February 09, 2011
(UPDATE: As first reported by Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet, a four-game suspension for Cooke.)
Never at a loss for words or for sanctimony, Jeremy Roenick(notes) appeared on XM Home Ice's morning show Wednesday with Mike Ross and ripped into Pittsburgh Penguins winger Matt Cooke(notes) for his hit on Fedor Tyutin(notes) of the Columbus Blue Jackets Tuesday night, which can be seen here.
You can listen to the interview here, but we've transcribed his comments on Matt Cooke below, with some additional analysis. The interview began with Ross asking Roenick his thoughts on Cooke.
Roenick: "Does it surprise you? Does it surprise you that Matt Cooke would be so ..."
Roenick: "Chickenshit, and do that?
"Right from behind. Blatant from behind. Fedor Tyutin didn't even turn. Didn't move. Was standing there for three or four seconds, and he still hit him from behind."
More from Roenick coming up, as we await our first Penguins "No. 24 Chickenshit" jersey fowl ... er, foul.
Ross: "He never saw anything but the numbers, and then ran him."
Roenick: "Not one second did he see anything but his name and his number. It goes back to so many different things that I talk about when it comes to the respect factor. Matt Cooke, No. 1, doesn't have respect for anyone. He's one of the least favorite guys in the League by the players for a reason. Hitting Savard, having that all situation ... granted, you decide what you think on that. But this situation last night is exactly what gives players bad names, gives guys bad names. It's why we have injuries. It's why someone's going to get either paralyzed or killed on the ice one of these days. Because of idiot, idiot, idiot people and plays like Matt Cooke did last night."
While we agree that Matt Cooke has a lack of respect from and for his peers -- the nonchalant manner in which he hit Marc Savard(notes) in the head is seared into our minds -- keep in mind that these are the things Jeremy Roenick says about guys he didn't play with or that don't play for his former team. Otherwise, Dan Carcillo is "a really good guy."
Ross: "And yet last night I heard a former NHL coach and a former NHL general manager say that while they didn't like the play, they don't like the style of play that he plays with that sometimes plays with and crosses the line, they'd take him on their team any day. Because of all the other things he brings to the table. And I get that ..."
Ross never got around to the "but," and there really shouldn't be one. Coaches and GMs have this funny thing about them when it comes to winning. Seems the more they do it, the better the chances are they'll keep their jobs.
So while team-level discipline of a guy like Cooke could be much more effective than anything at the league level, we'll never see it because, frankly, he's really not a terrible hockey player. He's a tenacious lower-line player who contributes offensively. He's a hell of a forechecker, too, and sometimes he'll even hit a guy who hasn't been staring at the glass for 10 minutes. Sometimes ...
You can call his antics garbage, but he's not a garbage player. Not by a long shot.
Roenick: "He might be a great player for a team. But all in all, when it comes down to it, you have most of the people don't like you, most of the people don't respect you. And the respect factor becomes big. Because when you lose that respect, you've lost a lot.
"I totally disagree about taking him on your team. You want a guy that has integrity that has class, that has hard work. You don't go to that disrespect aspect or that lack of integrity that's going to make your team look bush league, and last night was a terrible display of gamemanship [sic].
"And [Anton] Volchenkov was the same thing, throwing that elbow out. A blatant, blatant elbow. It wasn't even a question whether his elbow came out and tagged the kid. These little things are going to come back and haunt people. I hope the NHL throws heavy, heavy fines at these guys."
Later, Roenick discussed the speed of the game and the intentional nature of Cooke's hit:
Roenick: "That situation last night did not happen instinctively. It did not happen quickly. He had three or four seconds to make up his mind and drive those numbers into the glass."
"That's a situation where you take Matt Cooke, because of his history, into the office and you give him 20 games flat. Twenty games, gone, thanks for coming."
Twenty games for a charging major ... not sure if we're down with that. Not when the NHL suspends to the injury, and players in the NHL are adept at turning their backs to a hit. What happens when a player "helping" along a boarding call is the one who ends up paralyzed? You think the NHL has the stones to rule that a guy in a wheelchair was responsible for putting himself in that position? Good luck with that.
Where Roenick is absolutely right: The financial implications of these plays.
As he told XM, "You have to take something away from them they care about. In the NHL, it's dollars."
The next CBA negotiation should include the NHLPA allowing for an increase in financial penalties in lieu of man-games lost. The Players Association clearly doesn't want to see any "super suspensions" of its players, but the message has to be sent somehow. And uncapping the amount of fines a player receives on an injurious, illegal play is an effective way to send that message when you already have half the league bitching about escrow.