What Penguins and Red Wings players/coaches had to say about controversial LW Matt Cooke, who was having a disciplinary hearing today at Toronto for his elbow to the head of Rangers D Ryan McDonagh Sunday in the Penguins’ home loss to New YOrk.
= On Cooke putting in a teammates in a tough spot:
I don’t really think it’s a tough spot to answer questions about it. That’s not a big deal. What puts us is a tough spot is when he misses games. That’s puts us in a tough spot. He’s a great player, and people don’t realize how good of a player he is… if you don’t watch him play every night you don’t know. We know. I’m more concerned with him missing time, and you’re obviously concerned with potential for serious injury whether it’s somebody on your team or another team.
= On an elbow to the head being different than a controversial hit:
You’re right there in the sense that it’s a headshot, and as an organization we’ve been outspoken about it recently. You don’t want to see headshots, whether it’s a teammate or somebody else doing it to you. That’s why he’s in Toronto right now.
= On the side of Cooke teammates see versus the national view:
Well, nobody else sees that. How would you know that just by watching him on TV. That’s true of every player I haven’t played with – I don’t know who they are. You can’t expect anybody to know anything about you other than what you do on the ice.
= On headshot being banned completely to eliminate confusion:
“This is one of things we are trying to get away from our game.”
“It’s a tough call to make because it’s still based on the judgment the ref makes on the ice. I think a lot of times when guys go to hit someone they don’t aim for the head. You don’t want that in the game. At the same time, you want to keep hits in the game. It’s hard to go in, and focus on, ‘Don’t hit the head, don’t hit the head.’
“Sometines on the other side of the hit, the guy who takes the hit, he will see you at the last second, and try to get away and accidently you end up hitting the head. It’s a tough question, but a good subject that we need to be discussing.
”You look at a big guy like Chara. Every time he hits there is a head in between.”
= On perspective changing about Matt Cooke after playing with him:
“He plays the game hard. He’s a player that is physical. It’s unfortunate some things happen. As teammates we’re going to stand behind whatever happens to anyone on our team. It’s unfortunate. We’ve got to put it behind us and worry about keeping our home-ice advantage for the playoffs. We’ve got to just play hockey.
“He’s a good team player. Playing against him was tough. It’d definitely frustrating. He’s a guy you can use on your team – a physical body, he’s got some offensive touch. It’s unfortunate what happened.
= On knowing Cooke well and negotiating what he does on the ice:
“He battles hard. He’s a great teammate, always in there for us. I really have no comment on the situation. I just don’t want to comment.”
= On potentially playing a long stretch without Cooke:
“Matt adds a lot to our team when he plays within the rule. He’s a presence in the offensive zone. The biggest adjustment is on the penalty kill. He plays a major role for us there in blocking shots. He’s a big part of our success 3-on-5 of 4-on-5, so it will be an adjustment.”
= On knowing Cooke can play responsibly, but doesn’t always:
“It’s disappointing to see that kind of hit on that situation, given the timing and the circumstances. That’s a hit we don’t want in the game. Considering the time on the clock and in the game that makes it that much more disappointing. It put our team in a bad spot with 10 minutes to go in a 1-1 game.”
= On what he has done/can do to Cooke to get him to stop:
“We do a fair amount of video with all our players – that, and the video we’ve seen with him we’ve talked about where he can still be physical and the areas on the ice where he shouldn’t be as physical.
“Matt has spent a lot of time, maybe too much time, on the ice thinking about, ‘I shouldn’t hit this guy, that’s a bad spot.’ That’s crept a lot into his game. If you watch 10 games in a row you’d see that. Those thoughts are going through his head, they go through his head in this game too. He’s been dealing with it a lot and we’ve talked to him a lot about those situations on the ice. It’s unfortunate that he’s caught himself in two situations where he’s had illegal hits.”
= On Cooke wearing an “A”:
“It’s a rotation with the injuries, and it’s given out by the coach.
“I’m confident he won’t be with us tonight. Another player will have it.”
= On being put in a tough spot by Cooke:
= On Cooke being confused by what he can do:
“It’s a learning curve. Especially for Matt Cooke (because) he’s played on the edge physically and been an effective player playing that way; and now a lot of him is re-thinking where he can hit and be effective. He’s not been all that comfortable with that situation. Again (Sunday) the result was a clear illegal hit to the head.”
= On a point with Cooke when negatives outweighing the positives:
“When Matt Cooke plays within the rule it’s been very successful for us and was a big part of us going on that Stanley Cup run. That’s the rub. It’s got to be within the rule, and we’re working on that now.
“I did talk to him about it.”
