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Matt Cooke: evil genius or without honor?

5

February

The Lightning has seen a lot of Matt Cooke the past two seasons. When he was with the Capitals last season, he was the one who's hit on Vinny Lecavalier dislocated the captain's right shoulder. Cooke, who was fined for the hit, has said it was an accident he was going for Michel Ouellet who was carrying the puck next to Lecavalier. But Lecavalier always has maintained Cooke could have either let up or gotten out of the way.

Earlier this season, Lecavalier wanted to even the score, so he went after Cooke, looking for a fight. Cooke, now with the Penguins, turtled and Lecavalier got a roughing penalty. Cooke, in my opinion, owed Lecavalier a fight. Instead, he did nothing and got Lecavalier off the ice for two minutes.

That brings us to Wednesday night, when Lightning left wing Gary Roberts, who probably should have known better, engaged Cooke in a jostling and jawing match late in the third period and Tampa Bay ahead 3-2. Cooke so got under Roberts skin that Roberts took a shot at Cooke, and Cooke, predictably, went down, drawing a roughing penalty that produced the tying goal in what turned out to be a 4-3 Penguins overtime win.

Roberts said later he has no respect for Cooke because he dives, "chirps" and wears a visor with no intentions of dropping the gloves.

All this brings us back to the original question. Does a guy like Cooke have value for his team because he pushes players buttons and will draw penalties, or is the way he plays dishonorable, as Roberts said? Is he the kind of guy you hate when he plays for the opposition but think he's terrific when he's on your side? And finally, doesn't he still owe Vinny a fight?

[Last modified: Sunday, August 16, 2009 4:38pm]

    

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