Tuesday, April 29, 2008

2007-08 Rink Wrap: Matt Cooke

From Backstrom to Steckel, we're taking a quick look at and grading the 2007-08 season for every* player who laced 'em up for the Caps during the campaign (and is still with the team) with an eye towards 2008-09. Next up, Matt Cooke.

Contract Status: UFA; 2007-08 salary of $1.525M
Age (as of October 1, 2008): 30
NHL Seasons (including 2007-08): 8+
2007-08 Regular Season Stats: 78 games played, 10 goals, 13 assists, +1, 91 PIMs (17gp, 3g, 4a, +5, 27 PIMs for Washington)
Key Stat: Cooke's 198 hits were ninth in the League among forwards.
Surprising Stat: Cooke's 16.7 shooting percentage as a Cap is 4% higher than his single-season best.

The Good: Cooke seemed energized by the trade that brought him to D.C. Skating mostly on the second or third line, played at just under a 15-goal/34-point pace, which would pro-rate to the second-best year of his career for those stats, while his pro-rated plus-24 rating would be a career best. He had two multi-point games as a Cap, which is as many as he had had in his previous 65 games as a Canuck. Cooke protects the puck well, finishing with the second-fewest giveaways-per-minute-of-ice-time of any Cap (Boyd Gordon was first) and drew more penalties than he took - always important for the type of "energy" guy he is, especially given how strong a penalty killer he is. [Note: those last two stats are based on Cooke's full season stats]

The Bad: Despite all the hitting (I still maintain that every one of his shifts is a checking from behind penalty waiting to happen), yapping and agitating, Cooke got in only two fights all season (and only has ten in 583 career games), which won't earn him much respect in certain circles. He had a 20-game goal-less stretch as a Canuck and was pointless in seven playoff games for the Caps, despite numerous glorious scoring chances (including a pair in the 2-0 Game 2 loss... and I thought this guy had a flair for the dramatic).

The Vote: Rate Cooke on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential for the season after he was traded to the Caps - if he had the best 17 games you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst 17 games you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.

The Question(s): Potentially an unrestricted free agent come July 1, should Cooke be in the Caps' plans for 2008-09? If it comes down to a choice between Cooke and Matt Bradley, who would you re-sign? If Cooke is back, what will it take for him to earn a 10 next year?

If you've missed any of the previous 2007-08 Rink Wraps, click here, get caught up, and vote - polls will stay open for a while.

* And by "every," we mean every one who played more than just a handful of games.


Kim said...

I really like Matt Cooke, and respect the way he came here and won over the fans and bonded with the team.

However, I love Matt Bradley.

Both Matts have a lot of the same qualities, but Brads does seem to have more of a level head (I do not see him as a checking from behind penalty waiting to happen). I also think Brads has the edge on the leadership savvy.

This is just a gut feeling, but I think with a whole year under BB Matt Bradley will stand out even more. If we can't have both, my pick would be Matt Bradley.

Chuck G. said...

I agree with Kim. I gave Cooke a 7 because he was the energy guy I expected but also a decent on the PK and forechecker. I still wish he put those goals away in Game 2 but oh well. I think if it comes down do it, keep Bradley over Cooke because we definately don't need to crowd the forward position with so many prospects waiting to come up. In the chance they re-sign Cooke, if he has a +20 rating, 15 g(third liner)/ 20+g (second liner) and around 40-50 pts, that'd give him a 10 from me.

Tyler said...

I can't see 24 coming back. He made $1.5M last year. I think that Matt Bradley at ~$800K brings many of the same attributes.

JP said...

I like Cooke's superior penalty killing and offensive upside, but really appreciate Brads' willingness to stick up for teammates, and something about Cooke's game has never sat well with me, in a Sean Avery/Jarkko Ruutu kinda way (and even those guys are willing to drop 'em).

He was a good fit down the stretch, but I don't think it's important to bring him back.

JP said...

(And by "superior" and "offensive upside" there, I meant relative to Bradley, in case that wasn't clear)


1) Considering what he replaced/was acquired for (Pettinger)his contributions have to be looked upon as VERY positive.
2) Almost immediately he seemed to mesh with the team. Killed penalties effectively. Was a very good 'agitator' which was a component the caps were missing. At the right price, should be resigned.

Anonymous said...

I'd take Bradley over Cooke. Bradley is better on the boards, more speed, fights more... had a better playoffs.

Burton said...

If you are looking to clear some cap room, here it is. Pains me to say it. Great acquisition in mid-season.

~Mark said...

As much as I like saying "Cookie", I have to choose Brads. He drops the mitts, has great speed, never met a check he didn't like, and is actually pretty good offensively (occasionally).

I'd say no to Cooke even if the question wasn't an either/or. If the dude can't pick up his scoring in the Caps system, he's basically never going to.

b.orr4 said...

