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GUEST POST: Ryan Lambert of Puck Daddy



The always entertaining (and inflammatory) Ryan Lambert of Puck Daddy is back, folks.  My apologies on the delay – he sent me this over a day ago.  Hope you enjoy!

Follow him on twitter.


Shut Up, Ray Shero

-by Ryan Lambert


An actual thing an NHL general manager said about one of his own players:
“The suspension is warranted because that’s exactly the kind of hit we’re trying to get out of the game.”

I can be your Shero bayyyby. (Bourne on caption patrol)

 And with that, Ray Shero was showered with smiles and plaudits and flowers from all angles. What courage it took for Shero to come out and say that! About his own player! This really shows the Penguins care about the headshot issue!
What this all ignored, of course, was that Matt Cooke was his own player to begin with.
Boy, that’s troublesome, huh? The team that’s been so far out in front of all this reprehensible and irredeemable dirty play in the league this year just happens to have its most dangerous player on payroll for a sizeable chunk of money, and has been since 2008.
Since the start of that 2008-09 season, Cooke has received four suspensions from the league totaling as many as 25 games, and probably should have gotten more for the type of vicious knee-to-knee and flying elbow shots that have become his grisly trademark.
So to say that Shero is not being duplicitous when he praises the league for suspending Cooke is more than a little bit incorrect. We heard that Shero sat down and talked with Cooke over the summer, spelling out that the kind of play that resulted in, say, Marc Savard’s brain injury, is simply not acceptable.
And we heard that through backchannels. Never once did Shero come out and say that elbows like those on Savard or Artem Anisimov were unacceptable and didn’t belong in hockey in, I don’t know, some sort of press release.

I be he actually bites his *own* kids in the sandbox.

Let’s not pretend, however, that they didn’t sign Cooke to a three-year, $5.4 million extension knowing full well what they were getting. In that famous little “Matt Cooke cheapshotting history” video CBC put together last postseason, 10 of the 17 or 20 hits they highlighted came when he was wearing a Penguins jersey. Now, those were of varying brutality and he was suspended for two of them, but that’s at least an average of five borderline or outright dirty players per year that resulted in someone being hurt for at least a short while.
The team also stood by when at least seven more questionable plays (according to this) happened this year, offering either silent affirmation that this type of play is acceptable — by not benching him — or, in the case of that horrifying hit from behind on Fedor Tyutin, for which Cooke was suspended four games, outright supporting him and blaming the victim (right, Danny Bylsma?).
But now after this latest elbow, Shero chose to break his silence, when the tide of public and league sentiment safely turned against his guy, aided (only as a matter of coincidence, I’m sure) by team owner Mario Lemieux bitching out league officials over that Islanders game. And, if you watch the DiPietro/Cooke video in the above link, you’ll see that Cooke fueled some of that bad blood in no small way earlier in the year.
And now he puts out that statement, leans back smugly in his chair, and looks like some sort of hero to any idiot who opts to take everything at face value.
But really, he’s nothing more than the father who accepts no responsibility for his poorly-behaved child, getting scolded at a parent-teacher conference.
Matt Cooke is as much the toddler who bites kids in the sandbox as anything else. In fact, he won’t stop biting kids. Stealing their toys. Pulling their hair. And Shero sits there condoning it by letting the kid get time in the sandbox day after day, just waiting for the next kid to start wailing while Cooke stands there sheepishly with that detestable “What did I do?” face of his.

"Cooke for Avery, straight up."

 But now Shero’s been called into school, after Mario led the anti-bullying campaign, and he sits there saying, “I know it’s not acceptable and I’ve told him that but he just doesn’t listen!”
Now Matt’s got a couple weeks worth of detention to sit there and think about what he’s done, and daddy dearest totally agrees with it. But the kid’s not going to learn because in the end, Shero already promised to take him out for $3.6 million worth of ice cream over the next two years.

