Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
It's easy to say Matt Cooke's at fault for the injury to Erik Karlsson's Achilles tendon, but the evidence shows us that this was not intentional.
Matt Cooke's at it again, the Internet screamed!
Cooke's skate cut the leg of Senators top defenseman Erik Karlsson on Wednesday night, and the results are ugly. The Sens announced that there was a laceration to Karlsson's Achilles tendon and that he'll need surgery. He's out indefinitely.
Just the worst. We hope he gets better as soon as possible and that he returns to 100 percent. The NHL is a better place with his ridiculous skill on the ice.
Let's talk about the play, for now, though. It's gruesome, so be warned.
As you might know, Cooke has a bit of a reputation, so it's not surprising that people think he did this on purpose. A sample of the reaction on Twitter, from fans to media to the Sens themselves:
Matt Cooke is trash.— Giles Ferrell(@gilesferrell) February 14, 2013
Word is Karlsson has a cut to his lower leg and will not return.Sens management doesn't like the play by Cooke.— Gord Miller (@GMillerTSN) February 14, 2013
Chris Neil went after Cooke late in the third period, only adding fuel to the fire. And then came the post-game quotes from the Senators.
Murray: "It's Matt Cooke. What else should I say? Watch the replay."— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_Trib) February 14, 2013
Before getting into this any deeper, let me frame my personal bias a bit. I'm a Philadelphia Flyers fan. I hate the Pittsburgh Penguins and I despise what Matt Cooke's done in his career. He's legitimately ruined careers with some of the illegal hits he's levied. 23 months ago, I wrote this about Cooke in the wake of one of his plethora of violations:
That's all wonderful, but let's remember who we're talking about here. Matt Cooke has seen this song and dance before. The man has been suspended four times and fined countless times (the NHL doesn't release all information on fines, for the record), and really, that's not even including some of his most egregious errors.
I don't like Matt Cooke. But we also must recognize that since the beginning of the 2011-12 season, Cooke's turned his game around. He's a valuable contributor on the Penguins and the illegal play has fallen by the wayside. For all intents and purposes, he's a changed hockey player. This is not up for debate. The track record is proof.
So, now that we're framed properly, let's go back and look at the hit in GIF mode via @cjzero.
(click to animate)
It's ugly. It's super ugly. But intentional? Hardly.
These are two players battling for a loose puck. Karlsson has the inside position and as the two hit the boards, Cooke tries to gain some leverage. Cooke's trying to position his left leg to the opposite side of Karlsson's left leg. If he can do that, he'll have leverage over Karlsson and can pin him against the boards.
But that doesn't happen, of course. It's a fluid situation (you know, the game of hockey and whatnot) and Cooke doesn't quite get his leg where he wants it. Instead, his leg comes down and lands on Karlsson's ankle. A horrible accident.
We know what it looks like when somebody stomps on another player intentionally, because unfortunately, it's happened more than once. It looks like this, or this:
Jumping to a conclusion because of Matt Cooke's lengthy reputation isn't unfair. It's completely fair and frankly, Cooke's earned it.
But it's also extremely lazy. It's easy to say "Well, it's Matt Cooke! Of course!" like Sens general manager Bryan Murray did after the game, but if you watch the replay like Murray asked, and you do it with an open mind and your hate for Matt Cooke out the window, this isn't even up for debate.
He didn't do this on purpose. It was a horrible accident.