This is a tough one because Cooke and Bradley are basically the same player. They're both 29 and they both play the same role on the team. However, Cooke is a better goal scorer having reached double digits in goals six times. Brads has never scored more than nine goals. Cooke is also a +19 for his career while Matt is a -18. To me it comes down to money and team chemistry. I'd like to have them both, but Brads is going to cost less and he's been here longer. I vote no to resigning Cooke.

Tyler said...

The Caps have plenty of cap room. Cap room is not an issue.

Payroll and organIzational budget is the issue.

b.orr4 said...

Not true. Cap room will be a huge issue this year. Ovechkin goes to $9 million next year, Semin to $4.2. They have to resign Green to huge dollars, Laich will get a big raise and Fehr, Gordon and Morrisonn all have to be resigned. Then there will the $5-6 million it will take to resign Huet and maybe the $2-3 million to get Federov back. And Alzner, with bonuses, will probably count for another $2 million. Their budget could easily be in the $50-55 million range next season.


1) Right now the Caps have 34 mil commited to 13 players. Huet will cost in the 5-6 mil range. Green will likely get 4-5 mil. Thats already about 43-45 for 15 players.
2) Thats without Laich, Fehr, Gordon, Eminger and Morrisonn. Conservatively thats another 5 mil. So, even without signing a UFA the Cap's payroll could be pushing 50 mil!

shaggy said...

Team needs would seem to indicate that you can't have enough muscle, especially for a playoff run, but that muscle has to finish plays too.
Cooke and Bradley basically play the same role, but to me, the Caps need to replace what they lost when Petty fell off the cliff: a tough kid who can play the PK and find the back of the net.
I think Brads and Cookie are sort of redundant.
Paging Eric Fehr, please...your train is leaving the station. I too echo the sentiment that we need some room for a couple of the Hershey kids to break through, Bourque, Gordon, even Bouchard or Perrault.


1) Should also add that IF Pothier has to retire his protracted salary would NOT count against the cap, freeing up another 2.5 mil.

Caps Dreamer said...

Brads, definitely. Better deal for the money. The Caps overall needed Cooke's grit in the playoffs and will probably need more grit next year, too, but between the two I'd keep Brads.

Tyler said...

The Cap numbers/players I'm reading in various posts appear to be incorrect. Please see here.

Tyler said...

Also, the NHLPA expects the 08-09 cap to be in the $56-57M range.

hotdog88gt said...

I would never base a decision to keep a guy on whether he fights or not. Two Bradleys are better than one. Resign him.

Tyler said...

OK, "hotdog," here are the Caps' likely forward lines:


And that's without 91 coming back. It's lineup with no place for 43, who is (remarkably) under contract. That means that 24 would be paid ~$1.5 million to start the season as a Clymer-esque seven-figure healthy scratch.


1) Who's 17? Is he still day to day? Seriously, after 5 months of not playing, and still not being ready you can't pencil him into any lineup.
2) Congrats to Ovechkin for his Hart nomination. Its probably a slam dunk he'll win the award as the biggest anticipated competition he had in our opinion, Nicklas Lidstrom, wasn't even nominated

breed16 said...

In a perfect world, Brashear is out and both Bradley and Cooke stay, and split the pugilistic duties.

In reality, it's clear one of them has to go. Bradley has earned himself a role on this team, Cooke will find his niche elsewhere.

exwhaler said...

Brashear's enforcement role is worth far more than Cooke (who, as Japers pointed out, hardly ever fights), which is why the Caps resigned him during the season.

Count me in the Bradley camp. Cooke always felt like a hired gun, and in that role, he did very well. Plus, Bradley and Brashear have some good chemistry (with either Steckel or Gordon) that really stepped up during crunch time.

With the Caps' upcoming roster and salary issues* this off-season, Cooke's a guy they could afford to lose.

*Tyler, the link you posted simply confirms what people have been posting--Semin's going to 4.2 mil., Ovie's up to 9 mil., Clark goes to 2.75 mil., and Laich, Morrisonn, Gordon, and, especially, Green are all due new contracts after good to great seasons. That's gonna cost Leonsis.

Ogre said...

I'd rather not pick between the two. I don't care if he doesn't drop the mitts, he strikes me as an Esa Tikkanen who hasn't missed the back of a wide open net in a stanley cup final game. Cooke quickly became one of my favorites, and if you're pencilling people in, I'd rather have him in the line up than Fehr, for now, and truly, I love Fehr.

I wouldn't mind keeping everyone and pencilling in Alzner or Boomer instead of Pothier (sorry, bud.)

Tyler said...

Look at the overall team salary number in the link I posted and compare it to post(s) here. I think it's also likely that the Caps buy out Ben Clymer. I agree with those here who have posted that Pothier seems likely to go off the books under the 'major medical' provision.

Marky Narc said...

I was never really much of a Cooke fan. Not when he was in Vancouver and only slightly more when he was here. Honestly, I could take or leave him and wouldn't bee affected either way.

