giving Cooke another five minutes for the scrap. Despite the dirty hit being both a textbook definition of charging and boarding, he got to stay in the game. When the interested parties were asked about the hit after the game, the battle lines were drawn in support of their own case as Tom Reed of The Columbus Dispatch gathered.

The Blue Jackets were understandably outraged.

“It was the worst hit I’ve ever had from behind,” said Tyutin, who did not miss a shift. “I wasn’t surprised not when you see (Cooke) in the highlights all the time for dirty hits.”

Jackets alternate captain R.J. Umberger also addressed the hit that occurred behind his team’s net at 14:42. “I thought it was blatant from behind. He had plenty of time to slow down.”

The Penguins, meanwhile, offered up some excuses that if offered up in a court case would lead to public outrage.

“(Tyutin) makes sure that he keeps his numbers (on the back of the jersey) toward him,” Bylsma said. “Matt Cooke did hit him there and sent him into the boards.”

Cooke also blamed the victim.

“It used to be you were responsible for yourself if you turned, but that’s not the way anymore,” Cooke told the Post-Gazette. “That call’s been called on us four or five times this year. It’s the same thing.

“He turns and looks and sees me coming. The other defenseman is slowing me down, so I’m not skating full speed at him.”

We don’t know who or what exactly Tyutin was looking at when he peered over his shoulder heading into the corner, but for Bylsma and Cooke to both blame Tyutin for getting obliterated from behind is ludicrous. Seeing a guy’s numbers when you’re going into the corner means you don’t hit the player from behind as he’s not looking. That’s never been OK to do and it’s certainly not legal to do in the NHL’s mind. To essentially say that Tyutin was asking for it is infuriating criminal logic and wrong.

If you think you’re alone in believing that Cooke’s intent was malicious, Jeremy Roenick sounded off in a big way this morning on XM Home Ice. Roenick said Cooke was “chickens–t” for hitting Tyutin like that and that he should be suspended for 20 games. When a guy’s game is able to push buttons like this both on and off the ice he’s either really good at his job or a problem child out of control. Count us in on the latter when it comes to Matt Cooke.

The NHL is meeting Cooke on Thursday over the phone to discuss a possible suspension for the hit and this time, after so many instances in the past when dealing with a problem player, and that’s exactly what Cooke is now after the Savard incident and after his knee-on-knee hit with Alex Ovechkin just on Sunday, a clear message has to be sent that constant malicious behavior cannot be tolerated anymore. In this case, giving Cooke a “lifetime achievement” type of suspension that sends the message that they won’t stand for intentionally evil hits like these are not part of the NHL would do a world of good.

Matt Cooke is already a pariah after his disgusting hit on Marc Savard last season that for all intents and purposes has ruined his career, making him an example for the rest of the league that carrying yourself without respect for one another on the ice would go over well in every city except Pittsburgh. Many Penguins fans blindly take up for Cooke’s case and have even fabricated their beliefs rallying behind Bylsma’s take on things, but even a nice guy like Bylsma who has to stick up for his players in the darkest of moments has to be wondering what possesses Cooke to consistently do things like this to put his team in danger.

Whether the league comes down hard on Cooke or not (and we’re suspecting they won’t if the past has taught us anything) we’re hoping the point that this brand of disgusting and reckless play can be put to an end. Playing physical and finishing your check is fine and a great part of hockey. When going out of your way to attempt to injure players to do so is when it all goes wrong. If the NHL wants to send that message and give Cooke a stiff punishment, we’re all for it. A fine or a slap on the wrist courtesy suspension isn’t going to cut it anymore.

All-Rookie, All-Star Teams and rest of 2018 NHL Awards

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Let’s recap the remaining winners from the 2018 NHL Awards. Before we do so, here are the other big winners and corresponding links.

Hart Trophy

Taylor Hall

GM of the Year

George McPhee

Vezina Trophy

Pekka Rinne

Selke Trophy

Anze Kopitar

Jack Adams Award

Gerard Gallant

Norris Trophy

Victor Hedman

Calder Trophy

Mathew Barzal

Bill Masterton Trophy

Brian Boyle

Ted Lindsay

Connor McDavid

Lady Byng

William Karlsson

Also:

P.K. Subban named cover star for “NHL 19.”

Humboldt Broncos reunite to honor late coach Darcy Haugan (Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award).

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Now, let’s jump into the remaining awards and honors.

Mark Messier Leadership Award

Deryk Engelland (see video above this post’s headline)

King Clancy

Daniel and Henrik Sedin

William Jennings

Jonathan Quick with Jack Campbell

Of course, Alex Ovechkin won the Maurice Richard Trophy and Connor McDavid took the Art Ross.

First NHL All-Star Team

Left Wing: Taylor Hall
Center: Connor McDavid
Right Wing: Nikita Kucherov
Defense: Drew Doughty and Victor Hedman
Goalie: Pekka Rinne

Second NHL All-Star Team

Left Wing: Claude Giroux
Center: Nathan MacKinnon
Right Wing: Blake Wheeler
Defense: Seth Jones and P.K. Subban
Goalie: Connor Hellebuyck

All-Rookie Team

Forwards: Clayton Keller, Brock Boeser, and Mathew Barzal
Defense: Charlie McAvoy and Will Butcher
Goalie: Juuse Saros

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Humboldt Broncos reunite to honor late head coach

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Ten members of the Humboldt Broncos reunited on Wednesday night during the 2018 NHL Awards in Las Vegas. The survivors of the April 6 bus crash that killed 16 players and staff were on stage to help give out the first Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award to their late head coach Darcy Haugan.

