Two minutes into the second period of a scoreless game between Minnesota and Colorado, Jan Hejda ran the puck back to Tyson Barrie just inside the Avalanche blueline. Matt Cooke was playing the left side in the Wild’s neutral zone forecheck, and seeing the pass, he rightfully jumped the play.
The pass was long enough that it might have given him time to put some body on Barrie, so he set out to fulfill his job and do just that.
His timing off, and with Barrie reading the forecheck, it happened: the Avs’ best offensive defenseman jumped right, and feeling he might miss Barrie and come up empty, Cooke extended his knee left.
The result: Four to six weeks from now Barrie should be able to skate again after his MCL heals, and long before that, Matt Cooke will meet with the Department of Player Safety.
Names like Matt Cooke are not popular around the league. Their reputation precedes them, as will happen when you leave a trail of bodies in your wake over the length of your career. He’s been suspended, vilified, and has deserved just about all of it.
But there’s a reason players like Cooke have had such long, prosperous careers: they’re really good at what they do, and what they do (outside of injuring people) has value, particularly in a salary cap league.
I never liked playing against this particular genre of player for all the obvious reasons. They’re physical, in your face, usually dirty, and they make scoring harder. They made me fear for my well-being, and they were usually not that interested in reasoning. They exist more to antagonize than fight, so they were actually a much bigger burden on players of my ilk than pure tough guys. I always knew I’d never have to fight the thugs, but there was no avoiding the whacks from these guys.
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