NHL Notebook: Cooke taking heat for Karlsson's injury

NHL Notebook: Cooke taking heat for Karlsson's injury
February 17, 2013, 10:30 am
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The outrage coming out of Ottawa could be felt all over North America.
 
It’s one thing to lose a player for the season to injury.
 
It’s another when that player is among the super elite, a Norris Trophy winner, and when the injury is potentially career-altering, and the player who inflicted the injury is known throughout the sport as a dirty hockey player.
 
That said, Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke doesn’t deserve the vitriol being directed at him for accidentally slicing the left Achilles tendon of Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson.
 
It was an accident. Watch the replay over and over and there is no other conclusion which is why the NHL league office took no disciplinary action. It wasn’t warranted.
 
“Instantly, your reaction is you just feel awful,” Cooke told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Totally not my intention. Just a freak kind of accident.  I just want him to know I felt bad about the result.”
 
Cooke also said he completely gets it as to why Ottawa is outraged. Any team would be over losing a player to such a devastating injury.
 
Yet that doesn’t mean a suspension was warranted. It wasn’t.
 
Karlsson will need no less than six months rehabilitation. Some athletes require nine months to a year. The Flyers Andrej Meszaros required five-plus months.
 
It was a board play with Cooke finishing a check on Karlsson with puck at the boards.
 
If you’re Sens GM Bryan Murray, your biggest concern is whether Karlsson will be the same player he was. The same, fluid skater, able to turn on a dime.
 
“We’ll recover from this, without a doubt,” Murray told the Ottawa Citizen. “We may not be as talented but I think we’ve got a real good, strong character group and we have to hope they will carry us through.”
 
Teemu Selanne incurred this same injury ages ago, in his second year of NHL play with Winnipeg.
 
“For me, it was about six months,” Selanne said in an interview with the CBC. “I felt soon after that I could play my normal game again. It’s a tough injury, because it’s bad luck, but he can come back from this.”
 
What people in Ottawa, including club owner Eugene Melnyk, are upset over is that as Cooke was trying to get position on a check, he raised and then quickly lowered his skate directly on Karlsson’s left leg.
 
Karlsson felt it was deliberate.
 
“Erik was upset, he thought he got directed,” Murray said. “He got cut with a skate that shouldn’t be where it was, it was a nothing play at the time, it should have been blown down [earlier when the puck hit the netting] … There’s lots of things that could have happened that didn’t happen.”
 
Melnyk went ballistic in the Ottawa Sun.
 
“I can't comment on [Cooke not getting suspended] only because it's not helpful for anybody,” he said. “They came to their conclusions and it's not going to change anything.
 
“I've been talking about goons playing in our league for years now and I'm on record when [Jason] Spezza got hurt and I said that one day it's going to be somebody else's superstar and sure enough within 60 days Sidney Crosby got taken out [in the Winter Classic by Washington's David Steckel].
 
“I'm just hoping that this is something that is looked at for what it is and something positive comes out of what is really a tragedy for us.”
 
Cooke has been suspended five time during his career.
 
“This guy should be kicked ... he doesn't belong in the league,” Melnyk told the Sun. “He belongs somewhere where the goons play.
 
“Get him in the Central league. He can be a $60,000-a-year guy playing pick-up hockey there. The guy does not deserve ... He's got one purpose. I remember when this happened with Spezza. I said, 'If these are the rules, I just want to know.'
 
“We'll play with the same rules. Make sure you have one or two goons whose job is to do this either intentionally or unintentionally. I'm OK with it, just tell me I'm OK with it. I play by the rules. I'm just shocked an organization would do this.”
 
Needless to say, this is one incident that is going to linger long into the future from the Senators standpoint.
 
Associated Press, Columbus Dispatch, National Post, Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Sun and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette contributed to this story.