Wild's Matt Cooke's dirty hit puts new disciplinarian Stephane Quintal in spotlight

Minnesota Wild forward Matt Cooke hits Colorado Avalanche defenceman Nick Holden in Game 3 Monday....

Minnesota Wild forward Matt Cooke hits Colorado Avalanche defenceman Nick Holden in Game 3 Monday. (USA Today)

Mike Zeisberger, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:35 AM ET

Welcome to the 2014 National Hockey League playoffs, where the cheap shots just keep on coming.

This time via Matt Cooke’s extended left knee, which single-handedly has sidelined core Colorado Avalanche blueliner Tyson Barrie for the next 4-6 weeks with a medial collateral ligament injury.

Yes, THAT Matt Cooke. Add another entry to his rap sheet.

And, in the process, heap another important decision onto the crowded plate of incoming league head disciplinarian Stephane Quintal, who quickly is discovering the concept of “baptism by fire.”

When former NHL sheriff Brendan Shanahan sees some of the hijinx and shenanigans going on out on the ice right now, bolting his former job to attempt to bring some sanity to the circus known as the Toronto Maple Leafs is probably looking better and better with each passing day — as difficult as that concept might seem to people on the outside looking in.

Now it’s over to you, Stephane Quintal. You are the man who replaced Shanahan. How’s the job going so far?

Through the opening six days of the much-ballyhooed Stanley Cup tournament, the chippy, at times dirty, play on the ice is staining what has otherwise been some fascinating, exhilarating hockey here in the first round.

Interestingly, players consider the term “dirty” to be a dirty word and get their backs up if they are associated with it. But there can be no arguing that it is an applicable description on numerous plays thus far in the post-season, led by Cooke’s actions.

The examples include:

1) Matt Cooke (Wild)

In the second period of Monday’s Wild-Avalanche game, Cooke flagrantly kneed Barrie, who was heard by TSN analyst Ray Ferraro telling the trainer “I’m done” as he hobbled to the dressing room.

At least six feet before he made contact with Barrie, Cooke already had his left knee stuck out. No justifiable excuse here. And how is it that the officials only slapped Cooke with a two-minute minor for the play? Even former ref Kerry Fraser, now an analyst with TSN, felt Cooke should have received a five-minute major and a game misconduct. Here's the video.

2) Brent Seabrook (Blackhawks)

Suspended three games for charging into the Blues’ David Backes in Game 2 on Saturday and making contact with the head of the St. Louis player, who did not have the puck.

3) Milan Lucic (Bruins)

Fined $5,000 US for spearing the Red Wings’ Danny DeKeyser in the family jewels in Game 1. The punishment for striking a player in that sensitive area should be higher.

4) Corey Perry (Ducks)

In Game 2 against the Stars, he, too, speared an opponent in the groin — Jamie Benn. Inexplicably, the officials called it slashing and gave the Ducks power forward a two-minute minor. That’s it. He did get a warning from the league.

5) Mike Richards (Kings)

With his team being humiliated 7-2 by the Sharks late in Game 2 Sunday, Richards speared Logan Couture in front of an official and received a double minor. No suspension is expected.

6) Bryan Bickell (Blackhawks)

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock was riled up when Bickell delivered a knee-on-knee blow on St. Louis forward Vladimir Sobotka in Game 2. Bickell received a minor on the play but was not fined or suspended.

“I don’t think I’m a dirty player that looks to throw knees out or hit high.” Bickell told reporters Monday prior to Game 3.

Either way, what’s Cooke’s excuse?

In recent times, Cooke has claimed he is a reformed player, not the guy that has four previous suspensions to his name. Try telling that to Barrie, who is one of the Avs’ top defencemen. Or to the Colorado organization and its fans, who appear to be without one of their top blueliners indefinitely.

Cooke has just one major penalty in the past three years. But after Monday’s incident, anything less than a suspension will be a farce.

When Shanahan was officially announced as the Leafs’ new president on April 11, the Sun attempted to contact Quintal about his thoughts on the new job. A league spokesman politely responded by saying the Quintal wasn’t making any public comments because he wanted to stay low key.

So much for low key, Mr. Quintal. Time to take a stand. Another one.

At this rate, there will be quite a few more coming your way, too.

Cross Checks

This is what Minnesota coach Mike Yeo told the Edmonton Sun’s Robert Tychkowski last month when asked about Cooke. “He’s changed his game. Self-admittedly, he’s had to adapt a little bit here, (because of) suspensions earlier in his career.” Sorry, coach, but what’s that old adage about a leopard not changing its spots? ... Hawks defenceman Duncan Keith claimed Monday he couldn’t recall whether he said, “Wakey, wakey,” to Backes after the Blues captain was left woozy by the Seabrook hit. No problem, Duncan. Just listen to the audio from Game 2, which clearly identifies you saying it. Keith is getting ripped on many fronts including by a number of former players for crossing the line when it comes to trash talk. Backes did not play in Game 3 Monday night ... The most significant aspect of the Penguins overcoming a 3-1 third-period deficit to defeat the Jackets 4-3 in Game 3 Monday - Sidney Crosby only registered one point all night. Credit the supporting cast for picking up the slack.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


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