Howdy, Wild fans! Let me just say that I respect you guys and your team, as you are good for hockey and also good for taking Parise and Suter from right under our noses! Good on ya! Jerks!
Anyway, no, I'm here as a diehard fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins Hockey Club to tell you what you should expect from one Matt Cooke whom you signed to a three-year deal for some reason. I like the signing, but three years?? Anyway, let's get down to brass tacks.
Cooke is an excellent third-liner. He is the definition of a third-line winger. For years Pittsburgh boasted "The Best Third Line in Hockey" with Cooke, Jordan Staal, and Tyler Kennedy. That line won us a Cup, and constantly dominated the overmatched opposition that had to deal with Crosby and Malkin's lines. The point is, Cooke will give you 12-15 goals a year.
Cooke might be the best penalty-killer in the league. A big MIGHT because he's been alongside Craig Adams and Jordan Staal for his Pens-term, but Cooke is an absolutely FANTASTIC PK. The Pens always have a top-notch PK unit and while Staal gets the Selke nomination, Cooke was right there with him on every one.
Cooke is a great guy in the room. He's a family man, he's a good teammate, and if you watch any of the 24/7, In the Room, or James Neal's 36, it's clear that Cooke is a loose, jokey dude that his guys like, and that's always been the vibe in Pittsburgh since he got here. He wore the A for us, and you know if 66 didn't approve, that thing would have been ripped off like Charlie Conway.
He steps up in big games. During our abysmal series against Boston, only three members of the team were universally praised for giving it their all: Tomas Vokoun, Brendan Morrow, and Matt Cooke. Cooke busted his ASS in that series to try and get something going. He always does, he's a gamer.
Cooke's Past: It seems hacky and homery to say this, but I've seen other guys on other teams get penalized for their past. Cooke, however, is a different breed. When he first got to the Pens, I just thought, "yeah yeah, Cooke deserves it". But he DID change, he DID alter his game. He got freaking Lady Byng votes for the love of god last year. It doesn't matter. Cooke is a marked man. He gets penalized for talking to other players. The phrase "Two-minutes for being Matt Cooke" is synonymous amongst Pens fans. You think I'm crazy and being a homer? Just wait. Just wait for a player to cross-check Cooke in the back, causing him to fall, Cooke getting back up to jaw at the player and they both get two for roughing. If you need more proof, here's Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals: One hit got two for roughing, the other hit got a five minute major and a game misconduct.
Dumb Penalties: He's working on it, but he has his moments, and those moments tend to be backbreaking. He's an emotional player, but those emotional moments tend to come at absolutely awful times.
He Won't Answer the Bell: I love Minnesota and love your guys' passion for the sport, so this will probably piss you off, but Cooke doesn't fight. Yes, he starts a lot of glove-shaking, and he won't actually tease a fight to draw a penalty, but he won't be a guy like Morrow, Prust, Neil, Hendricks, etc... that will answer the bell anytime, anyplace.
No Powerplay: Non-existant. I know there is a stigma attached to Minnesota not being able to put the puck in the net, but Cooke won't give you anything on the PP.
The Contract: Three years? That's way too long for a player who already looks like he's ten years older than he is. Cooke isn't Teemu, he doesn't have that style. Every hit, every slash, every unseen elbow takes months off of his career.
So that's about it on Matt Cooke. You'll love him, you'll buy his jersey, but he'll also give you headaches. Some of which will be his fault, but many, many of them won't be.