Morning Skate 321: NHL needs to put Cooke down

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Morning Skate 321: NHL needs to put Cooke down

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

WILMINGTON Matt Cooke has been handed plenty of chances.The Pittsburgh Penguins' pit bull has been frothing at the mouth for years now, and showed a propensity to bite on several occasions during his career with the Pens.Hes always been protected by the heavy hitters within the Penguins organization, but now its time for the NHL to put their rabid pooch down as he simply keeps on biting the hand that feeds. Cooke dropped a premeditated, flat-out evil flying elbow on New Yorkdefenseman Ryan McDonagh Sunday afternoon before a live U.S. national audience during the NBC broadcast of PenguinsRangers, and it couldnt have been any clearer how wrong it was.Cooke lined up the Rangers forward from across the middle of the ice and provided a high elbow finish designed to separate brain from consciousness in a move thats become Cookes calling card.It was the kind of move that only somebody like Tito Santana would be proud of, and says that perhaps Cooke would have been better off joining the professional wrestling ranks. Everyone thought that the NHL made examples of Dany Heatley and Brad Marchand with two-game suspensions last week after their elbows were put on center stage during the NHL GM Meetings in Boca Raton, Florida.But the Cooke case is where the NHL will make their biggest statement of the season in regard to head shots and dangerous hatchet man operating with a Wild West mentality.There are a group of dirty, rotten scoundrels in the NHL that make their living based on intimidation and traipsing the fine line between playing hardplaying dirty, and Cooke is their crowned prince of scumbaggery. Youve got to wonder about the social behavior capacity of a player that goes out and attempts to severely injure a fellow player after his general manager (Ray Shero) and owner (Mario Lemieux) have become the flag-bearers for stronger NHL punishments for all. There is nothing for Cooke to gain from his actions, but he seems compelled to continue them.Its indeed the perfect storm for NHL President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell to step up and do what he never did last season. Its a chance for Campbell to write the indisputable wrong of letting Cooke walk scot-free after possibly ending Marc Savards career last spring with another of his signature cheap shot elbows.Its time for Campbell and the NHL to finish the statement thats been over a year in the making.The NHL is a game made up of violent contact and brutality, but there have always been safeguards in place be they of the Dave Semenko fists of fury kind, or the supplemental discipline variety to insulate players from cheap shots and high acts of hockey cowardice.Campbell is now in place to help protect a league under fire from all sides because of their unbending brutality, and he simply needs to end Matt Cookes season.Cooke shouldnt suit up again for the Penguins during the regular season or playoffs, and their alternate captain shouldnt play another game in Pittsburgh unless he agrees to wholeheartedly change his ways.Nobody is going to choose the downright stupid route of calling police or getting Barack Obama involved with Cookes sharpened elbow act, as Montreal rashly did, but Campbell has a chance to prove justice actually does exist in the NHL.Its time for Cooke to sit down and think for a good long time about everything hes done in an infamous pro hockey career. And stop or be stopped.On to the links: The normally nondescript Henrik Zetterberg takes a stand, and tells the Sporting News Craig Custance that Cooke shouldnt play again this season. James Mirtle says that the meaningless late-season run by the Toronto Maple Leads has a pretty familiar look to it. Malden Catholic wins the Super 8 and continues to prove that theyre the new King of the Hill in Massachusetts prep school hockey. The Senators and Craig Anderson agree on a four-year deal that Ottawa hopes will benefit them in the same way it did the Bruins when they extended a contract to Tim Thomas during their darkest days. It was one of the last moves by Mike OConnell, and one of his best moves, in retrospect. The Days of Y'orr boys get a little nervous about the hard-charging Canadiens, and give a proper salute to the day Ron Tugnut made 70 saves against the Bruins. Five thoughts from Scott Burnside including a pretty good breakdown of Habs defenseman P.K. Subban after his hat trick against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday afternoon. The Dropkick Murphys and Bruce Springsteen got together for a group of songs at the House of Blues on Sunday. Great stuff, and theres a hockey connection if you check out the Dropkicks drum set. CBCs Elliotte Friedman spot on as usual when discussing the Matt Cooke situation, and the embarrassment that its caused to the Penguins organization.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Haggerty: No move may be the best move for Bruins at deadline

Haggerty: No move may be the best move for Bruins at deadline

The NHL trade deadline is now less than a week away, with plenty of movement expected despite the perpetual lack of sellers, and an expansion draft perhaps preventing some teams from taking on players they will then need to protect. 

The Bruins shouldn’t be much of a seller as long as they can continue their current good stretch for three more games before the March 1 deadline. The expansion draft shouldn’t be much of a scare either based on the players {Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, Malcolm Subban) they might be in danger of losing to the Vegas Golden Knights this summer.