We’ve also heard the talk from Cooke, who’s saying all the right things about knowing he has to change how he plays, but we’ve also heard it before, so the only way we’ll know he’s changed is in practical application.
I guess the lesson we should take from this is that we have to judge people by their actions and not their words. Cooke can say he’s sorry but the next time he tries to take someone’s head off (and believe me, there will be a next time), what will that have meant? Shero and Lemieux can say they don’t condone his actions, but they’re still going to pay him a lot of money.
And don’t get me wrong. Cooke is a very effective hockey player when he’s playing hockey. He’s worth the $1.8 million a year in that regard. But to get that type of strong defensive play, you also have to put up with the cheapshot, injurious nonsense.
The Penguins had two years to figure it out. That Cooke has continued to play that way — and admittedly, he’s gotten appreciably worse this season — isn’t a light-dawns-on-Marblehead revelation to anyone in the league except, apparently, Ray Shero.
So Shero’s either one of two things: an idiot to have not recognized it before, or someone who is willing to tolerate the depths to which the league’s most dangerous dirty player will sink because goddamn is he ever good at killing penalties.
Neither one of those things is praiseworthy. And no self-congratulatory press release is going to change that.



Matt Cooke – A history of cheapshots:


34 Responses to “GUEST POST: Ryan Lambert of Puck Daddy”
  1. SDC says:

    I think this is the first Lambert article I’ve liked. Great points about Shero; the words don’t seem to mean anything to anyone around Pittsburgh or Matt Cooke unless Mario comes down from the mountain and speaks them. I wouldn’t have been disappointed to see Cooke suspended for all playoffs, or more; especially after seeing that video.

  2. PopLoser says:

    Sorry, but this is a little too harsh, even for Lambert’s usually funny standards. Shero and Lemieux might be hypocrites. They probably ARE being hypocrites. But they might also be changing their minds on what they find acceptable on their team. Its too early to judge that. So we can complain all we want about “well why did they sign him in the first place?” But if they are truly being honest about their beliefs now, the fact that they signed him in the past isn’t really relevant. Its what they do with their players (including Cooke) in the future.

    I, for one, would rather have a league full of owners and GMs who put these types of statements out there, because it shows more willingness to go against the standard NHL-front-office babble we usually get. Hopefully, in this case and around the league, more concrete actions follow words like this.

  3. Vinch says:

    I can’t wait until another team’s GM speaks out about headshots so I can ridicule him and bitch incessantly because I’m biased against his team. What a joke of an article. Don’t quit your day job.

  4. THE BIG DOG says:


    Shut up, Lambert. We get it, you don’t like the Penguins or Ray Shero or Matt Cooke or Mario Lemieux. Nobody cares.

  5. jtbourne says:

    Haha, when you let Lambert have free reign, he brings his fans. New rule for Bourne’s Blog commenting, and I mean this 100%: Any comment (after now) that contains the term “WAH” or some variation of it will be deleted. No room for that pettiness here.

  6. Devils Advocate says:

    Shero was 1 of 6 GMs that voted for an all-out ban on headshots. THATS Shero’s action. What about those other 24 GMs that did nothing?

  7. Vinch says:

    - Editors note: comment deleted -

  8. Vinch says:

    Does everyone remember GM Garth Snow’s reaction when Trevor Gillies was suspended? Saying that Gillies didn’t deserve it, he’s a nice guy, etc. Well I don’t seem to recall anyone busting his balls for that asinine response, but now that a GM is actually chastising his own player, people are complaining? That’s completely backwards, man. People act like Shero is the one wearing the #24 jersey out there. Give me a break.

  9. mlem says:

    The point is that whatever Shero says or voted on is all well and good, but he is still continuing to employ a player who has shown complete disregard for the health and safety of his fellow plays as well as a willingness to target their heads.

    i.e. I can say I am anti-drug and vote for laws banning drugs, but if I employ people who buy/sell/do drugs how does that look?

  10. Vinch says:

    That’s a little different, mlem. Matt Cooke’s job is not to elbow people in the face. He is not employed to elbow people in the face. Therefore, it is not Shero’s fault that a player who he employs to PLAY HOCKEY ends up making borderline retarded plays on the ice. Don’t get me wrong, Cooke is an embarrassment to the Penguins and they should seriously consider releasing the guy, but I still don’t see where any of that is Ray Shero’s fault. Did people seriously think that they would just outright release Matt Cooke the day after he was suspended? Are you freaking kidding me? I think this is more of a “last chance” situation for Cooke. They’ve put up with his bullshit, all the while telling him to tone it down, and now they’re flat-out saying “Next time this happens, you’re gone.” I fail to see how that is not a logical response to Cooke’s actions.

