In the wake of the general managers' meetings last week -- where head shots and concussion protocols ruled the three days -- there were a rash of ugly incidents on the ice, as noted in the second item here. Only four games' worth of suspensions were handed out for a pair of elbows to heads, and a $2,500 fine for another blow to the head.
Not exactly message-sending by Colin Campbell's office.
But now, the poster child for needless shots to the head has, incredibly, put himself on the disciplinary chopping block. Matt Cooke has done it again, elbowing Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh in the jaw in yesterday's 5-2 Rangers win.
Now, if you've never seen what Cooke can do on the ice, TSN blogger Daniel Tolensky has helpfully compiled just about all of Cooke's dirty work on one site, so many thanks to him. It's a pretty exhaustive resume of elbows to the head, knee-on-knee hits, cross-checks from behind at full speed and goalie runs.
Cooke runs the gamut of dirty play. He has an in-person hearing with Campbell today, which usually means at least an 8-game suspension; Trevor Gillies flew to Toronto to get his 10 games last month.
Fans are calling for serious time on the pine for Cooke, who already has a two-game ban last year for a flying elbow to Artem Anisimov's head -- he did the identical thing to the Bruins' Marc Savard and got fined; Savard's career is in doubt after another concussion this season -- and a four-game ban this year for a hit from behind on ex-Ranger Fedor Tyutin.
So eight games would seem to be the minimum he'll get today. The Penguins have 10 regular-season games remaining, so that could be the suspension number as well.
If Campbell were feeling bold, he could go to 12, the 10 regular-season games plus the first two of the playoffs. Playoff suspensions are awfully rare, but perhaps this is the time for the NHL to try one out, since elbows to the head are not supposed to happen anymore.
One of the points I tried to address in this lengthy piece on head shots and respect is how teams can police themselves a bit better. The Blues' David Backes voiced on the record what a few other players did off the record: If Sidney Crosby wants to call out his fellow players for dirty play that leads to concussions, he has to start by keeping his own house in order with Cooke.
That's never been more true than today. Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, GM Ray Shero, coach Dan Bylsma, Crosby and anyone else in that dressing room now has a duty to focus on their own dirty player, because he's far and away the dirtiest player out there.
Perhaps Bylsma can start by removing the 'A' from Cooke's sweater. Never has a designation that implies respect from peers and demands it from officials been more misguided.
But it can be followed by harsh words, in the room and maybe even to the public, about Cooke. He's crossed into indefensible territory once and for all.