With the Bruins currently outside of a playoff spot by virtue of the one game in hand held by the Florida Panthers (both teams have 66 points vying for the final wild-card spot), it would be no surprise if GM Don Sweeney wanted to be a buyer at the deadline for a Boston roster that could use a big top-six winger with finishing ability, a top-four defenseman that can move the puck and a backup goaltender should Anton Khudobin have any more struggles this season.

The Bruins and Avalanche had been talking steadily in recent weeks about a possible deal for 24-year-old left wing Gabriel Landeskog, but those discussions have hit a standstill with Sweeney refusing to part with either Brandon Carlo or Charlie McAvoy in the trade package. That's the 100 percent right move for a Bruins team that shouldn't start trading away blue chip D-man prospects. 

Landeskog has made sense for the Black and Gold because he’s signed long term with a reasonable $5.7 million cap hit, and because he’d theoretically be a good, power forward fit alongside David Krejci.

It’s that type of trade Sweeney and the Bruins are looking to make for a young player with term that will be part of the long-term solution in Boston. They aren’t looking for a repeat of last season where they shipped off good future assets in exchange for pedestrian rental players Lee Stempniak and John-Michael Liles and missed the playoffs anyway after dipping into the trade market.

In other words, Sweeney doesn’t sound all that keen in dipping heavily into the rental market, for a Patrick Eaves or a Dmitry Kulikov for instance, as he did a year ago.  

“Do I think we have an opportunity to make the playoffs? Absolutely, there’s no question this group has a chance to get in. Whether or not I can find a player between now and the deadline that sort of fills all those gaps, that does remain to be seen,” said Sweeney at the time of the Claude Julien firing, prior to the current four-game winning streak. 

“But I think it dovetails with the fact that I’m not going to be short-sighted. I’m going to stick to the longer term view as to what I have put in place with the intention of being able to bridge and bringing in players like David Backes and surround our guys that we get a chance to win now and be competitive now.

“I’d prefer to err on the side of a player that will integrate into us on the longer-term. Last year, we gave up draft picks. I wasn’t prepared to move players that I felt in the same regard that teams had asked for in order to get a higher-level rental or a different kind of rental. I’m not going to deviate from what I said. Are there players and we have a surplus? That’s what I want to try and evaluate and find out whether or not we can deal from a position of strength.”

Some of that may change after a current four-game winning streak with a Bruins team that looks much more playoff-worthy than the aimless group that struggled through the first 55 games. But it would have to be the perfect rental at the right price for it to make sense for the Bruins this time around and chances are that might not materialize for a team just looking to hang in there until McAvoy, Anders Bjork, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and Zach Senyshyn are ready to contribute a couple of years down the road.

So, would people be okay if Sweeney and the Bruins stand pat at the trade deadline if they can’t swing a big hockey deal for a young player like Landeskog who would be part of the long-term plan? Is it acceptable to just let it ride with the current group that has suddenly shown a different gear under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, and bet on the core group rising to the occasion like they didn’t the last couple of years under Julien?

The answer from this humble hockey writer is that Sweeney should pass on anything less than a home run deal for the Black and Gold. The worst thing the Bruins GM could do is get in the way of the momentum that’s naturally starting to roll with his team, or make another severe misstep with his NHL talent evaluation. Right now, draft and development seem to be his strengths, and he should lean into those and away from being a wheeler dealer with wiser, more experienced managers around the NHL looking to once again rob the Black and Gold blind.

So, there’s a chance the Bruins do very little at the deadline and, after thinking about it, the fickle fans should be perfectly okay with that as they watch a newly transformed hockey club. 

Wednesday, Feb. 22: Talking Bruins with Ray Ferraro

Wednesday, Feb. 22: Talking Bruins with Ray Ferraro

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while getting ready for the February heat wave headed our way.

*In the interest of self-promotion, here’s a podcast I did on Tuesday talking Bruins with former Hartford Whalers great and current outstanding TSN hockey analyst Ray Ferraro, who is also a great FOH (Friend of Haggs).

*Good piece on a Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster that has already gained plenty of internet plaudits for his great, and now legendary, Nick Bonino goal call in last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

*It’s never too early to look at this summer’s crop of NHL draft-eligible players. Right, Kevin Allen?

*Apparently Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews has his own rap song, so he’s got that going for him…which is nice.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) and PHT writer Jason Brough has James Wisniewski trying to revive his NHL career after a short stint in the KHL.

*There’s a call for Nashville backup Juuse Saros to get more playing time between the pipes for the Predators.

*Larry Brooks brings his always interesting take to the Bruins situation in allowing Claude Julien to take the head gig in Montreal, and said it all came down to money. Big surprise there. I think there was also a concern from the B’s about having another PR nightmare on their hands if it was perceived that they stepped in and didn’t allow Julien to gain employment someplace else, regardless of what waited for him in the offseason. It also tells me that the Bruins aren’t afraid of Julien coaching their arch-rivals, which makes perfect sense since they just fired him.

*For something completely different: the image of Woody Harrelson in the Falcon cockpit is both jarring and super awesome.