Accident or Recklessness
Ottawa hockey fans want Matt Cooke's head on a pike, and you can understand why.
Already down Jason Spezza with a long-term injury, the Senators watched in horror on Wednesday as the left skate of Pittsburgh forward Matt Cooke dug into the back of Norris Trophy winning defenceman Erik Karlsson's ankle as the two went into the boards together, partially severing Karlsson's left Achilles tendon.
To Sens fans, it was Cooke, therefore there was intent, and they want justice.
Brendan Shanahan, however, didn't see it that way, and after reviewing the incident, informed both teams this morning there will be no further action by the league.
For starters, you'd have to have the worst possible opinion of Cooke to imagine he'd do that on purpose. You'd have to look at him as the same as Chris Simon, who received a 30-game ban in December, 2007, for using his skate to stomp Jarkko Ruutu. Ruutu was then of the Pittsburgh Penguins for those who believe the only bad things that ever happen in hockey happen to Senators playing against Penguins (last three years Daniel Alfredsson, Spezza and now Karlsson have all been injured in games against Pittsburgh).
"Tough loss. The game. The best defensemen in the league. Freak accident?", tweeted Ottawa netminder Craig Anderson.
Cooke has done terrible things over the course of his career, with ending Marc Savard's career (essentially) at the top of the list. That said, this is also a player who has committed himself to rehabilitating his image and his game. Last year he had just 44 penalty minutes in 82 games. This year, he has 18 pims in 14 games.
For Pittsburgh supportors, and neutral folks, it didn't look nearly as intentional when Cooke's skate lifted and cut Karlsson. These are razor sharp blades that are flashing every night on NHL rinks, folks, and it's a wonder it doesn't happen on a more regular basis.
But it does happen. On Nov. 2, 2010, Peter Regin of the Senators accidentally cut Dion Phaneuf of the Leafs with his skate after the two were tangled up. The laceration was to the inside of Phaneuf's leg. He had surgery that same night and missed five weeks.
The most nightmarish skate cut incident came on March 22, 1989, when the skate of St. Louis forward Steve Tuttle accidentally slashed the jugular vein of Buffalo goaltender Clint Malarchuk. Only the fast-thinking work of a trainer saved Malarchuk's life, and the cut required 300 stitches to close.
These have always, except for the Simon incident, been regarded as accidents, not deliberate or even reckless.
That's the way this one looks too. Cooke's skate shouldn't have been lifted as it was, but frankly, that kind of thing happens multiple times in an NHL game. Players often kick at the puck as they joust for position; is that reckless?
Nothing will adequately compensate the Sens for the loss of Karlsson, and certainly not a suspension to Cooke. Ottawa's season is now on the line, and it's going to take a combination of brilliant coaching by Paul MacLean, superb goaltending by Anderson and others raising their game for the Sens to get past this.
That said, the injuries surely are piling up around the league. Calgary is living without Mikka Kiprusoff. The Leafs are missing James Reimer, Matt Frattin and Joffrey Lupul. Edmonton's missing Shawn Horcoff, Gabriel Landeskog has been out in Denver, L.A. lost Matt Greene, Dainius Zubrus is hurt in New Jersey, Tampa is without Ryan Malone, St. Louis has lost Jaroslav Halak again and the list just goes on and on.
The NHL season is turning into the Survivor Series. That said, there's only one reigning Norris Trophy winner, and in a 30-team league, there's just no replacing that.