Injured Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson met with the media on Friday to declare that Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke intended to injure him and end his season.
Thankfully, he didn’t go all the way and claim, as others have, that Cooke intentionally sliced his Achilles with his skate during that collision along the boards. Which is probably a good thing, considering that the “Matt Cooke deliberately Ginzu’d Karlsson” conspiracy theory is completely insane.
Courtesy of Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, Karlsson said of Cooke:
"He knows exactly what he is doing out there. That is why I am sitting here with leg in cast."
“I don’t think he did it on purpose … He meant to hit me hard and knock me out.”
"I still think it was a situation that could have been prevented.”
[On Cooke’s text message to Karlsson] “He has been after me before. … At least he reached out which I didn’t expect. We’re going to leave it at that."
Karlsson added that he didn’t believe this would have occurred had it been another player other than Cooke hitting him.
"I don't think his intention was to cut me with his skate. I refuse to believe that anyone would do that."
You have to sympathize with Karlsson, who saw his season end and the fortunes of his team potentially altered in one brief horrific moment. But accidents will happen, this was one of them, and it’s a shame to see a bright young burgeoning star stoop to prosecuting a Matt Cooke that hasn’t been in the League for close to two years.
Here’s the play again:
The play’s been broken down a billion times in the last week. Aaron Ward had one of the better takes on TSN, explaining that what Cooke did was routine: “This is a hit and pin. This is an attempt to contain a player.”
In that sense, it’s not even the brutal “hit me hard and knock me out” hit that Karlsson describes, unless he simply means “knock me out of the play,” which was all Cooke was trying to accomplish.
If defending Matt Cooke leaves a bad taste in your mouth – like sucking on a 9-volt battery after eating blood pudding, for example – then I’ll do it for you, without a second thought.
Before earning matching misconducts with Chris Neil in that Ottawa game, Cooke’s last major penalty was in March 2011, when he was ejected and subsequently suspended for hitting Ryan McDonough of the New York Rangers from behind.
Then he became a changed man, battling through personal issues that were chronicled in a great Rob Rossi piece – including a prolonged health scare for his wife – and vowing to no longer be a determent to his team. For the last season, Cooke has been a player that hits hard but doesn’t cross the line. And if Ottawa fans have a problem with that kind of player, then they have a problem with Chris Neil.
Of course, their owner Eugene Melnyk infamously doesn’t buy Cooke’s reformation:
"I don't buy any of that garbage," Melnyk told TSN. "Five times? No, we're No. 6? How about seven and eight? At what point do you say, 'You know what? Maybe he's not changed.' You do this enough times, don't try to convince me or anybody else. People are way too intelligent. The guy gets suspended five times. That's how many times he's been suspended, never mind how many times he's not been suspended.
"I'm just shocked that that organization employs that type of individual."
There was a time when I didn't think Matt Cooke could play in this league any longer, given his inability to respect his opponents. There was a time I wouldn’t have given Matt Cooke the benefit of the doubt here, but he’s earned that benefit after he didn’t violate his parole last season.
It’s a shame Karlsson and the guy who signs his checks can’t be bigger than demonizing the sins of the past on what was essentially a hockey play gone wrong.
Again, you can’t blame them for their frustration, because this absolutely sucks for Ottawa. But accusing Cooke of intentionally seeking to put Karlsson out for the season, either through the hit or the dicing of his Achilles, is an embarrassment for the franchise.
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