Minnesota Wild Player Previews 2013/2014: Matt Cooke


Apr 22, 2013; Ottawa, ON, CAN; Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Matt Cooke (24) in the third period against the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place. The Penguins defeated the Senators 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

As we await the beginning of the new NHL season, I’ll be previewing each of the players in the Minnesota Wild system who will be on the roster, or competing for a place this year. My subject for this edition is Matt Cooke.

(For more info about some of the stats and terms I use in these articles, check out my stats introduction piece).

The Wild made headlines around the league this Summer when they snapped-up UFA forward Matt Cooke, formerly of the Pittsburgh Penguins. I think everyone has heard enough about his history of dirty play and attempt to reform at this point, so I’m going to focus entirely on his present skill. To summarise what kind of player Cooke is, he is a “pest” who is known for being a nuisance around the net with a knack for scoring goals and who is a useful penalty killer.

-Here are some of his regular season numbers from last year:



Cooke scored, a very decent, 21 points last year. He had a sizable amount of PIMs, but this is to be expected as he is still a hard-nosed player, even if he has cut out the extreme side of his game. For a guy known as a pest, his Penalties Drawn rate is a little lower than I expected.

The Penguins had 7 forwards who played regular PK minutes, with Cooke registering the 2nd highest average time. Aside from PK time, Cooke was also able to contribute around 12 minutes 5v5 time a night.

-Here are some more in-depth numbers from last year:



Cooke took-on very tough assignments last year, going up against skilled competition and seeing a low percentage of offensive zone starts. He struggled in this difficult situation, posting Corsi numbers that are heavily in the red. His PDO was a little bit over 1000, suggesting that he had some luck while on the ice, but not a huge amount.

You can see on the chart below just how tough Cooke’s minutes, along with the minutes of his regular pivot, Brandon Sutter, were.

-Here’s the Player Usage Chart for the Penguins forwards who played more than 30 games last year, illustrating the numbers above:

(Click To Enlarge) (Bubble Size=Corsi On Rating. Blue Bubble=Postive. Red Bubble=Negative)

Here’s a chart showing all the forwards who played 48 games in 2012/2013 with an offensive zone start % of 45% or less, and/or a QOC of at least 1.0:

(Click To Enlarge)  (Bubble Size=TOI/G. Blue Bubble=Postive. Red Bubble=Negative. Depth Of Colour=Corsi Amount)

As you can see (aside from the fact that Boyd Gordon was the prize UFA on the defensive forward market), Cooke played roughly the 6th toughest minutes out of all the forwards in that group. Kyle Brodziak, most likely to be Cooke’s centre and PK buddy for the entirety of this year, wasn’t far off at 10th.


As I mentioned above, Cooke will most likely spend the year on the 3rd line with Kyle Brodziak. The RW job could go to any one of Heatley, Coyle, Nino or Torrey Mitchell. No matter who does end up getting that job, that line will be playing in tough, defensive situations most of the time. The Koivu line will help to ease the load to some degree so Cooke should a least see easier minutes than he saw last season.

Cooke appears to be a good fit with the Wild. He brings that “size” that the organisation seems to be obsessed with right now, he has a nose for the net, he’s useful on the penalty kill (important with the departure of Matt Cullen) and he brings some experience to the group. It’s easy to forget that Cooke is 35 and has been in the league since 1998. Because of this. I decided to look at some of the trends of his career in terms of scoring and penalties.

-Here are Cooke’s career goal-scoring (blue) and point-scoring (red) trends:

There’s no real consistent  pattern there, but it’s notable that, after a few years of decline in his points-scoring, his numbers have steadily increased since 2008. Last season saw a dip in his point and goal scoring compared to the previous year. This may have something to do with his quality of linemate (which I will explore in more detail below).

There has been a lot of talk about Cooke cleaning-up his game and trying to become less of a “pest” and more of a useful defensive forward.

-Here’s his career trend for Penalty Minutes Per Game:

The decrease from 2010-2011 to the following season is incredible, but last year saw a slight increase, probably due to Cooke relaxing a bit as the spotlight went off him. You can see that his penalty-taking has been up and down through his career, with no consistent trends developing. It’s hard to say what he will be like for the Wild. The pressure to impress in a new city could bring out the best in Cooke and he could make an effort to keep his PIMs down. But, on the other hand, being away from Pittsburgh and a little further from his violent past could see Cooke return, if not quite to his old ways, to a more undisciplined game.

I mentioned earlier that I would be looking-at Cooke’s quality of linemates  to see if he was carried by the elite Pittsburgh Penguins forwards during his time there. Here are some of his 5v5 WOWY numbers from each of the last 3 season featuring his 5 most common linemates:


-Cooke With Teammate:


-Cooke Without Teammate:


-Teammate Without Cooke:


Cooke had a lot of different linemates in 2011. Talbot was the most regular, but they still spent a ton of time away from each other. They did very well together but slightly worse away from each other. Cooke was a drag on the Corsi numbers of the others, except for Pascal Dupuis who was a drag on Cooke.


-Cooke With Teammate:


-Cooke Without Teammate:


-Teammate Without Cooke:


Cooke once again had reasonably varied linemates in 2012. He caused a slight drag on Kennedy’s numbers. He put-up nice numbers with Staal, Dupuis and Vitale, and all 3 saw their Corsi For % drop-off away from him, though Cooke also experienced a drop-off. Both Cooke and Richard Park did better away from each other.


-Cooke With Teammate:


-Cooke Without Teammate:


-Teammate Without Cooke:


In this shortened season, Cooke spent a good chunk of his 5v5 minutes with Sutter and Kennedy. He and Sutter were awful together in terms of CF% (albeit in tough minutes) and both improved when away from each other, Cooke more significantly. Their GF% dropped-off away from each other. Cooke caused a drag on Kennedy, Neal and Dupuis, though they were most likely playing in far more beneficial situations when away from him.

While Cooke has played with some top quality forwards over the years, there’s not much in his WOWY numbers to suggest he was a passenger on that team. He often played with low-quality 3rd and 4th liners and still managed to produce goals and record decent Corsi numbers. He never caused a dramatic drag on his top-6 level linemates, even when they were often with Malkin/Crosby when not with Cooke. This gives me hope that he will be able to contribute some depth scoring from the 3rd line for the Wild, while still playing a defence-heavy role.

For all the crowing Wild fans have done about what a scumbag Matt Cooke is, I, as I have said from the start, still think that he will be a fan favourite by the end of the season. Personally, I’ll start liking him when Marc Savard plays again, but I’ll be able to tolerate him if he does a decent job and maintains a reasonable level of discipline.

His Season Is A Success If…

…he doesn’t get any suspensions and calms down any fan anxieties about him. Has a nice, quiet year taking-on top competition, killing penalties and chipping in with some offence here and there.


His Season Is A Disappointment If…

….he’s a liability through penalties/suspensions. He puts-up bad Corsi numbers away from Sutter and in a softer situation. He starts to show his age.

Okay, that’s it for Cooke. Next, I’ll be taking a look at Nino Niederreiter and previewing his 2013/2014 campaign.

Hit me up on Twitter for more hockey views/analysis. Yelling at me is encouraged.

Previous articles in this series:

#1-Zach Parise

#2-Mikko Koivu

#3-Charlie Coyle

#4-Ryan Suter

#5-Jonas Brodin

#6-Mikael Granlund

#7-Jason Pominville

#8-Dany Heatley

#9-Jared Spurgeon

#10-Marco Scandella

#11-Kyle Brodziak

*Numbers in this article courtesy of: