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Stark turnaround: Matt Cooke is Pittsburgh’s Masterton nominee

Mar 17, 2012, 3:28 PM EDT

Matt Cooke Getty Images

The Masterton Trophy in the NHL goes to the player that shows the most perseverance, dedication, and sportsmanship in the game. Every team nominates a player and it’s often the most heart-warming award given out at the end of the year.

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ nominee this year isn’t Sidney Crosby like many assumed it would be. Instead, as Seth Rorabaugh of Empty Netters reports, Matt Cooke gets the call as this year’s potential winner out of Pittsburgh.

Last season, Cooke had one of the most controversial and dangerous seasons we’ve seen out of a player, winding up his season being suspended for latter part of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs. After being read the riot act by both his team and the league, Cooke’s 2011-12 season has been incredibly different.

Gone are the dirty hits and indignant attitude towards opposing players and in their place Cooke showed what he’s capable of when playing it straight.

He’s hit a career high in goals this season and he has just 30 penalty minutes on the year. More goals than minor penalties? Who would’ve thought that were possible after how things ended last season.

Cooke’s case for the Masterton is a fascinating one and puts a spin on things in a different way. Considering how well he’s playing and how clean he’s doing things, Cooke’s gone from being the poster boy for everything that’s wrong with the league to being the icon for how anyone can adapt themselves to the game. We’re guessing Bruins fans won’t quite see things so kindly.

  1. t16rich - Mar 17, 2012 at 3:29 PM

    Haters will hate but our hats should go off to him.

  2. Jeff Thomas - Mar 17, 2012 at 3:38 PM

    I didn’t think it would be Sid because his comeback is still isn’t complete yet. I thought it would be Malkin for coming back from reconstructive knee surgery and probably winning the Art Ross.

  3. uscthom78 - Mar 17, 2012 at 3:51 PM

    He doesn’t want to get knocked out by evander Kane anymore.

  4. joshuakorr - Mar 17, 2012 at 4:03 PM

    His improvement is to be commended. I do think its an interesting “spin” on the award. I would write the article like this – “After on and off bouts with being an incredible douchebag, Matt Cooke miraculously overcame this disorder and showed some regard for players safety. His magical return to the NHL, was frought with setbacks, like the time he told Kris Letang to cut his hair and Letang said “stop being a douchebag.” Small setbacks aside, Cooke had an excellent season. Mark Savard, who presented the award said in his address ‘I didn’t have the privilege of against playing against the more gentlemanly Matt Cooke, but I can attest, he was really quite a douchebag before his recovery.'”

  5. habsman - Mar 17, 2012 at 6:11 PM

    In related news, The Bruins anounced that their nominee is Brad Marchand.

  6. alexb64 - Mar 17, 2012 at 6:17 PM

    Would you give a community “man of the year” award to a guy on probation doing community service? It is nice that Cooke changed his game to be more than just a thug, but he kind of had to or he may have ended up banned from the league.

    • sfbookreviews - Mar 18, 2012 at 1:46 AM

      The problem with your commentary is that Cooke has never been “just a thug’. He’s long been a fantastic penalty killer and chips in a dozen goals a year on average over the last few years. Yes, he’s laid more than a few hits that have rightly drawn the ire of opposing fans and teams, but to label him just a thug is hockey ignorance.

      • alexb64 - Mar 18, 2012 at 12:34 PM

        Guys who aren’t thugs don’t need to change their game to avoid being sent home for good. It’s quacking, it has feathers & 3 nephews named Huey, Dewey, & Louie, so I’m calling it a duck.

  7. frankvzappa - Mar 17, 2012 at 7:48 PM

    The only sports personality I hate more is Bernard Pollard.

  8. kitshky - Mar 18, 2012 at 10:24 AM

    Love the Cooker … glad to see him back. I think this nomination probably is more indicative of him focusing back on the game and overcoming his off ice / family issues he’s been dealing with the past couple years.

  9. nekelund - Mar 25, 2012 at 3:52 PM

    I’m happy for Cooke, but moreso for my fantasy team, the Low Blows. Cooke’s reduced PIM’s were killing me, but now I can win my league thanks to the all-important number-of-Masterton-Trophies advanced statistic.

    Also, is Chris Pronger nominated? He overcame being a dirty player to heroically injure himself, thereby saving opposing players from dirty hits.

  10. nekelund - Mar 25, 2012 at 3:53 PM

    To paraphrase Lionel Hutz: I don’t use the word ‘hero’ often, but you, Matt Cooke, are the greatest hero in American history!

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