In response to Nick's concern about Matt Cooke, I'd originally planned in my mind a vast, wide ranging discussion of players that have proven themselves, players who are talented but have not yet won, and players we might hate but never have won anything and probably never will.
But then when I started writing, I realized that I'm making it a lot harder than it has to be.
Put simply, there are guys who have won a Stanley Cup, and there are guys who haven't. Matt Cooke, as much as it turns my stomach to admit it, the dude has his name on the Stanley Cup. Mark Parrish, despite his initial popularity among the Team of 18,000, does not.
Chuck's job is not to win a Cup for the Wild, his job is to put butts in seats and see to it that Uncle Leo makes money. Popular players - million dollar smiles, perfect hair and local ties - don't win Cups unless they have the skills to go along with the other bona fides. And Mark Parrish's popularity waned because he's a bad team goal scorer - a player who scores the goals for bad teams, because someone has to. He might have been an agent of putting butts in seats initially, but his inability to make the Wild demonstrably better was ephemeral, and the fans responded (if my scanning of message boards at the time is accurate).
The name on the Cup doesn't make Cooke a natural winner, nor does it make the Wild an immediate contender, but one can hope that he can be a leader in the room with the Zuckers and Coyles, who can provide an additional voice of experience, a calming voice, a motivator who can talk about what it's like playing in the highest levels of hockey.
A team needs the stars and the role players. The free agents you go and get need to be a mix of popular, skilled, and proven. Guys like Zach Parise and Ryan Suter qualify as popular and skilled. Cooke qualifies as proven.
Cooke's past? That's a problem, and I'll be the
first to call for his head if he reverts to his old bullshit. You can
say I'm cheering for laundry, and I'll own that. But the dude deserves a
chance. And it's a fact that he's a guy who's been there when his team
has won the biggest prize in hockey.
Now, if Chuck had signed Alex Burrows? Demonstrably unpopular among Wild fans, skilled only in being an asshole (the only time he's been productive in the NHL is when he's playing alongside the Sedins), and who's never won anything except the Psycho Olympics? Then we'd have a problem.