One of the many unfortunate side effects of the Eric Nystrom hit on Kris Letang that currently has the Penguins defenseman out with a suspected concussion is the bickering amongst fan bases that has followed in its wake.
As Brandon Worley of Defending Big D laid out last week -- in very, very meticulous detail -- a lot of Penguins fans decided to say a lot of mean things to Nystrom. Initially, Nystrom took the high road. Over the weekend, he fired back before quickly -- and to my eyes sincerely -- apologizing for his verbal retorts. Everyone has a breaking point.
Whether you agree or not, the guy believes he threw a clean hit on Letang and feels bad about the injury it caused. Not a fun place to be in mentally.
An oft overlooked ingredient in all of this name-calling and boorish behavior is the most widely used statement thrown in the direction of Penguins fans and players during such arguments. You know, besides the bandwagon stuff.
I speak of the frequent insertion, in any hit debate, of the "but your team has Matt Cooke" retort, as one commenter used in the above link. And everyone seemed to agree with while chummily patting one another on the back and pressing the rec button en masse. Even better, it was reddited to coincide with a meme. Awesome.
Much like the Chewbacca Defense, it seems to pack a rhetorical wallop. But, upon closer inspection, it's gibberish.
Outside of Cooke's minuscule 26 penalty minutes in 64 games (for comparison's sake, he finished last season with 129 in 67 games), the guy's been flat out playing an honest game this season. We've seen more 3-on-5 short handed goals from Cooke than we've seen major penalties and game misconducts. Really.
Still productive, physical and effective on the penalty kill without having to take people out. Who'da thunk it? Not me.
Instead of the blatantly fake "What did I do?" looks of yesteryear whenever he was sent to the box for maiming some poor bastard, we're now frequently privy to looks of disappointment and confusion furrowed upon his brow when a situation arises that sends him to the box. Nowadays, this tends to be earnest.
As Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy said in the aftermath of the "injury" to Jackman:
Cooke, who was given a two-minute minor on the play, made contact with Jackman's left shoulder; but Jackman landed against the boards face-first. Did Cooke shove him? Did Jackman twist to play the puck and land awkwardly? Did Jackman actually turn his back and dive into the boards to draw a call on Cooke?
Honestly, I'm buying the latter theory.
Jackman, naturally, returned to the ice a short while later.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to a world where Matt Cooke has become the victim.
On Saturday, a somewhat similar situation took place, at least in mental intent rather than execution.
Some messiness occurred in front of the Colorado Avalanche net. Players for both teams gathered en masse, pushing and shoving. Goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere was livid. Cooke, of course, was in the middle.
As an outside observer, with no replay yet available to lean upon, you (or, rather, I) instinctively knew Cooke had to have done something wrong. He always does in these situations. Sentiments flashing through the mind at the time mainly centered around words and phrases such as "disappointment" and "couldn't last forever."
For his part, Cooke was giving the same face he gave post-Jackman hit. "What the hell just happened?"
What happened afterwards would've looked like a statistical anomaly or typographical error in the box score if you had not seen it yourself.
11:28 Colorado roughing - 2 min - J. Giguere drawn by M. Cooke served by M. Olver
Cooke hadn't hit Giguere, he had been roughed up by him. In this weird new world, goalies run Cooke, not vice-versa. And he doesn't hit back. He sits there, takes it. No high elbows, no retaliation.
And so every time a player goes down and one of those typical, bandwagon-riding, silverware-chasing, know-nothing Penguins fans chime in with their disapproval of whatever the infraction may be, don't be that guy who says, "Yeah, but you guys have Matt Cooke..."
At least don't say that unless you extend the sentence with, "....that guy who plays honest, clean hockey." Then again, you'd sound sillier than you already do.