Just as it's hard to believe Matt Cooke is often a quality, useful hockey player, it's equally as hard to believe Colin Campbell can make a correct decision in regards to supplemental discipline.
For once, Campbell knocked this one out of the park. (Perhaps with the assistance of a Cooke elbow? Too soon?)
Cooke will not be allowed to play until and unless the Penguins advance to the second round, which, given the loss of Evgeni Malkin, the possible continued absence of Sidney Crosby and yes, the new subtraction of Cooke, is hardly a certainty. Cooke will forfeit over $200,000 in salary.
This is about as appropriate a punishment as it can get. Some people wanted Cooke banned for the entire playoffs and of course, there will be some who say to simply remove him from the league. But the rest of the regular season (10 games) and however long the first round lasts for Pittsburgh is entirely fitting.
Two things need to happen as a result of this sentencing. Ray Shero, who released this statement in support of the suspension, and Mario Lemieux must react in kind. Ideally, this means a buyout, a trade, waivers, something to get Cooke off the payroll.
Unfortunately, that seems unlikely. According to Nick Kypreos, Lemieux had a nice chat with Cooke on Sunday basically telling him to shape up or ship out. My fear is that conversation (assuming it did happen) plus the 14- to 17-game suspension serving as the wake-up call Cooke needed will mean the Penguins give Cooke one last chance. Even though he's on about his sixth chance, at least.
The second thing that must happen is the NHL and Campbell have to continue to bring the hammer down on players who violate the rules, and slam the repeat offenders harsher. Campbell finally sent a message to thugs who injure other players. But it can't be a one-time message.
Cooke deserved this kind of long sentence but he can't be the only one to receive a ban like this or else we're right back to square one.
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