Blog Entry

Checking in on Matt Cooke and his new style

Posted on: November 16, 2011 10:07 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 10:21 pm
cooke1By: Adam Gretz

Throughout his career Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke has usually been used as an example of what not to do on the ice when it comes to physical play. He's been suspended five times, including the final 10 games of the regular season, and all seven of Pittsburgh's playoff games last year, and is perhaps known most for the hit on Boston's Marc Savard that started his still on-going battle with concussions, and also helped spark the NHL's rule changes regarding hits to the head (rule 48).

Following his most recent suspension, one that hurt the Penguins in their opening round playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Cooke vowed to change his ways and clean up the way he plays hockey. His claim was greeted -- and rightfully so -- with a sense of, show us, don't tell us, and actions speak louder than words.

A month-and-a-half into the season and he is now actually being used as a positive example of what to do on the ice. At least in the eyes of the Penguins. 

In an article penned by the Canadian Press on Wednesday, Penguins general manager Ray Shero cited Cooke's early season play as an example the NHL can use for what Brendan Shanahan is trying to accomplish with player safety.

From Shero, via the CP:
"For Brendan Shanahan and player safety, here's a guy that they can show on some highlights and the videos, where he's not taking the hit or he is pulling up (in dangerous situations)," said Shero. "He's still got a ways to go. But in the first portion of the season here and exhibition as well, he has changed the way he's played and he's still a really good effective player for us in his role.

"That's good news for us and it's good news for Brendan Shanahan in terms of what he's trying to do."
Through 18 games this season Cooke has not done anything remotely dirty, and has been sent to the penalty box just two times -- once for interference and once for unsportsmanlike conduct for diving -- for a grand total of four penalty minutes. Over the past four seasons through the same number of games he registered 23, 22, 25 and 24 penalty minutes.  Along with that, he also has a positive differential in the number of penalties he's drawn compared to the number of penalties he's taken for the first time in four years.

(Penalty numbers via BehindTheNet)

Matt Cooke Penalties Drawn vs. Penalties Taken: Past Four Years
Year Penalties Taken per 60 Min. Penalties Drawn per 60 Min. Difference
2011-12 (18 Games) 0.3 1.4 +1.1
2010-11 1.8 1.2 -0.6
2009-10 1.4 1.1 -0.3
2008-09 1.6 1.3 -0.3
2007-08 1.4 1.2 -0.2

This is definitely a positive development and a good start for the Penguins, as well as Cooke, because he's always been a valuable player when he isn't sidelined with a suspension or sitting in the penalty box following an ill-timed penalty (he can score, and he's one of the top penalty killers on the best penalty killing team in the league).

But it's going to take a lot more than 18 games for fans -- if not opposing players as well -- around the NHL to believe that he really has turned the page and become a different player.

Photo: Getty Images

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Since: Apr 27, 2009
Posted on: November 18, 2011 1:30 pm

Checking in on Matt Cooke and his new style

As a Pens fan I have mixed emotions about Matt Cooke.

On one hand Cooke is a valuable member to the team. He's a tough, gritty player who is good at forechecking and penalty killing.

On the other its a bit hypocritical of me to root for the name on the front of the jersey regardless of the name on the back.

This article is stupid. Its like somebody standing there with their pitbull saying hey he's changed, he hasnt bit anyone in a while. Even if he never bites anyone again, he's already bit too many and some seriously. Im not saying euthanize Cooke but lets not make him a poster boy either.

There is plenty of more worthy stories in the NHL like when Crosby isnt going to play for instance.

Since: Jun 7, 2007
Posted on: November 18, 2011 12:29 pm

Checking in on Matt Cooke and his new style

It's great he's being a man and not a child but is Marc Savard playing? Cooke should be banned from the league.

Since: Dec 7, 2008
Posted on: November 18, 2011 12:16 pm

Checking in on Matt Cooke and his new style

As far as praising Cooke for changing his ways, I agree it is too early. 20 games isn't enough time to say he has changed for good. But as a Penguins fan, I have definitely seen a major change. There have been multiple times where I was expecting Cooke to just wreck somebody into the boards, but he pulled up. He could resort back to the same dirty guy, but so far so good.

Since: Dec 7, 2008
Posted on: November 18, 2011 12:11 pm

Checking in on Matt Cooke and his new style

suddenly he goes to Pittsburgh and for some unknown reason got very stupid and did ridiculous things.

redwing, I agree with Henderson here. Cooke had a dirty reputation before he came to Pittsburgh. It was just been elevated and put in the spot light because of his hit on Savard. 

One thing Cooke's hit on Savard was 100 percent DIRTY

You can think the intent was dirty if you want, I wouldn't disagree, but it was within the rules at the time. That is why Richards wasn't suspended for the same hit and they had to change the rule after Cooke's hit (they should have done it a long time ago and definitely after Richard's hit, but they didn't).

He will wind up in the Ahl by the end of the year if he tries to play clean hockey lol 

You've clearly never watched Cooke play and just see all the dirty hits on youtube. If the Penguins tried to send him to the AHL, another team would claim him off waivers in a heartbeat. He would never make it the AHL. 

Since: Aug 29, 2006
Posted on: November 18, 2011 11:41 am

Checking in on Matt Cooke and his new style

I was a big skeptic of Cooke cleaning up his act, and have to admit that I am surprised with how he's stayed out of trouble thus far, and I'm glad that he hasn't needlessly hurt an
yone yet.  Even so, the damage has already been done in years past.  He didn't need to hit Savard like he did, but he chose to.  He didn't need to elbow McdDonagh, but again he chose to.  In both cases, there was nothing but intent to injure... you can tell by the way he targeted nothing but their heads when they weren't looking, and anyone who says otherwise is just a Penguins fan defending that fact which is kind of gross.  It's going to take a lot more than what he's shown so far before I can look at him with any level of what could be considered respect.

Since: Apr 25, 2008
Posted on: November 18, 2011 11:37 am

Checking in on Matt Cooke and his new style

someone correct me if i'm wrong but hadn't savard already moved the puck when he was layed out?  even if it was 100% sholder and 0% elbow, it was still on a guy who didn't have the puck and it was from his blind side.  it wasnt the worst hit in history but it was no where near a clean play ether.  i havnt seen it in a while and i cant watch a vid of it at work but i'm pretty sure savard had passed the puck before the hit and he was watching the play created by his pass.     

Since: Apr 25, 2008
Posted on: November 18, 2011 11:26 am

Checking in on Matt Cooke and his new style

Give Cooke more than 17/18 games to prove he has changed, not buying it.

Since: Nov 15, 2011
Posted on: November 18, 2011 11:12 am

Checking in on Matt Cooke and his new style

Crosby to play Monday.  I'm dead serious.  Reports should start flowing soon.

Since: Jul 4, 2007
Posted on: November 18, 2011 11:03 am

Checking in on Matt Cooke and his new style

How many time has Matt Cooke said he was going to change? Im pretty sure there was an article exactly like this last year.... and then a couple weeks later he got suspended. Excuse me if im doubtful, but I wish him the best of luck.

Since: Dec 10, 2007
Posted on: November 18, 2011 10:22 am

Checking in on Matt Cooke and his new style

That hit on Savard was filthy too, there's no defending it.   

no. savard was admiring his pass in lower the the ground because his knee was bent. cooke came and hit him with nothing but his shoulder. 

was it a good hit or one that people should condone? no. but the fact that savard was injuried does not make it a "dirty" hit.  

 He will wind up in the Ahl by the end of the year if he tries to play clean hockey lol

look at his stats.... yea he is terrible when he plays clean hockey. i wish people would do a little research before hitting that "submit" button. 

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