NEW YORK - MARCH 4: Matt Cooke #24 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates for the puck against the New York Rangers on March 4, 2010 at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York. The Penguins defeat the Rangers 5-4 in overtime. (Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)

Matt Cooke is a dirty player.  Whether he’s knocking Scott Walker in the head away from the puck, or kicking at Chris Osgood, or simply messing around with players away from the play or after the whistle, “classless” is a word that fits the agitating winger like a glove.

That isn’t to say that he’s skill-less; far from it.  Cooke’s a very capable two-way player in his own right; he has enough offence to come in handy and plays a responsible defensive game.  He’s just a nasty piece of work who has no compunctions about trying to injure other players.

On Sunday, Cooke nailed Bruins forward Marc Savard with a late hit shortly after Savard released a shot on the Penguins net.  The hit is below; Savard left the game on a stretcher, drawing cheers when he waved to the Pittsburgh crowd.

What is Savard supposed to do in this situation?  He’s shooting the puck on the net; he’s got nowhere to go.  As for the Cooke hit, aside from possibly nicking him on an elbowing call (and it looked to me more like the hit came from above the elbow), he really isn’t doing anything illegal.  It isn’t a hockey play, but I’m not sure what to call it.

I do suspect the NHL will give him a light suspension, but the more I see hits like this the more I suspect the NHL will eventually follow IIHF president Rene Fasel’s lead and simply outlaw blows to the head.