Defining “The Goon”

By Stevie

Eugene Melnyk, owner of the Ottowa Senators, is let’s just say…less than thrilled with Matt Cooke’s presence in the NHL.

The Ottowa Sun captured some harsh words from Melnyk regarding Matt Cooke’s involvement in a fluke accident that has left reigning Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson sidelined for at least the season.

“I’m very upset, actually I’m more than upset, I’m outraged that in this day and age this continues,” said Melnyk. “Whether it’s accidental or not, that’s not our job to judge. That’s why the NHL is there to assess it.

“We’ll assess it internally over the coming weeks and come to our own conclusions. For now, we’ve got to worry now about filling the roster, being competitive and, hopefully, a couple of these (injured) players come back if we get in the playoffs.”

“I can’t comment on (Cooke not getting suspended) only because it’s not helpful for anybody,” said Melnyk. “They came to their conclusions and it’s not going to change anything.

“I’ve been talking about goons playing in our league for years now and I’m on record when Spezza got hurt and I said that one day it’s going to be somebody else’s superstar and sure enough within 60 days Sidney Crosby got taken out (in the Winter Classic by Washington’s David Steckel).

“This guy should be kicked … He doesn’t belong in the league. He belongs somewhere where the goons play,” said an emotional Melnyk. “Get him in the Central league. He can be a $60,000-a-year guy playing pick-up hockey there.

“The guy does not deserve … He’s got one purpose. I remember when this happened with Spezza. I said, ‘If these are the rules, I just want to know.’ We’ll play with the same rules. Make sure you have one or two goons whose job is to do this either intentionally or unintentionally.

“I’m OK with it, just tell me I’m OK with it. I play by the rules. I’m just shocked an organization would do this.”

made by Stevie

It is understandable that the Senators are upset and hurt (both emotionally, on the ice, and literally) over the loss of Karlsson for the season. The Penguins themselves are no strangers to losing star players for significant portions of a season and even carrying over into the next season (e.g. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, and Kris Letang).

Goons and thuggery are an issue in the league and I personally feel that the role player of “enforcer” is an outdated and dangerous approach to the game.  Matt Cooke is a lot of things, but “goon” no longer fits the bill. In fact, I’m not sure it ever did describe him- at least not in the complete sense of the term.

Maybe Matt Cooke should be starring in movies about goons??

Maybe Matt Cooke should be starring in movies about goons??

Cooke is a player who formerly treaded the line between clean and dirty, most times coming out  on the dirtier end of things. He was a physical player, but never much of a fighter. He played with grit and sometimes made questionable and at times down right reprehensible plays.

I am not trying to downplay Cooke’s past because we all know what it is. When he was suspended in 2011 at the end of the season, I was livid with him and embarrassed that he was a Penguin. If he was going to remain on the team, I hoped that he could find a way to clean up his act because he wasn’t only hurting other players physically, but he was harming his own team with his suspensions and the reputation of the owners and other members of the Penguins adminitrative offices and coaching staff.

He has turned around though and must be given credit for that. A player cannot and SHOULD not be punished for an accident simply because they have a history of dirty plays. If he had done something nefarious, then I would be right with the Senators in wanting the league to take action and I certainly would not want him on the Penguins any longer.

Are the Sens going to call the cops after conducting their own “internal investigation” like Montreal did to Zdeno Chara when he injured Max Pacioretty (which was also a freak accident that spawned from a clean hit)? I’m not sure what type of investigation they can possibly even conduct. How many frames per second do you need to watch the play in to deem this incident malicious?

I would like to point out to Melnyk though someone he employs: Chris Neil. I did a quick comparison of the players today and this is what I came up with:

Matt Cooke
Career Games Played: 901

Fight Card22 career NHL level fights

Penalty Minutes: 1,050

Chris Neil
Career Games Played: 

Fight Card: 163 career NHL level fights

Penalty Minutes: 1,897

I’m not saying Matt Cooke is a saint, because he isn’t. But’s let’s not be total and complete hypocrits when talking about goons and who should be playing pick-up hockey in the far reaches of the Canadian tundra.

