Matt Cooke To Miss 5-6 Weeks


The Minnesota Wild announced on Friday that, as Michael Russo had speculated, Matt Cooke required sports hernia surgery, which he has had already and it was successful. He will miss 5-6 weeks.

5-6 weeks is a good portion of the rest of the season, but it’s not as bad as speculation this week had lead fans to believe. “Rest of the season” was thrown around a lot. March 20 puts us six weeks from today’s announcement. The Wild still have 11 games to go after that point.

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You’ll remember that Cooke missed a large part of the beginning of the season — missing games between October 11 and 17, then again between October 28 and December 20. He struggled when he came back in October and has obviously struggled with some lingering issues since his return in December.

That’s all to say that though you can blame injury and be glad that he was a warrior through the injury, he hasn’t been particularly effective for the Wild this season. Cooke won’t be missed as much for the next 5-6 weeks as the team has missed having the Matt Cooke of last season present at all this year.

Last Season

I talked about this a bit over the summer in a piece on Kyle Brodziak’s value, but Matt Cooke was able to not be a drag on the team while absorbing tons of terrible zone starts and a fair amount of penalty kill time. (He was second among Wild forwards last season in penalty kill time to Kyle Brodziak, nearly an entire minute per game ahead of the forward who logged the third most PK minutes per game, Cody McCormick.)

Overall at 5-on-5 last season, Cooke played more minutes, had better Corsi For, worse zone starts, had better Scoring Chances For relative (SCF%Rel), and had positive Goals For relative (GF%Rel) last season. This year, his Corsi For relative is down and his shooting percentage is sky high at 18.2% versus a closer to league-average 9.3% last year. He also, on top of having better zone starts and less game time, has far worse SCF%Rel and GF%Rel.

Take a look at the breakdown of numbers between the two seasons below. All numbers 5-on-5.

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The Penalty Kill

One of the first things said about Cooke’s absence by many is, “He’ll be missed on the penalty kill.” It’s true to some extent. As I mentioned, they leaned on him heavily for penalty kill minutes last season. However, he’s been less effective this season on the penalty kill.

He’s playing less time on the PK and the opposition is scoring more goals per 60 minutes (GA/60) when he’s on the ice during the penalty kill, though he also has had a far worse on-ice save percentage while out on the penalty kill this season. He still logs a lot of penalty kill time, even if that time is reduced. He leads the team in shorthanded TOI/Gm this season.

The save percentage note is interesting, because the Wild have largely had terrible goaltending this season. However, the team’s on-ice save percentage (OSv%) in shorthanded situations is up from 85.7% last season to 86.6% this year. So Cooke’s steep plummet in OSv% can’t be blamed on the overall goaltending slide the Wild have seen this season. Interestingly, Cooke has had a below team average OSv% in shorthanded situations both seasons.

(There are arguments that can explain part of this season’s drop on a smaller sample size and those limited games were through the worst stretch of the season in terms of the team’s overall play and the team’s overall goaltending.)

Here’s a look at the penalty kill numbers over the last two seasons for Cooke.

[table id=28 /]

Cooke’s absence will be noticed, but the team is better off with a healthy Cooke, the Cooke who they had last season (less the hit on Tyson Barrie) than the Cooke they have this year, battling through injury and being less productive on the ice.