Stark turnaround: Matt Cooke is Pittsburgh’s Masterton nominee

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The Masterton Trophy in the NHL goes to the player that shows the most perseverance, dedication, and sportsmanship in the game. Every team nominates a player and it’s often the most heart-warming award given out at the end of the year.

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ nominee this year isn’t Sidney Crosby like many assumed it would be. Instead, as Seth Rorabaugh of Empty Netters reports, Matt Cooke gets the call as this year’s potential winner out of Pittsburgh.

Last season, Cooke had one of the most controversial and dangerous seasons we’ve seen out of a player, winding up his season being suspended for latter part of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs. After being read the riot act by both his team and the league, Cooke’s 2011-12 season has been incredibly different.

Gone are the dirty hits and indignant attitude towards opposing players and in their place Cooke showed what he’s capable of when playing it straight.

He’s hit a career high in goals this season and he has just 30 penalty minutes on the year. More goals than minor penalties? Who would’ve thought that were possible after how things ended last season.

Cooke’s case for the Masterton is a fascinating one and puts a spin on things in a different way. Considering how well he’s playing and how clean he’s doing things, Cooke’s gone from being the poster boy for everything that’s wrong with the league to being the icon for how anyone can adapt themselves to the game. We’re guessing Bruins fans won’t quite see things so kindly.