Morning Skate 321: NHL needs to put Cooke down

191545.jpg

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

Sweeney: 'Helpless feeling' hoping World Cup players return healthy

world-cup-bruins-marchand-091916.jpg

Sweeney: 'Helpless feeling' hoping World Cup players return healthy

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It’s a bit of a helpless feeling for an NHL general manager watching their star players participate in an intense hockey tournament like the World Cup of Hockey that doesn’t directly benefit their respective teams.

Not helpless because of the tournament’s outcome, obviously, but helpless because players could return from Toronto dinged up, or even worse significantly injured.

Aaron Ekblad had to shut it down for Team North American with what many speculated was a concussion, and Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray is out a month, or more, with a broken hand sustained playing for the same young guns team.

So, it certainly must have been an uneasy few moments for Don Sweeney when Brad Marchand was pulled from Team Canada’s last game for the concussion protocol after a nasty-looking collision with Team Europe forward Marian Hossa.

Marchand went through the testing, and ended up returning to the game no worse for the wear. But it could have been a lot worse for a Bruins team that can’t afford to be missing Marchand, Patrice Bergeron or Zdeno Chara, who are still playing for teams alive in the semifinal round of the tourney.

“I would expect all of us to have been in a similar situation. For everybody - any general manager, coaches, staff, you're concerned about [injuries],” said Sweeney, talking about the World Cup and Marchand’s close call. “I mean, especially when you realize the stakes are going to go up as the tournament goes along. The pride involved - it's a risk. There's no question, it's a risk.

“But you also want to see them play their best hockey and they're not going to hold back. Yeah, it's a definite concern. You've got your fingers and toes crossed.”

David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask have already returned to Boston fully healthy. David Backes should be joining the team anytime now after Team USA’s rude dismissal from the tournament. But Sweeney and the Bruins still have their sensors out for the three B’s players taking part that aren’t quite out of the woods yet before returning to B’s camp in one piece. 

 

Bruins lose Vatrano for three months after foot surgery

bruins_frank_vatrano_032316.jpg

Bruins lose Vatrano for three months after foot surgery

BRIGHTON, Mass. – The first bad break of Bruins camp arrived on Saturday with the news that scoring winger Frank Vatrano will be out three months after tearing a couple of ligaments in his left foot.

The 21-year-old winger from UMass and East Longmeadow, Mass., sustained the injury training just prior to the B’s fitness testing for camp and will have surgery on Monday at Mass General Hospital with Dr. George Theodore.

Vatrano had missed the first two days of camp after participating in captain’s practice just about right until the start of main training camp, so the injury must have happened just prior to Thursday’s off-ice testing.

“He had an injury just prior to testing, and it took a couple of days to make sure he had the proper evaluation. He saw a specialist yesterday and he’s scheduled for surgery on Monday,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney. “One or two of the ligaments were torn when he was doing some running, so he’s out.”

The injury is a big blow for a Bruins team that clearly had plans on Vatrano filling out a top-six role and leaves the door wide open for a young players Danton Heinen, Jake DeBrusk, Zach Senyshyn or Peter Cehlarik to win an NHL job out of camp. Perhaps a veteran such as camp invite Peter Mueller could secure a job when it didn’t appear to be any room on the NHL roster just a few days ago.

Either way it’s damaging to a Bruins team that was relying on goal-scoring and explosive forward play from a guy who topped 40 goals combined in the NHL and AHL last season.

“Obviously it’s a blow. Frankie looked at as an opportunity to [win a top-6 spot]. We all did. How that was going to play out remained to be seen, but he was going to be afforded a position to see if he could grab hold of it,” said Sweeney. “So obviously, he’s disappointed, and we are as well. You look at as with all injuries…it’s a setback. But the doctors feel very good that three months from now he’ll be able to play and move forward.”

It’s not officially NHL training camp until a major injury strikes, so now the Bruins are in the middle of it after learning they’ll lose Vatrano until Christmastime. 

Here's Vatrano's "Countdown to camp" profile