  11. Koz says:

    I’ve heard it put this way by Mark Madden, a radio personality in Pittsburgh: “in a nuclear age, you have to have nuclear weapons.”

    The United States has nuclear weapons, but they have worked to promote nuclear disarmament around the globe. I guess some would say they are hypocrites, too.

    I would rather the Pens cut ties with Matt Cooke as soon as sensibly possible given the CBA, salary cap, etc.

    That said, it is the league’s responsibility to handle discipline. As you said, Cooke is a valuable player when he isn’t doing these things. It’s the league that’s allowed Cooke (and many others) to get by with a few games here and there. Hopefully we have seen the beginning of a new suspension standard.

    Poking at Shero or Lemieux for trying to enact change is misguided. As some have mentioned here, goofs like Snow should be taken to task for trying to condone or defend ridiculous action. So should the GMs who sat on their hands when they had a chance to make a real difference.

  12. Sara says:

    You crossed the line with the caption about his children. That’s low, even for you.

  13. mlem says:

    The problem isn’t that Shero is speaking out. It’s really that he waited so long to do so. He even signed the guy to an extension after having him on his team for a few years and witnessing the borderline hits as wells as the ones he was actually suspended for. He is fully aware of the type of player Matt Cooke is and the type of hits he delivers on a seemingly regular basis, the same hits he is adamantly trying to get the league to ban.

  14. Koz says:

    OK, so isn’t it better late than never a.k.a. the vast number of GMs who maintain status quo?

    Matt Cooke is a problem. But the hits are the bigger problem, regardless of who delivers them. It’s disappointing the league is reluctant to make a significant, unequivocal effort to eliminate them.

  15. vx says:

    Dont let Mario off the hook. Shero gets his direction from the owners.
    If the Pens really want to make a statement (and maybe even get Cooke’s attention this time), the should suspend him for even longer. Something like ‘conduct detrimental to the team’ or one of the other mealy phrases that HAVE to be in his contract.


  16. mlem says:

    I do agree that its good to see GM’s take up these views, how ever slowly they might be, but Shero put himself in a position to have people question how seriously he is actually taking it by employing and continuing to employ Cooke. If Shero really wants to make a statement he can do so by banishing Cooke to the minors, buying him out, or just flat out not playing him any longer. I understand its a business and this isn’t a small amount of money we are talking about, but taking a stand and setting an example for the rest of the league to follow might not come cheap.

  17. Jess says:

    So what do you want Shero to do with Cooke? You can’t deny that the minute the Pens release him from his contract, that he wouldn’t get snatched up by another team to do exactly what he’s built his career around doing? There’s a reason guys like Sean Avery and Jarkko Ruutu are still employed – there’s a place for the “pest” player. And I think if Avery and Ruutu can find ways to play within the parameters of safe hockey, then there’s hope for Cooke.

    I’d much rather have him on my team, and have a GM who’s willing to step up and say “Hey, this is headshot thing needs to be curtailed and we’re going to start with our own players.”

  18. Steve C. says:

    …apparently Cooke’s job IS to elbow people in the face, and he’s one of he more successful at it in the league. He’s raised the pay scale for all the other goons such that the other GMs are going to have a hard time negotiating upcoming contracts.

  19. Nikki says:

    Steve C – you touched on what I find to be the bigger issue. Like Jess says, he’s always going to be employed regardless of whether or not the Pens keep or cut him, send him down or whatever. That’s accepted, it’s hockey. But since he IS going to be employed, should he be employed at such a substantial amount? Since head injuries are a priority right now the standard he is setting for dollar amounts shelled out to goons is awfully contradictory.

  20. Phil says:

    Man I hope this doesn’t run on like I think it might.

    Matt Cooke is definitely in the bottom 5% of regular players where the words ‘smart’ and ‘safe’ should be applied. He is also a more than solid third line type guy when the focus isn’t on the one or two times a year he does something that bemoans the media to crucify him. Deserved? Yep. Over-the-top? Probably. Puts those “close” to him in an awkward position? Definitely.

