GUEST POST: Ryan Lambert of Puck DaddyShareThis
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!
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.”
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.
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.
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: