Should the Penguins suspend Cooke?
Referees and players watch as Boston Bruin star Marc Savard is attended to after taking a hit to the head by the Penguins' Matt Cooke on Sunday.
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Q: I know you don't quite agree with the notion of shootouts and the current points system, to put it mildly, but do you think it's good for the game that so many teams are still in the playoff hunt this late in the season, or is it more of a mockery that maybe sub-par or mediocre teams still have a chance?
Kevin Jacobsen, Canonsburg
MOLINARI: No question shootouts, and even regular-season overtime, don't get much support in this space, and never will, but there's no major complaint with the way points are handed out. (Yes, the system used at the Olympics, with three points for a regulation victory, two for one in overtime or a shootout and one for a loss in overtime or a shootout, would be better, but the argument that such a set-up would wreck the historical perspective on a team's record is not without merit.)
Having so many teams still in contention for a playoff berth can only be a good thing, however, at least from a financial standpoint. Going into last night's games, just nine teams were more than four points removed from a playoff berth, and a couple of those (Anaheim and Minnesota) still couldn't be entirely written off.
When a club is a legitimate threat to qualify for postseason play in the waning weeks of the regular season, its fans are much more likely to continue buying tickets. That's particularly true in markets where there's a direct link between performance and attendance. Tickets to games in Toronto always will be hard to come by, no matter how badly the Maple Leafs struggle in a given season; that isn't the case in a lot of places, especially warm-weather cities where the game's roots generally don't run especially deep.
Anyone who paid attention to the Penguins as recently as 2005-06, which was Sidney Crosby's rookie season, should be able to remember how disheartening it can be to follow a team that spends much of the season competing for nothing more than its place in the draft lottery.
Q: If, for whatever reason, the league doesn't suspend Matt Cooke, do you think the Penguins' organization should? I mean, it was a terrible hit and he really should be punished. Being a Pens fan, I like him, but feel he not only owes Marc Savard and the Bruins an apology, but even us Pens fans for embarrassing himself and the rest of the organization, and especially for letting us fans down.
Mike Balk, Grand Rapids, Mich.
MOLINARI: When your e-mail arrived -- and this response was written -- Cooke had yet to have a hearing with Colin Campbell, the NHL's director of hockey operations and the guy responsible for handing out supplemental discipline. It's possible, then, that the issue of punishment by the league has been settled by the time people read this.
In general, though, it probably isn't realistic to expect an organization to punish a player for something that happens on the ice if the league doesn't seem his action worthy of a fine or suspension. If a guy does something that his coach or GM deems to be seriously out of line during a game, he might be on the receiving end of a one-sided discussion about it, but the primary objective of team officials is to win games, and that means dressing the 20 players they believe are most likely to make that happen.
And while it's easy to make the case that Cooke should apologize to Savard (and apparently either has done so, or at least tried), it's less clear why he would have an obligation to apologize to Penguins fans. He's a hockey player who did something dangerous during a game, whether it was intentional or not. It's hard to see how that let the fans down, especially when it's not as if Cooke has a collection of Lady Byng trophies on his mantle.
First Published March 10, 2010 12:00 am