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FRENCH RIVER… As you know by now, the Minnesota Wild placed forward Matt Cooke on waivers for the purpose of buying out the remainder of his contract. As expected Cooke cleared waivers and his tenure with the Wild is over. Last Friday I was reading an article on Yahoo NHL and Cooke was included as one of the top ten most “loathsome” players in the league. Well, yeah, he has earned his spot on that list. I think he was number 3 on it. (No surprise a now former Philly Flyer was public enemy number one) Before the league underwent their rules changes relative to how you could body check another player and when, Cooke was a major offender. Even after the rules changes Cooke was still considered to be a guy you had to keep an eye out for when he was on the ice.
It was his illegal contact with the Boston Bruins Marc Savard that effectively ended Savard’s career. Savvy never recovered from the head trauma received from the hit. There were even more incidents after that one and then finally after yet another lengthy suspension while with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Pens brass had a little sit down with “Cookie” and outlined how he needed to play from that point forward or his time with the club and perhaps even in the league would come to a crashing conclusion. To Cooke’s credit he sat up and took notice. He changed his game. Even when opponents baited him without end he maintained the “new” way he needed to play.
Lo and behold when it was time for a new contract the Pens decided to pass and former Pens assistant GM and current Wild GM Chuck Fletcher stepped in and gave Cooke a 3 year, $7.5mil deal. A lot of eyebrows went up from media, fans and other teams in the league regarding the deal. I thought it was a good signing and defended it many a time. At one time I saw a lot of Pens games due to their popularity and their rise to the leagues upper echelon of teams, and I really liked Sid Crosby and Geno Malkin, two of the best players in the world in my book. Even after changing his game, Cooke was still a tough guy to play against, could effectively kill penalties, he was staying out of the box and even occasionally getting some timely goals for the team.
He won over his new Wild teammates at his first training camp, and then he had to do the same with his new fan base who had come to dislike him intensely dating back to his days with the Vancouver Canucks. He accomplished that and then some. While his offensive production flagged a bit, he quickly became one of the teams best penalty killers. (109 Games, +8) And that may have been his biggest value to the team at that time. But then in a 2014 Stanley Cup tourney game versus the Colorado Avalanche he went knee on knee with defenseman Tyson Barrie. The collision ended the playoff for Barrie and he had to eventually undergo surgical repair. Cooke was suspended for 7 games and the naysayer’s regarding his style of play quickly returned.
I watched the play over and over again many times. Cooke stated that the play was an accident, an instinctive move made when Barrie suddenly shifted laterally to escape Cooke’s checking and attempt to regain possession. It is hard to tell from the replays I have studied. He was apologetic about the incident and I believed he had some true remorse about the play. I say this because I can honestly say that in observing Cooke over the past 4 to 5 seasons, he really tried hard to change his game and for the most part he did. But he slipped up this one time.
At any rate Cooke is gone. He was injured a good part of this past season and even if he is back to 100 percent I am getting doubtful that there is a contract offering from another NHL club in his future. The Wild have younger, less expensive players that can now bring what Cooke did. Unfortunately there IS baggage and that might scare any suitors off. I personally think that his time with the Wild was about 95 percent to the good. This guy was a mad penalty killer and a good defender at forward, usually a 3rd or 4th liner. He also played in his 1,000th game while here and that he was in the league that long speaks to his effectiveness as a forward who played the game tough and defended well. Whatever happens Matt, best wishes and thanks for your contributions….
THE MINNESOTA WILD WERE basic bystanders during this years Free Agent signing period. They are kind of tight on the salary cap right now and reserved what they had to re-sign Devan Dubnyk and Mikael Granlund and retain some lower cost players for their roster. And to be honest there wasn’t a lot of big names available this time around, not guys I would pursue if I were the team GM anyway. A couple of big names moved teams and that was it. I had to contemplate though, is Mikko Koivu’s value to the team declining? He is in possession of a big number cap hit wise too. And for G-Niklas Backstrom, he has been injured a fair part of the last 2-3 seasons and if I combine his cap hit with the Captains we are looking at $9.15mil. If Fletcher had those funds available to work with on July 1st would he have made any moves??
THE NEW YORK YANKEES hit the Mill City over the weekend for a 3 game series with the Minnesota Twins. The Yanks took 2 of 3 from the locals. However, the Twins bombed the Bronx Bombers in Game 1, 10-1. They went up 5-0 in Game 2 before succumbing late in the game by an 8-5 tally. The Yanks took G3 7-2 this afternoon. I was pulling my hair out after Saturday eve’s tilt, but the Twins were tough up until the 8th when the Yanks exploded to get close and then went ahead in the top of the 9th. The Yanks Alex Rodriguez had a 3HR evening. Today was a very tough, tight game until the pinstripes broke it open in the 6th. The Twins are currently in the 2nd Wildcard position (+3 over the Blue Jay) for the AL playoffs and if they got in, I don’t know, they would have to have everyone on the roster peaking at the same time to do anything, but like they say, once you get in anything can…. PEACE