With a need to replace a physical presence up front, when they traded Cal Clutterbuck, the Minnesota Wild made a move that could be seen as one of the more controversial signings of the offseason, as they brought in the infamous Matt Cooke, signing him to a three-year contract.
In some ways, it’s a good signing for the Wild. They get a physical guy back into the mix, and one who’s actually capable of playing with skilled players up on the top couple of lines. But as for this perception of Cooke, it’s one that’s going to be nearly impossible to shake, at least in the short term.
Cooke has come out and said that he’s changed, in an effort to get the general opinion from fans about him changed at least a bit. But in order to do so, he’s going to have to prove it over a long period of time. It’s been a while since we’ve gone a season, or even a couple of months, without some sort of incident from Cooke.
He’s been suspended several times throughout his career, and those are just the documented ones. He didn’t draw a suspension for his stepping on the skate of Erik Karlsson, which tore the defenseman’s Achilles, nor was he suspended for a boarding call on Adam McQuaid that got him ejected from a playoff game.
And that was just in the shortened 2013 season. There’s a pretty large file at the league offices related to Cooke, no doubt, for the numerous checks from behind, shots to the head, and other various incidents of foolishness that he’s demonstrated over his career. That doesn’t go away over night.
Cooke is capable of being a useful player. He’s a physical guy, but not to the point where he’s useless in the lineup. He can hang with a skilled line, and actually contribute. He may never shake that reputation. But if he does want to prove he’s a changed man, he’s going to have to prove it over a long period of time. Hits like the one on McQuaid, which took place barely a month ago, aren’t going to help him to change that reputation.