It's an interesting situation to say the least. A team that is currently missing it's superstar due to a headshot he sustained back in January, finds itself in the spotlight for employing the likes of one Matt Cooke, most notorious for his erratic play this past season (and in seasons prior). The organization, much like many teams around the league, took a strong stance on headshots in the aftermath of Sidney Crosby's injury. Dan Bylsma addressed the issue. Mario Lemieux penned a letter, addressing the issue as well. And then, irony comes right back into play when Cooke throws his elbow into the chin of New York's Ryan McDonagh.
Before fans of the other 29 teams start preaching about the Pens' front office being hypocrites, read Bylsma's comments following the Pens' 5-2 loss to the Rangers:
"I don't think you can talk about eliminating headshots as an organization and not expect that to be examined," coach Dan Bylsma said. "It looks to be contact right to the head. The league will look at that at treat it as such."
You really can't get a more honest answer from a guy than that one. In fact, if you read me that quote and don't tell me who's saying it, I might even suggest it was John Tortorella first and foremost, followed by the other 28 coaches in the league before I considered it coming from Bylsma. That's not to say he isn't right in saying it, it's just that it seems like he literally is backing up the organization's actions with his words. What I'm translating from that sentence is, "We don't tolerate that around here. Suspend him. He deserves it."
Bylsma was of course a bit more flowery in his wording, but when you break it down that's the gist of it.
I don't think it's at the point where we have to start considering whether or not the Penguins have had enough with Cooke at this point, but the new deal he signed this past offseason is starting to look like a punch to the gut. Lifelong, die-hard Penguins fans know how this franchise expects to operate. If anything, we know more than any others who may have jumped on board the bandwagon more recently rather than during the dreaded late-90s/early 2000s when the franchise faced its darkest days and risked relocation. You have to appreciate where this team is right now and you have to appreciate the comments coming from guys like Lemieux and Byslma.
This isn't Penguins hockey, and as many have echoed in the comments section, it's a bit upsetting in a way to be associated with being a fan of a team that is regarded as "dirty" and "dangerous."
Cooke is dangerous when he plays like he did today, not only to the guy on the receiving end of his "hits" but also to the integrity of the franchise and the sense of pride that comes with being a Penguins fan.
Unless he finds a way to eliminate those hits, it's going to be a tough two years with him on board (provided there isn't a trade any time before his contract expires before the 2013/14 season).