The award, presented “to an individual who – through the game of hockey – has positively impacted his or her community, culture or society,” was voted on by the public after fans submitted candidates, and the field was then narrowed down to three finalists.

From the NHL:

Haugan left a lasting impact in Humboldt, Sask., as well as every other community that was fortunate enough to have him as a resident or involved in junior hockey. He changed the lives of many of his players, always being there for each one of them and never hesitating to give them a second chance. He fought for his team and had their backs – he was the coach and mentor everybody wanted. Haugan believed strongly that the game is not about making hockey players; it is about making amazing human beings. He did just that, building up young leaders who also developed strong hockey skills along the way. His presence would fill the room and his love for the game was undeniable. Haugan died doing what he loved, surrounded by the young people he dedicated his life to. Haugan left behind, in all of those he touched, his spirit and passion for the game, his love for his beautiful family, and his example of dedication to his community.

Haugan’s wife, Christina, accepted the award in his honor.

The other finalists were Debbie Bland of the Etobicoke Dolphins Girls Hockey League and Neal Henderson of the Fort Dupont Hockey Club.

The NHL Foundation is donating $10,000 in Haugan’s memory to the Saskatchewan Brain Injury Association, a charity important to the coach.

On Tuesday, the NHL and NHLPA announced that Washington Capitals forward Chandler Stephenson will bring the Stanley Cup to Humboldt on Aug. 24 that will involve a skills competition at the Broncos’ home rink.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Hall beats MacKinnon for first Hart Trophy

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Being that Art Ross and Ted Lindsay winner Connor McDavid wasn’t even a finalist, it’s clear that being indispensable to your team factored heavily into the 2017-18 Hart Trophy voting.

With those unspoken parameters in mind, it makes sense that the MVP race ended up being so close between runner-up Nathan MacKinnon and winner Taylor Hall. Anze Kopitar ranked a distant third, but he could take comfort in being a finalist and also taking home his second Selke.

Sometimes you need to dig deep into “With or Without You” stats to realize how much a player stands above his teammates. You merely need to glance at the gap between Hall’s scoring (93 points, sixth-best in the NHL) and the next highest-ranked Devil (Nico Hischer with 52). Hall clearly dragged the Devils to an unlikely playoff berth, scoring that many points in just 76 games.

Nathan MacKinnon, meanwhile, finished with 97 points in 74 contests, yet he enjoyed a bit more help as Colorado’s top line was rounded out by fantastic wingers in Mikko Rantanen (84 points) and Gabriel Landeskog (62).

Now, the trickier part is figuring out if McDavid deserved to either win it or at least be a finalist. Ultimately, the PHWA viewed Hall as the “player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team,” no doubt weighing a playoff appearance in their decision:

As you might expect, the deeper voting is quite interesting. Kopitar narrowly edged Claude Giroux for third place, while there’s an interesting list of players who managed a single vote: Patrice Bergeron, Sidney Crosby, Victor Hedman, and Eric Staal. Drew Doughty got a fourth place vote while Hedman receive one fifth, yet Hedman ended up the Norris winner.

During certain seasons, the Hart Trophy is an easy call. This was one of the tougher years to truly pinpoint a top season, but the beauty for hockey fans was because there were so many great choices.

However you feel about who should have been the actual winner, Taylor Hall generated an absolutely brilliant season.

For a player who was traded for flawed reasons and blamed far too often for his teams’ failings, it must be awfully sweet to receive such high recognition. It can’t hurt that this award came after his first-ever postseason appearance, either.

Naturally, Hall has his eyes on the sort of celebration that Alex Ovechkin is enjoying right now, but Hall’s 2017-18 season was “a long time coming” in its own right.

And, yes, the Oilers must weep at the thought that they voluntarily gave up an opportunity to deploy the 2018 Hart winner (Hall) and the 2018 Art Ross winner (McDavid) on the same team.

GM of the Year George McPhee adds another award for Golden Knights

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George McPhee of the Vegas Golden Knights continued a big night for the franchise as he was named 2017-18 General Manager of the Year during Wednesday’s NHL Awards show in Las Vegas. Earlier, Gerard Gallant won the Jack Adams Award for top coach, William Karlsson was named winner of the Lady Byng and captain Deryk Engelland took home the Mark Messier Leadership Award.

The NHL’s 31 GMs and a panel of League executives, print and broadcast media voted on the award following the conclusion of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Using the NHL’s expansion draft rules to his advantage, McPhee made shrewd deals to add draft picks and impact players while creating the franchise’s first-ever roster. Success came right off the bat and the Golden Knights ended their inaugural season by becoming the first modern-era expansion team from the four major North American professional sports league to win its division. By advancing to the Stanley Cup Final, Vegas became the third team in NHL history to win multiple playoff rounds in their first season.

McPhee was presented with the award by actress Lynda Carter and Nicklas Backstrom, the player he drafted in fourth overall 2006 while GM of the Washington Capitals.

Kevin Cheveldayoff of the Winnipeg Jets and Steve Yzerman of the Tampa Bay Lightning were the other finalists this year.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.