This sentence: “Make sure you have one or two goons whose job is to do this either intentionally or unintentionally.” doesn’t even register on my radar as making sense. He sounds like the Wicked Witch of the West. “I CAN CAUSE ACCIDENTS TOO!” So it’s someone’s job to go out there and accidentally injure people? I don’t even…????

This wild goose chase is horrible for the integrity of the game and the league, which after this lockout is already pretty low in the minds of many.

No one likes to see ANY player get injured, regardless of their playing ability. Anyone who does is no better than a person who intentionally harms another player. But get real, Ottowa. I wish nothing but the best for your injured players, but your organization garners zero sympathy from this hockey fan at this point.


**UPDATED** Please read this article from today’s PG by Seth Rorabaugh. He was able to better articulate the point I have been trying to make over the course of the past few days.

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5 responses to “Defining “The Goon”

  1. This sentence: “Make sure you have one or two goons whose job is to do this either intentionally or unintentionally.” doesn’t even register on my radar as making sense.

    Agreed. Melnyk sounds flat out irrational in his comments. They are rambling and sort of incoherent. This makes me want to give him the benefit of the doubt that he was just overly emotional. However, all teams struggle with injuries at some point. He should probably know how to address the media in a more coherent manner.

  2. The difference between Neil and Cooke is that Cooke has been suspended 5 times in his career and apart from his suspension has ended many careers including Savard and Shean Donovan when he was a Senator, (dirty knee on knee that was not punished). Neil, on the other hand has zero suspensions. Furthermore, while the outcome was more than likely unintentional (I don’t think he meant to cut Karlsson’s achilles, I do think he was attempting to slew foot him though…), Cooke’s answer to these situations, including more heinous ones in the past, is always “it was an accident”. He doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt, as he’s always be an insincere prick. I’ve met the guy and have friends from Belleville (where Cooke is from) who know his family. His own father is known as one of the biggest douchebags in the town, so I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

  3. All hockey players do charity work – it is an unwritten condition of their employment – it does not reflect on their personal character, it is considered an obligation. I have played hockey at a highly competitive level, and I have been a hockey fan for probably longer than you. I’ve known about Matt Cooke since his junior days – I’ve had friends who played with and against him in the OHL. He was so disliked that members of his own team wanted him traded or to beat him up. Of his desire to change – I’m well aware of it, I know what goes on in the NHL, not just with my favourite team. I’m not buying it though. If you took a poll of NHL players today most would unanimously declare that Cooke is still a piece of shit…And for the record I’m not a Sens fan, the Blackhawks are my team.

    • I don’t really care who’s team you cheer for and I don’t think that how long I’ve been a fan (since 1990 if you really care is when I started watching hockey) is relevant. I am NOT disputing what Cooke has done in the past, but each and every play and incident needs to be looked at individually without the bias of what has happened previously and who the person is. People should NOT be punished if they are not guilty is the point I am trying to make aside from the hypocrisy of the Senators organization in their comments when they have a player who even though he has never been suspended (and I have written articles on this site DEFENDING Chris Neil if you care to look because I looked at an individual incident and paid no mind to his usual conduct) he is still someone who plays a goonish game.

      And for the record, I do watch the NHL at large and if you looked through my site, you’d see that I am pretty unbiased in my writing and call out my team fairly often when they are in the wrong and I have advocated Penguins being suspended. (Every single suspension they took last year was completely legitimate.)

      A man can change and Matt Cooke has changed his game. That is undeniable. I will not tar and feather him for an accident. It isn’t fair. If he lays an elbow to someone’s head again, I’d more than happily call him out. But this is one of those times that I will vehemently defend him and not because he is a Penguin, but because he didn’t do anything wrong. Experts don’t think he was in the wrong, so I really fail to see where my analysis is off base.

      Thanks for stopping by.

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