Getting away from the Sidney Crosby rumors for a moment, Rob Rossi throws a great piece out about Matt Cooke that's the must read for the day.
"I've got this chance, and I need to look at it as an opportunity to show everybody that I can change my approach, that I can play within the rules. The rest of my career can be proving that it's possible to change. It has to be about that. There's no excuse for it not to be about that."
For his part, Cooke's always been complicated. You can't get away from his bad hits, you just can't. He's elbowed guys in the head. He's had knee-on-knee incidents. It's been his job, and coaches have engrained "finish your checks, finish your checks, piss the opposition off, forecheck, grind, finish your checks".
That's no excuse for hurting anyone though. And especially with seeing what's happened with Crosby and his concussion woes, Penguin fans understand better than anyone that no hockey player deserves to have to deal with head trauma. On the macro level that clearly means there should no place in the game for those that deliberately attempt to injure vulernable players.
Can Cooke change? He's said in the article that he's watched 20 hours of film, "learning" how to deliver proper and legal hits. He's been through counciling. Cooke knows his next bad hit will likely be his last, the league will not stand for that and neither will the Penguins
But for on-ice desipicible Matt Cooke, there's also another side. The family man. The guy who showed up in Altoona this week and signed autographs for an extra hour past his 90 minute session, just to guarantee he wouldn't turn any fans away. Matt Cooke is not a monster, he has just been trained to be an exceptionally good one on the ice.
On the ice is where Cooke will have to change. If you can put the bad hits aside, you can plainly see this is a guy capable of scoring 15 goals, 15 assists a season in the NHL- with excellent positional and penalty killing abilities. Get rid of the ugliness, and he's a useful, valuable player that could suit up on any NHL team.
Actions speak louder than words. And it's easy to say some words now in the summer. We'll really know in the split second moment when Cooke gets the opportunity to take a shot. Not with the puck, but when an opponent is in a vulnerable moment. Will be pounce, as he's done so many times before? Or can he show restraint and show the dignity of (almost) every other NHL player would.
It's only August and there's no telling if Cooke's only been brainwashed Sean Avery style or if the adjustment will truly take. Given what you know and how you're thinking, answer the poll and let's discuss in the comment section.