Today Matt Cooke was suspended for four games for his hit from behind on Fedor Tyutin of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Of course, anyone who has any sort of familiarity with the National Hockey League knows that this isn’t the first time Matt Cooke has been the center of controversy for his antics.
Now Matt Cooke is a talented hockey player. He’s a good penalty killer, he’s decent offensively and he’s tough to play against. He’s one of those “you hate to play against him but you’d love to have him on your team” kind of guys. However, his tendency to push the limits and step over the line is what he’s most known for. You’d have to think that a Pittsburgh Penguins team that is already seriously shorthanded due to injuries won’t be too happy with Cooke getting himself suspended.
Regardless of what Cooke, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma or anyone else may say about Tyutin turning away from Cooke before the hit, Matt Cooke must have know that his actions could possibly lead to a suspension and he must have known that a suspension would further cripple his already shorthanded team.
For other players you can say that he just made a bad decision in that moment, but with Matt Cooke you have to look at past incidents as well. And thus we present the worst of Matt Cooke.
The Marc Savard Head Shot
Potentially the most well-known of Cooke’s many infractions. Unfortunately Savard has experienced serious concussion trouble since this hit and will now miss the rest of this season after suffering a second concussion this year. The hit was generally considered dirty and uncalled-for, but was technically not against NHL rules at the time.
The Scott Walker Head Shot
Apparently there is no video evidence of this hit anywhere, but Cooke was suspended for two games in 2009 for a hit to Scott Walker’s head.
The Artem Anisimov Head Shot
Matt Cooke was also suspended for two games after this 2009 hit. If you’re reading this post and wondering why Cooke was suspended for two head shots in 2009, but not suspended for the Savard hit in 2010, you’re starting to see why NHL discipline is generally considered an inconsistent joke.
Of course, Matt Cooke didn’t just start playing on the edge between clean and dirty recently. There is much more attention paid to Cooke now that there’s greater access to online video and that he plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins, one of the most heavily-analysed NHL teams.
Don Cherry took at look at Matt Cooke’s history on Coach’s Corner following the Savard hit. Rarely do we use a Don Cherry clip to illustrate a sense of rationality, but this clip has many examples of Cooke in his pre-Penguins days (and his Penguins days) that aren’t on the Internet in any other form.
That clip shows that Matt Cooke isn’t all head shots and hits from behind, he’s also good at knee-on-knee hits and slewfooting. An example of this came up just this weekend when the Pittsburgh Penguins played in Washington:
This hit is less clear-cut than some of the others. However, Cooke usually does a good job disguising knee-on-knee hits. Like this one:
Or this one:
In that particular video it’s debatable that there is even was a slewfoot present. Cooke is very good at being dirty while looking like he’s not being dirty.
Like right there.