= On any other options with Cooke:
“He’s fully capable of playing a physical, gritty game within the rules – whatever the new rules are, the new focus. I talked to Matt (Sunday night) and we’re going to have to go through and establish exactly where those situations are where you can still play a hard, physical game within the rule. That’s something he’s going to have to learn going forward.”
= On past issues with Cooke:
“Not really. We played against each other in playoff rounds and stuff.”
= On playing against Cooke:
“Honestly, you just have to be aware to see, he keeps doing stuff over and over. I think the suspensions he gets doesn’t really bother him. He keeps going out and doing that stuff.”
= On how to stop him from more illegal hits:
“You have to give him a suspension that will hurt him. You can’t just go 4-5 games. It clearly doesn’t work. You have to set a standard here, especially with what we’ve been going through this year. We just had big meetings with the general managers, the main subject was hits to the head. HEre we go a week later and he goes out and does it again, it’s going to be interesting to see what they’ll do.
“We have to be harder on suspensions. Especially guys who do this over and over again. You gotta be harder on them. But also, it’s about the respect among us players too. We have to respect each other as a player. You can’t go out and hurt a guy like that. It could be career ending.”
= On how long Cooke should be suspended:
“At least the season. I don’t think he should play any more this year. And then we just have to see what we’re going to do after that.”
= On negatives outweighing positives with Cooke:
“I’m sure to a certain point. I think he realized that he needs to change certain things in his game, definitely to be a part of something that you don’t have to deal with on a regular basis. So I mean, he knows where he stands, and we obviously want him on the team. I think that we think he’s a great asset to the team. He plays hard. He works hard. He does a good job. So that’s what’s tough is when stuff like that happens and continues to happen, like you said, to find that balance. But I think from now going forward I think he’ll figure out a way to stay in the lineup.”
= On why this time will be different:
“Well, I think to a certain point, like you said, especially with this year, it’s been a crazy year with a lot of head shots and certain issues like that, with the general managers trying to put proposals together and get this taken out of the game, there’s something that’s going to have to change. I think with … There’s not going to be many options left when they come up with … It’s either going to be a big suspension or done or something. So I think there’s not going to be many options. But at least I think he realizes now that something has to be done.”
= On Cooke’s reputation:
“He’s an intense guy. He play with an edge every night. I know personally he doesn’t want to injure anyone. He play with emotion, like I say. He play with an edge. I think every night he wants to bring the difference out there and he wants to be physical, and sometime things happen. It’s a fast game. You don’t control everything all the time.”
= On Penguins being put in a tough spot:
“Well, obviously. Like, you don’t want to kill a five-minute penalty. But things happen in the game. You can’t really control that. A guy sticks somebody and you get a four-minute, you didn’t do it on purpose. You put your team in trouble, yes, but it’s part of the game. That’s why you work on your PK. That’s why you work on your power play.”
= On what to do with Cooke:
“I don’t know. Don’t know. I think the history speaks for itself, the circumstances, the type of hits they are, the type of instances that happen. So I think that alone kind of could set a bar for the NHL to kind of go off of.”
= On Penguins’ previous headshot stance ringing hollow with Cooke on roster:
“It kind of mutes the point, I think, that that point when you have Mario discussing that situation and Shero, when one of your own is very liable at what he’s been doing and what the league has been preaching to kind of get out of the game and the players that have been suffering because of those hits. So I think Mario has always been well-spoken and has said his piece at times throughout the game, and a very important part to our game, obviously. Safety is, you’re hitting a whole other level now.”
= On Cooke being part of a select group of players responsible for majority of headshots:
“It tends to seem that way. Besides the (Dany) Heatley thing. That was a little out of character. But again, it seems like a pattern between the same four, five, six guys throughout the league that have repeated, constantly done the same thing. I don’t know what the … how you get your point across to those guys.
“Financially might do it. Miss games. Then you’re hurting yourself and your team. So that’s kind of when you really … Maybe at some point then it kind of hits home a little bit.”
= On the Penguins:
“I watched them (Sunday). I thought their team played real well. Once they took a penalty, obviously it changed the whole game. But I thought their team played well. They work hard and compete hard. I thought Ray did a good job this summer restructuring their back end, and they play well.”
= On Cooke’s hit:
“Well, there’s no sense me having an opinion on it, I guess is what I’d say to you. But I’d swear we’ve been talking about this for a while as a league. (shrugs) To me it’s real straightforward.”
= On Penguins without Cooke:
“Well, I mean, he’s a guy that works hard. He’s a forechecker, a grinder, a worker. So I mean, he provides that for them. It’s not like they don’t have lots of guys that forecheck and work hard.”