Season in Review: Matt Cooke

April 15, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Matt Cooke (24) checks Philadelphia Flyers right wing Jaromir Jagr (68) during the first period in game three of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals at Wells Fargo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE
Key Stat: Matt Cooke set a career high in goals (19) and his second highest mark in points (38) while reducing his penalty minutes from 129 last year to 44 PIMs this season.

Interesting Note: Talk about finishing strong: Cooke scored 22 points (12 goals, 10 assists) in the 33 games after the all-star break. He scored just 16 points (7g, 9a) in the first 49 games of the season.

The Good: For the NHL’s most notorious player, Cooke totally reformed his ways. After several suspensions, come-to-Jesus speeches, 2011-12 was Cooke’s last chance. He cut the dirty plays totally out of his game, but retained an edge (160 hits, 37 takeaways) to make himself the perfect 3rd line winger. Throw in some great PK work (including a super sweet 3 on 5 goal versus the Flyers in February). Reputation aside, Cooke was a solid citizen- all of his 44 PIMS were on account of 22 two-minute minor penalties, and only four times for roughing . Compared to last season when he had five majors, three misconducts and ten roughing penalties. His Corsi relative to quality of competition was third best on the team, behind only common linemates Jordan Staal and Pascal Dupuis.

The Bad: Consistent production is always an issue for Cooke, who’s liable to pop off for two goals in a game (which he did five times this season) or a 19 game goal-less streak (which he had from December 13th until January 31st). Still working on restoring his name as much as possible, as evidenced by the fact his supporters best statement is "well he didn’t take someone’s head off!" kinda still goes to show what kind of a player he was, and his past will never really leave him in the eyes of other players, refs and fans. Also, Cooke was on the ice for 40 goals for and 41 goals against at even strength, so while his Corsi and some other advanced stats look nice, as far as the pure "which net is the rubber going into" quotient goes, he was hardly dominant at 5v5.

Moment to Remember: October 6th, 2011. Game one of the regular season was the re-introduction to Matt Cooke 2.0. His first game back from suspension was an impactful one, Cooke scored a power play goal in the first and short-handed goal in the second. The Pens would eventually win the game 4-3 in the shootout.

Moment to Forget: December 16th, 2011. Remember that time the Penguins gave up six goals in about 28 game minutes from the start of the second period to the Ottawa Senators? Yeah, that sucked. Cooke was on the ice for 0 GF, 2 GA. So let’s just forget that one and move on.

Discussion: Cooke’s transformation and play was definitely one of the bright spots on the team this year, and his place next season as a 3rd line winger is about as secure as anyone in the lineups. Given that, and given it's not like Cooke is going to improve any of his skills, let's talk linemates. Who would you like to see play with Cooke next year on a 3rd line. Dupuis? Tyler Kennedy? To make it a challenge, assume that Jordan Staal is either playing top 6 minutes or traded.

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