    I ask this: Every time a player does something that is blatant disregard for the safety of the player on the other side, does the management of that organization step up and say “He shouldn’t have done that”? Do they publicly come out and say “We sat him down and told him that is unacceptable”? Does the media ever criticize the team for doing (or not doing) so?

    If given the time, I could put a list down of players who are questionable character/safety guys, the teams that employ them, and 20+ other teams that would snatch them up to fill the same role on their team, and the salaries they make to do it. I’m sure everyone on this comment thread (Bourne and Lambert included).

    Matt Cooke is a dirty player. He plays near, at, or over the edge more than most players. He is not a superstar. He will likely be forgotten in 10-20 years, probably even by a few teams that called him “theirs”. Ray Shero and Mario Lemieux have done what they felt they needed to do/could do in order to keep the positives of Matt Cooke and reduce the negatives. They likely told him during contract negotiations that they want the rugged, forechecking, penalty-killing winger that the fans love and the players on his team respect and draw energy from. They likely told him to cut the stupid penalties and selfish acts that hurt the team.

    It’s been said (a lot) that if he were cut/released/put on the block that teams would line up for his services. You think the Rangers wouldn’t take him and stick him in the same locker room as Ryan McDonagh? Seriously? You think the Bruins, who outside of Lucic and maybe, MAYBE Marchand have zero physical presence wouldn’t at least consider it? If your answer to either of those is ‘no’ or some variant, you’re the fool here, not Shero or Lemieux.

    There is definitely a dark cloud hanging over Shero and Lemieux for employing Cooke. But the next time Avery or Carcillo or Downie or Gillies or Tootoo injure someone senselessly and unnecessarily (head shot or not) I want to see these same critics go after those teams’ respective GMs. I didn’t arbitrarily choose players who fill the ‘Matt Cooke’ role on their teams. Those are guys who have been disciplined for over-the-top dangerous actions. Not comparing to Cooke, not in the McDonagh case (though Heatley DID sucker-elbow Ott and nobody questioned intent, rather just said he wanted to give him a shot and only got 2 games) but those same people who want Cooke out of the league and discipline to be fair need to make sure they’d feel the same way about their own teams’ ‘Matt Cookes’.

    I, as a Pens fan, said that day before the game was even over I’d sit him for the year. I knew it was dirty. I blamed Matt Cooke. I didn’t blame Shero or Lemieux. Neither did the NHL, so who are any of you to suggest anyone but 24 in the black and gold is guilty of anything, Bourne and Lambert included.

  21. Sherry says:

    From Ray Shero on Monday (via Pgh Trib-Rev, Rossi):

    “I’d prefer to be part of the solution to rehabbing him as a player as opposed to making the decision to toss him overboard to be somebody else’s problem and say, ‘We did our part,’ ” Penguins general manager Ray Shero said from Joe Louis Arena, where he arrived around 7 p.m. after attending a discipline hearing with Cooke at the NHL offices in Toronto.

    The fact that the organization has publicly undressed Cooke by catagorically supporting the suspension, is a step in the right direction and carries a fair amount of weight given the *glacial* pace at which the sport itself and those who steward it are evolving (oh except for the new technology that allows the guys playing it to skate faster, hit harder, injure/become injured more).

    All of the hyperbole about what Shero/Mario did or didn’t do in the past is pointless.

    Nikki, I have to disagree, Cooke (stupid and brutal as he has been at times) is not merely a goon – he’s earned the right to his pay-grade and how he plays (the effective, hustling player, agitator-to-the-extreme – not the cheap-shot artist) is what’s gotten him there. Now that the execution of the sport is changing, the culture of hockey has to change with it – and that has been a slow, messy process.

  22. Jarrod says:

    Wow, more great points were made in the comments then in the completely one sided article aimed at attacking the Pens owners and management for try to take steps forward and accepting punishment, while other GM’s sit back and PRAY this type of spotlight is not on them. Leave any mention of his kids out of it…keep it classy.

  23. Stu says:

    When the next dirty hit from ANY other repeat player on ANY other team comes around, will Lambert try to paint the entire organization as bad for hockey? Will he repeatedly whine how the coach, GM and owner knew what they were getting? Will he foam at the mouth about paying for a player that plays ‘like that’?

