Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Surprising Case for Matt Cooke

Let me start by saying that I am no fan of Matt Cooke. I think he's one of the dirtiest players in the NHL and is up there with the the dirtiest in NHL history. His elbow to the head of Ryan McDonough, the boarding against Fedor Tyutin, the elbow to the face of Artem Anisimov, the kick at Chris Osgood's head, and his numerous other cheap-shots all point to him viciously and intentionally taking out Tyson Barrie with a knee shot.

But, in my opinion, I think what happened in the 2nd period of Game 3 was unintentional.

At the 2 minute mark of the 2nd period between the Colorado Avalanche and the Minnesota Wild, Matt Cooke of the Wild ran into Tyson Barrie of the Avs, his knee slamming into the resurgent defenseman's knee. On the surface, it looked like yet another of Cooke's dirty cheap-shots, a play designed to knock a player out of the game. But, upon closer inspection, things aren't so clear. A look from the side shows that Cooke skates in with his left leg extended, making it look like he was intending to do exactly what happened. But look at it from a different angle. A shot from behind Cooke shows that Tyson Barrie saw the Wild winger (heh) coming. Cooke had him lined up and was preparing to deliver a powerful open ice check. Barrie scrambled to get out of the way, pushing off of his left skate and flinging his body to the right. Cooke reacted to finish his hit, meaning he leaned to his left to keep the angle. In order to adjust and keep his skates under him, he extended his right leg and supported his body with his left, forcing it to bend and lead the rest of his body. This caused his knee to be directly aimed at Barrie. When contact is made, Cooke is off to the left of Barrie's body. He doesn't throw an elbow, he only has one hand on his stick, showing he wasn't trying to cross-check him, and pushes his arm forward.

Then, there is the fact that Matt Cooke has not been suspended since his elbow on McDonough in 2011, due to him actively trying to change the way he makes a hit. And for a guy like him, 3 years without a suspension for a dirty hit is pretty darn good.

It's unfortunate that Tyson Barrie was injured on the play. But it's even more unfortunate that a guy who is trying to change the way he plays the game and stop the dirty tactics is going to be hammered for a hit that turned out worse than he intended. As I said, I don't like Matt Cooke. But I also don't like demonizing a guy for something that wasn't his fault.