For example, in 2011 he was suspended four games after he head-butted Philadelphia Flyers forward Jakub Voracek, an act he’s been caught doing before. Last season, he boarded New York Rangers forward Brad Richards, and as a result was given a five game suspension one day later.
So when Kaleta got caught with a head shot to Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson, it was only a matter of time before discipline was issued. And it was indeed, as the league dropped a ten-game suspension on him.
Kaleta intends to appeal the ruling, however whether he wins the appeal or not doesn’t change the fact that he’s been on the league’s radar for a long time now. If he doesn’t want to deal with these heavy suspensions, he needs to change his playing style.
Turns out, someone who’s spent more than enough time in a similar situation is willing to help him out.
Minnesota Wild forward Matt Cooke recently reached out to Kaleta after his team took on the Sabres this past Monday. Cooke has spent plenty of time in the league’s dog house for illegal hits, and has since been trying to change his game. According to ESPN‘s Pierre LeBrun, Cooke would love to share the lessons he learned with the Buffalo enforcer.
“I told him, I’ve been there, it’s not fun – It’s hard,” Cooke told LeBrun. “I laid it out there that if he wants to know what I did, I’d gladly talk to him about it. He knows [Jason Pominville], so I told him `If you want to get hold of me, I’m there to talk.”
Several current and former players have felt the pain of a questionable hit from Cooke, including Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin, Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh and former Boston Bruins center Marc Savard. Cooke was also involved in an incident with Ottawa Senators defensman Eric Karlsson last season, in which what appeared to be an inadvertent skate cut Karlsson’s achilles tendon. So, its safe to say that, if you’re looking for someone to tell you all about dealing with league discipline, Cooke is probably your best bet.
His former team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, spent quite some time trying to get him on the straight and narrow, and Cooke revealed some of the work he had to do to clean up his act.
“During my suspension, with either [Penguins coach] Dan Bylsma or [assistant coach] Tony Granato, I probably watched about 30 or 40 hours of video; watching players that play a physical style,” said Cooke. “The hours of video work I did seriously helped me,” he added. “The work that I put in has helped me not only take the risky plays out but also become a more effective player. I’ve got a way more active stick on the forecheck, and I’m more aware of my surroundings which has helped me offensively.”
Its tough to picture Cooke as a changed man, especially with how many games he’s missed due to illegal hits. That said, he’s currently leading the Wild in points, helped by his three goals in seven games. More astounding, he hasn’t stepped foot in the penalty box yet this year.
Its not like Kaleta has much of a choice. The league holds repeat offenders under higher scrutiny, so he clearly needs to figure his game out quick before his suspension numbers double. It only makes sense to discuss the issues with someone who knows all about his scenario. Who better to talk to than Cooke?