Matt Cooke of the Minnesota Wild epitomizes everything that is wrong with hockey. His cheap shots have altered seasons for teams (this year’s Colorado Avalanche after Tyson Barrie’s injury), careers (Vincent Lecavalier has never the same since being cheap-shotted by Cooke in 2008) and in one extreme case ended a career (Marc Savard). Minnesota has a skilled veteran core and a plethora of young talent that will surely have them as legitimate Western Conference contenders for years to come; employing Cooke jeopardizes all of that.
Given the way Cooke has injured star players with his recklessness, it is only a matter of time before teams start doing it to Minnesota’s best players. The last thing the Wild would want would be for Jonas Brodin or Zach Parise to miss extended time because an opposing player chose to cheap shot them for retribution for Cooke’s antics over the years. Given Cooke’s long and illustrious history of being a black mark on the game, it’s almost surprising no team has sent their enforcer to go after one of Cooke’s highly skilled teammates in Minnesota or during his tenure with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Cooke has two years left on his contract, and since he was signed after the new CBA took affect he cannot be amnestied. He can be waived and sent to the minors if another team does not claim him (it’s a longshot any team would want Cooke around to poison their franchise) or he can be bought out and exorcised from the Wild organization entirely.
The safe bet is on the latter as, although the Wild would have to carry a slight cap hit, removing Cooke from the equation works well for everyone. Given Cooke’s age (he’ll be 36 in September) and his inability to do anything but cause mischief, it is in the best interest of everyone that Cooke has played his last game in the NHL.
For the sake of the players on the Wild, I hope the front office understands the risk that comes with keeping Cooke on the roster. No player wants to have to stand up and defend a teammate who has such little regard for the safety of other players and absolutely no respect for the game of hockey.
They have plenty of young talent to fill the void and bottom six forwards who don’t make a living on cheap shots are a dime a dozen. The Wild should get rid of Cooke by any means necessary to ensure their path to contention continues without any of Cooke’s sideshow-esque antics.
Players around the league, not just in the Wild dressing room, hope that Cooke’s NHL career is over as his tenure in the league has without question caused more harm than good.