Last summer, when the Minnesota Wild signed former Pittsburgh Pengiuns agitator Matt Cooke, I wasn't all that crazy about the idea. I know I wasn't the only one that felt this way, either. I got a text from a buddy of mine telling me that my worst nightmare had come true, the Wild signed Matt Cooke to a contract.
As a Boston Bruins and a Minnesota Wild fan, I have seen Cooke at his worst. When I first heard about the signing, I thought this was like the Boston Bruins signing Ulf Samuelsson to a contract. Obviously, the former Penguins and Canucks agitator came to the Wild with some baggage.
But, then again, none of us are perfect. Right?
Okay I admit, I couldn't see past my blind hatred for the guy. My hatred for Cooke didn't allow me to see what he could bring to the Minnesota Wild hockey team. After watching him for a season, it seems like a good offseason signing.
Cooke has cleaned up his act, and in the past three seasons he hasn't had more than 55 PIM in a season, for three consecutive seasons. That's pretty respectable. That's also a major transformation in the way he plays hockey. According to website hockey fights, Cooke hasn't been in a fight since the 2010-11 season. Think about this, if you add up Cooke's penalty minutes for the past three seasons (134 PIM), he only surpasses his 2010-11 penalty minutes by five minutes.
Starting on Thursday night, Wild fans get to see the other side of Cooke's game come to fruition. During the 2012-13 season, I watched the Boston Bruins lose a few regular season games because Matt Cooke had gotten in their collective grill. During the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Bruins basically ignored him. Will the Colorado Avalanche be able to go about their business without him getting in their heads?
Wild head coach Mike Yeo seems to approve of the way that Cooke played against the Nashville Predators on Sunday night. I think this is a preview of how Cooke will play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"He knows how to ramp it up. He knows how to get under people's skin," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "He seems to elevate his game this time of year, and he's going to obviously be a very important part of our group."
Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press had this to say about Cooke's play in the game against the Nashville Predators. This is what we need to see during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But perhaps the main development was Cooke raising the agitation level to the red line. You wouldn't think that was possible in such a nothing game.
Sunday, he made it a point to keep pinging off the Predators' baddest guys. Plus, he's great at subtly poking and blatantly yapping and really does some of his best work by the benches in all the confusion of a line change. With bodies coming and going, there are plenty of targets to irritate in some way or another.
In closing, I like this version of Matt Cooke, team player and one that's cleaned up his on-ice antics. I am just happy that he's on the Minnesota Wild.
Let's take a trip down memory lane
Former Minnesota Wild forward Andrew Andrew Brunette scores the game winning goal against Patrick Roy in overtime of 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs. This game would be the last of Roy's All-Star hockey career.