The NHL certainly showed they meant business when they levied a suspension that will result in Penguins forward Matt Cooke missing the rest of the regular season as well as the first round of the playoffs. The suspension was of course the result of him elbowing Ryan McDonagh in the head for virtually no reason in the game on Sunday. People like to say that the NHL is “making an example” out of Cooke, but I don’t really like that wording. To me, calling it “making an example” makes it seem like the NHL went out of their way to prove a point. Like they gave him a lengthier suspension than they might have otherwise given and that this is a one time thing. To me, he’s just the first player to fall victim to the new direction the NHL is going towards head-shots. He has a history of reckless plays. He has a history of giving out head-shots and basically ended Marc Savard’s career. The days of the NHL giving out 2-3 games for guys who repeatedly put others at risk are over.
I called the Penguins out on Sunday, demanding that they stop making excuses for Cooke and start holding him accountable. Maybe they weren’t as radical as I had hoped they would be, but they certainly seem to recognize the issue, at least. Dan Bylsma acknowledged after the game that Cooke was deserving of a suspension, and Penguins GM Ray Shero released this statement after the NHL gave out the suspension to Cooke:
“The suspension is warranted because that’s exactly the kind of hit we’re trying to get out of the game. Head shots have no place in hockey. We’ve told Matt in no uncertain terms that this kind of action on the ice is unacceptable and cannot happen. Head shots must be dealt with severely, and the Pittsburgh Penguins support the NHL in sending this very strong message.”
Apparently, Penguins owner Mario Lemieux had a lengthy conversation with Cooke and essentially told him that he has to “change his game” or else he’ll be off the team. Apparently the Penguins want to “help him through the process” instead of just letting him go and “be a problem for someone else.” Actions speak louder than words, though. They can say all the right things, but if he’s back on the ice as an alternate captain once again and continues with the cheap-shots then the Penguins better not go back to making excuses for him. Finally, I want to give props to the Penguins blog on fansided, Pens Labrynth, for acknowledging that Cooke deserves what he got.
In prospect news, the Oshawa Generals and Kingston Frontenacs are facing off in the first round of the OHL playoffs. The Generals have Rangers prospect Christian Thomas, who finished the year with 99 points and has become the most discussed Rangers prospect for all the right reasons. On the other team is another Rangers 2nd rounder, Ethan Werek. Werek has had an extremely difficult season. He’s experienced multiple injuries and was probably rushed back too soon on a few of them. Werek had missed the last 3 games of regular season and will miss the first two games of the series because of a 5-game suspension he earned after checking Oshawa player Boone Jenner in the head. It will be interesting to see how Thomas can play against the Frontenacs, given that they have 3 absolutely gigantic defensemen in Taylor Doherty and both Gudbranson brothers.
Finally, a happy belated birthday to Ryan Callahan, who celebrated his 26th yesterday. 26 already? Damn, this team is getting old already. Looks like it’s Stanley Cup this year or bust.