    I doubt it.

    If you don’t think so, answer these questions:
    Where was Lambert on the Gillies hit? Where was Lambert on the Clutterbuck hit? Where was Lambert on Bertuzzi not being in prison? Where was Lambert on the Richards hit? Where was Lambert on the Mitchell hit? Where was Lambert on the Ott hit? Where was Lambert on the Ruutu hit?

    Shut up, Ryan Lambert. You’re a biased idiot.

  24. lambert says:

    where was i on the gillies hits? oh hmm i don’t know.

    i sure wasn’t here:

    and here was me on dirty hits and player safety in general:

    and look what i did with that islanders article: painted the whole organization as bad for hockey. funny how that works, and how little research you did before rifling off an easily refuted point.

    and yes i am obviously biased against pretty much everything so i don’t see how this is some sort of shocking revelation. not that you’d know anything about bias i’m sure.

    i don’t care if people want to attack me, but at least try to make a valid point instead of crying about how i didn’t lavish praise on your favorite team. thx.

  25. Stu says:

    And yet you weren’t calling out Snow non-stop like you are Shero/Lemieux. In spite of the fact that they’re actually promoting removing headshots, while Snow seems not only fine with it, but practically encouraging them. Why don’t you go call out ALL of the GMs/owners who have players who make dangerous hits? Why don’t you really rake them over the coals if they’re against removing headshots? Why don’t you actually praise GMs/owners who are trying to get rid of these things from the game, and actually trying to make the game safer like you “say” you want?

    Maybe you wouldn’t be bashed so much if you were actually consistent. And not so obviously biased against one specific team.

  26. Pat says:

    the only problem I have with the post is that you put avery and cooke as equals in the captions. I hate Avery and think he’s a jackass but Matt Cooke makes him seem like a likeable human being/ hockey player, Cooke is just scum. Who was it Daneyko who said give everyone a two week pass on him? I say that and the forfeiture of his salary for the two week period

  27. Chris says:

    Everyone’s already yelled the stuff I was going to yell at Lambert. That’s what I get for going to work today, I guess. I’ll get you next time, you sneaky devil, you! Or just spam your threads in Puck Daddy. Whichever comes first.

  28. K says:

    I couldn’t believe Matt Cooke’s extension in Pittsburgh last summer. Good role player, sure, but clearly a loose cannon on the ice, with a tendency toward malicious hits. That’s worth three years and a NTC (or is it a NMC?) these days?
    Then I couldn’t believe the organization’s reaction to some of his dangerous hits this year.
    But what jumped out at me when I saw this video was the A. Matt Cooke is an assistant captain? Lemieux, Shero, and Bylsma really want their young players to emulate Matt Cooke?

  29. Alanna says:

    Wow, the commenters be all angry up in here today. WAH. (kidding!)
    I agree that Shero, Bylsma, and Lemieux bear *some* blame here. Cooke is the sociopath on the ice that seems to have no qualms about injuring people, but Shero/Lemieux/Bylsma employ him for the game he brings to the table, and this is what he has to offer. Even if they don’t like the dirty aspect of his game (and I have a hard time believing that they mind a lot of it, so long as it doesn’t leave their team shorthanded), they pay him and put him on the ice. If you give a guy his license back after his 10th DUI and he gets wasted and kills someone, perhaps the person who thought he was OK to drive again the 11th time was at least a teensy bit at fault? The league needs to step up to prevent Matt Cooke from putting other players in harm’s way, and I think they need to give him an ultimatum: Try to injure someone again, and you’re never playing in the NHL again. After allll of the injuries he has caused, some of which have drastically impaired the health and careers of players more talented than he, how in the hell does he keep getting his keys back?? He just has to injure one more person? 10 more people? Kill someone? I think the Pens have “supported” the NHL on this ruling because Lemieux painted himself into a corner and they had no option but to play along. The league needs to step up and protect the players that make the game go, and that starts with taking out the dangerous trash, like the Cookes and the Gillies.

  30. Richie says:

    Jeez, I get the feeling some of the previous commentors actively seek out Lambert’s writing just to attack him. Can everyone please seperate the content of the article from the person who wrote and their percieved bias?

