Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Does Matt Cooke have a future in the NHL?
Matt Cooke last played on March 20 after being suspended by the NHL for elbowing New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh in the head (see above video). The NHL banned him for the final 10 games of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs, where the Penguins fall to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games. It was his second suspension in the span of a month.
Two days after the hit, Cooke told the media that he needed to change and even sought counseling during a leave of absence from the team.
All eyes will be on Cooke this season. It's clear he's walking a tightrope going forward, and his on-ice actions will be scrutinized by everyone, including the Penguins.
Maybe Matt Cooke can change. Question is, what kind of player will he become if he does? For a player that has built a career intimating opponents with his cheap shots, how much will he change? Although he can contribute offensively he is not considered a top 6 forward. He has shown to be an effective checker but without the dirty stuff will he still be effective? There is no way to know.
However, his transformation is important to the league and all eyes will be on Cooke. If Cooke is able to change his game and still remain effective then others will follow his lead. To be honest every 4th liner aspires to be an everyday player. Every checker aspires to be on a scoring line. Every fighter would love to earn a living as a skater. But they seek out a role that will keep them in the NHL. If Matt Cooke can carve out a new role for himself then there is hope for the hundreds of marginal NHLers.