My favorite NHL player, for years, was Claude Lemieux.
I know that sounds like the opening line from a [Expletives] Anonymous meeting, but I truly liked him as a player. The best justification I could make when asked about rooting for a scum-of-the-earth-cowardly-locker-room-cancer was that “he’s the kind of player you hate until he’s on your team, and then you love him.”
This was actually sort of accurate with Claude, but it’s still a rationalization – convincing yourself the villain can become the hero, that yesterday’s thug is tomorrow’s good teammate.
I couldn’t help but wonder if St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild fans are doing the same thing on Friday, as Maxim Lapierre joined the Blues for 2 years and $2.2 million and Matt Cooke signed with the Wild for 3 years and $7.5 million.
"A lot of fans may not be fond of me there, but hopefully I can change their opinion rather quickly once I get there,” said Cooke via Chris Long.
Based on the reaction, he’s got some work to do. Ditto Lapierre.
Here are what some Blues fans are saying about the Lapierre signing:
— Marissa (@PietranJello) July 6, 2013
But the reaction by Wild fans to Matt Cooke … hoo, boy:
Matt Cooke is still one of my least favorite players in the history of the nhl. I don't care if he plays for the wild or not. #Goon
— Jordan Buck (@JBucklez31) July 6, 2013
And so on.
Look, when your favorite team goes off and signs a player you hate, there are two essential questions: Will this signing help my team, and how much do I really know about this player?
In the Lapierre signing, the Blues become a really, really difficult team to play against, as his pesty game fits well with the tenacious players they already have. Sure, he might dive like a submarine now and again, but he’ll be your pesty diver.
In Cooke’s case, it’s been well-documented that he’s no longer is the head-hunting cheap shot artist that he used to be. In fact, he's a solid energy line player who contributes on the penalty kill.
If GM Chuck Fletcher thought enough of Cooke to bring his old player from his Pittsburgh Penguins days to the Wild family, it might be time to rethink his rep.
Or both of these guys will end up tarnishing the sweater. That could happen too.
Related coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
• Winners, losers in NHL free agency
• Bruins finally win the Jarome Iginla sweepstakes
• Red Wings get Stephen Weiss with five-year deal
• Ducks trade Bobby Ryan to the Senators
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- Matt Cooke
- Maxim Lapierre