    Overlook the organisation involved too as the Pens seem to either be totally excused by their fans or overly demonised by their detractors without any middle ground. The core issue is an NHL club’s ownership publicly admonishing an employee to appear against what that employee does without actually tackling his behaviour in-house. I think Cooke would respond a lot better if the discipline came from within the organisation than derived from what he (i speculate) feels is a media assault on the role he believes he’s (over)paid to play.

  31. Richie says:

    An emotion-free debate on such a divisive player may I fear be impossible though….

  32. vx says:

    Phil, Phil, Phil.
    PLEASE do not mistake the dirty play of Cooke/Ruutu/etc with the pest physical play of Tootoo. That kid will fight anyone unlike other notable pests and while he may take a run at someone, he is NOT a headshot or injury-targeting player.

  33. Andrew says:

    Holy Comments! Jebus.

    VX, Tootoo is an injury-targeting player without question. It’s just less frequent than Cooke because he gets significantly less ice time.

    Ryan, I quite liked your post. Count me as one of those that thought Shero and Bylsma were being stand-up guys for agreeing with the suspension. Your research has swayed me. Although, I still think Bylsma is a good coach and a pretty respectable person (that’s saying something because as a Flyers fan, I’m inclined to hate everything Pittsburgh).

    Cooke, of course, is the most notable shithead in the league. But, I try to give these guys the benefit of the doubt. That is maybe not all his dirty plays are intentional, things look different in slow-mo etc. etc. But Cooke’s play over the years, as evidenced by the video above, is unacceptable and any team that signs him knows what they’re getting.

    I agree that Shero isn’t the guy out there taking the cheapshots and injury guys, but everyone from Lemieux through Bylsma is responsible for the actions of their players. The owner and GM could release him, Bylsma could bench him or scratch him from the lineup or at the very least, punish him in private for being a complete goon.

    I can’t watch that hit on Savard anymore. Him laying on the ice makes me want to puke.

    The Pens need to take the next step and cut Matt Cooke if they truly find his actions appalling.

    A great post, Ryan.

  34. L.D. Ablo says:

    Richie hit the nail on the head, it seems like this article drew some very polarized opinions split into three camps, Pens fans, Pens haters and Lambert haters.

    I like to think I don’t fit into any of those 3 camps but since I am not a Pens fan I suppose I dislike them to some degree and maybe that’s why I agree with the article for the most part. But whatever you think of the article, there are a few things that all hockey fans should agree with.

    First, if Matt Cooke was released by the Pens he would be almost immediately snatched up by another team. And that is a fact. He is a solid contributor and can play the game when he isn’t being a menace to it. And this is the reason it is up to the league to act. If the Pens put their money where they mouth is and waived Cooke another team would exploit that decision.

    Second, it is up to the league to dispense discipline, it shouldn’t be up to the teams and in the end teams & players will go as far as the league will allow them. However, I think what irks a lot of people is simply that Shero & Mario’s statements are disingenuous. People mentioned Garth Snow not saying anything but that’s exactly the point. Garth Snow didn’t punish Gillies personally but he also didn’t come out and denounce the types of acts Gillies committed. If you’re going to support your player by resigning him and continually playing him, don’t go to the press and talk about how what he does is wrong.

    And last, people have throw out names like Avery, Bertuzzi and Heatley to show the hypocrisy and bias of those hockey fans (obviously non-Pens fans) who are going after Cooke and to me that is ridiculous. As much as I dislike Sean Avery (and I’m a Devils fans so I REALLY can’t stand him) there’s a very clear line between a pest/pain-in-the-butt like Avery and a dangerous ill-willed players like Cooke. How often is Avery involved in a dangerous play? And as far as Bertuzzi & Heatley, obviously what they did was wrong and dangerous but the bottom line is neither of them is a dirty player, unlike Cooke. For that reason their actiosn can be partially excused based on a moment of stupidity where their emotions got the best of them. The outrage with Cooke isn’t simply about this one act but the fact that he is a habitual offender. He has done it again, and again, and again. After a while, even if you give players the benefit of the doubt, you can start to infer that the player is doing this intentionally and is doing it to injure other players.

    There is no room for players like Cooke and it absolutely is up to the league to do something about it.

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