Matt Cooke, the man who is known to Pens fans as Cookie but other parts of the league as a pest (or any other word of choice) is up next in Pensburgh's 2010-11 season review.
Player: Matt Cooke
Role: Third liner, Criminal, Public Enemy No. 1
Contract Status: Locked up through 2012-13 season at $1.8 mill cap hit
When Matt Cooke signed his three-year deal with the Pens back in June 2010, it was looked at by fans of the team (again, this specific angle is important in this post) as a good signing. And why not? He tied a career high in goals with 15, added 15 assists and maintained a relatively low profile when it came to on-ice antics.
That was not the case in 2011. Sure, the scoring was there, and if not for a few suspensions he may have very well exceeded expectations and scored more than his 12 goals and 18 assists had he not played just 67 games due to suspensions.
Wherever you stand with relation to Cooke's play, that's where it hits hard for Pens fans. For a team that was limping through the better part of the season and well into the postseason, the mangled lines could've really used a little extra help from Cooke.
The past season raised Cooke's status as public enemy No. 1 in cities throughout the country (and probably the Great White North as well). If he wasn't already hated in Boston for his (perceived) career-altering injury on Marc Savard, he added Columbus to the list for his hit of Fydor Tyutin and New York for his hit on Ryan McDonagh. Stupid penalties also cropped up from time to time that, in some cases, even cost the Pens a game. If we're speaking from a non-biased viewpoint, it was just not Cooke's year.
The expectation in Pittsburgh is that it will all change over the offseason. Cooke has attending counseling for his on-ice actions, met with Ray Shero and Mario Lemieux to discuss his play - at times rumored to be a "shape up or ship out" conversation - and has admitted himself that he's ready to get back on the ice next season with a more refined style of play.
When it comes to fan opinions on Cooke I know that it has been decidedly torn from anything along the lines of "the suspensions were too harsh" to "trade him out of town," so I'm curious to see where everyone stands now. Remember, Cooke is still locked up until the end of the 2012-13 season at $1.8 mill per, but his reputation and the implications passed down on a team for harboring a so-called criminal could be the one strike against trying to move him elsewhere.