That out of the way, Cooke was a good pickup at the right time and considering how abysmal Petty's season was up until his trade, unequivocally an improvement to the roster. (Pettinger is a classic case of Jason Allison syndrome: stuck in a rut and needing a change of scenery.) But there's nothing Cooke did or will do on a checking line that isn't or couldn't be done by just as capable hands who was already there before he arrived.

The "pest" factor doesn't really mean much to me. He wasn't out there goading opposing players into drawing unnecessary penalties. Cooke gets a 5 and a thank you for his service.

Tyler said...

Also the number of players the Caps have under contract was stated incorrectly. (I'm not sure how useful a number that is anyway -- every RFA in town will, at the very least, be QO'd.

breed16 said...

exwhaler: Brashear's enforcement role is worth far more than Cooke (who, as Japers pointed out, hardly ever fights), which is why the Caps resigned him during the season.

This is where we disagree. Brashear brings fighting and "toughness" but nothing else. Cooke brings toughness plus speed, PKing, and ten goals. If you adequately disperse Brashear's enforcy-ness (not a word but should be, meaning superstar protection, toughness, and fighting) amongst the two, you're looking at an offensive, skating, and PK upgrade at no additional cost.

Of course this is all moot because Brashear is re-signed but what's a good sports blog without moot discussion?

breed16 said...


I meant to say "disperse the enforcy-ness amongst Cooke and Bradley with a healthy dose of Erskine, Steckel, and Clark"

See what I mean.

b.orr4 said...

I wanted to add one other thing on Cooke. Although I've stated I'd take Bradley over him, I have to say that Cooke really bought into being a Capital. From the start he always used the term "we" when referring to the team (something Huet almost never did) and he was the only one of the deadline three who said repeatedly how he'd like to come back. I don't know what's going to happen with him, but if he ends up getting resigned, I won't be unhappy.

Anonymous said...

agreed...Cooke was a great addition and Petts gets a new start at home.

My big knock on Cooke is he's not enough of a pest and not enough of a fighter to fill either of those roles "alone"...

I'd like to see him back at the right price (and Brads)

Anonymous said...

Just to add a late point to the mix...

I liked Cooke's play in the regular season but didn't think much of him during the playoffs.

He might have switched his style up so that he wouldn't attract penalties but he did nothing for me during the series.

Brads for the win.

exwhaler said...

>>>Look at the overall team salary number in the link I posted and compare it to post(s) here.<<<

Tyler, the numbers of total team salary next season post here are estimates based on how much the Capitals will have to pay to keep Huet and the RFAs (most of whom probably would not "be happy" with a qualifying offer, since they're coming off of actual contracts and had excellent seasons). That's clearly stated, and that's those posters' point--to keep the important RFAs on the team today (Green, Morrisonn, Laich, Gordon) along with Huet (not to mention add contracts for Karl Alzner and Chris Bourque), the Caps' cap room will be eaten up very quickly.

The numbers at that site also back up faux's posting of the Caps' cap sitting at $34 million right now, which is the only post here that deals with current salary numbers.


Breed, my point about Cooke compared to Brashear was that there is no comparison. Brashear is an enforcer while Cooke is an agitator. One fights, the other doesn't. That's two completely different roles. There's no real enforcement in Cooke's game--he's our Ryan Hellwig.

The Capitals don't have a real agitator. The thing is, the majority of teams in the NHL don't have one either. I don't see that role as essential on a team. You replace Bradley with Cooke, you take away a guy who does fight for someone who's a turtler.

Just to clarify...Cooke didn't score 10 goals with the Caps. He scored 3. Brads scored 4 over the same period of time. That's not an upgrade in that department.

Cooke's other attribute--PK--is not enough reason to bring him back and take up a roster spot that can be filled by someone in the system or by someone hopefully coming back from injury (Clark), or dollars that can be given to Green, Morrisonn, Gordon, or Laich.

Brian said...

I am fascinated by today's conversation as it ties into yesterday's discussion about Bradley "vs." Cooke. I see even more exchanges of opinions in the coming days :)

The only way I get to see the Caps is if they play a Canadian team on Saturday or Versus shows them, so I really can't add anything to any defenseman debate. I will say that the comments about every defenseman's play this year has left me a bit bewildered. Poti seemed the most consistent but I think he was out with injuries twice this year. Green had a breakout season, but he did have a mid-season slump. When Morrison was healthy, people generally pleased about his play. As for the rest (Schultz, Jurcina, Erskine, Eminger) it seemed like they went through streaks where people called for their heads and other times when people thought they had turned the corner.

Given the players that ended the season and the players in the pipeline, I can easily see any one of the defensive "Flub Four" to be packaged with one of a handful of forwards in a trade this summer. What GMGM would trade for, I'm not sure. Then again, I would not have guessed that we'd get Fedorov, Cooke, and Huet at the deadline, either.