Reading any Denver paper today, or any Avalanche-themed blog, or any Twitter account remotely connected to the team, you would learn a few things. Avalanche fans, players, and team hack journalists are pissed. Pissed because their darlings were manhandled Thursday in a way no decent NHL team should ever be.* Pissed because their team did nothing to avenge a disappointing playoff loss with even a hollow opening night defeat (hereby known as “pulling a San Jose”). Pissed because Matt Cooke hasn’t been flayed, run through a meat-grinder, and scattered around the continent while his family watches. Yes, that last sentence was harsh, but not nearly as harsh as some of the things said about Cooke on social media by folks within the Silver State since Thursday.
Mark Kiszla, in all his hockey wisdom, wrote about it, which is sound and fury if there ever was anything. Mark Kiszla is the Matt Cooke of hockey journalism. He’s pretty dirty about things, and most intelligent people think he shouldn’t be doing it.
Patrick Roy made some comments about it, because he’s Patrick Roy and he’s kind of an idiot.
And the Minnesota Wild, have said nothing, and for good reason. They were, well, you take it Shooter:
And of course, its easy to take the high road when your player got off with just a suspension, while their guy missed the rest of the season. It’s easy take the high road when your team won the playoff series. And it is certainly easy to take the high road when your embarrassed your opponent on opening night, in a scene reminiscent of this:
(last video clip, I promise).
That is what happens. The victors move on, while the vanquished wail and treat their wounds. It’s natural, but it is not natural to take the spite for your opponent so far that you forget to game plan for actually winning the next game. That is what seems to be happening in Colorado. Through all of the vitriol over Cooke, amplified again as the teams return to Colorado, giving Pepsi Center fans a first chance to call for blood directly too Cooke’s face since “the incident,” the Avalanche aren’t really doing much to improve their dreadful play from the game Thursday. Sure, there was a little chatter in there about jumbling up lines, which is a great knee-jerk reaction after one game. And Matt Duchene yelled at everyone on his team, which should be great for team chemistry. But most of the noise coming out of the mountains has been about retribution, violence and gore, three attributes which won’t help you possess the puck, protect your own zone or score goals. None of which the Avalanche have done yet this season.
What Matt Cooke to Tyson Barrie was at best grossly irresponsible, and at worst a dirty play. I’m still not sure, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be (I was not a fan of it, and he deserved a suspension, but that’s all I’ve got). But does blood-vengeance help your hockey team, which is already behind the eight ball after one game, right themselves? Will putting Mikael Granlund in traction make Avalanche fans feel better? They probably think so now, but it’s a pretty hollow feeling once the vengeance is carried out. Hockey is played by a code, after all, but that code isn’t “The Chicago Way.”
So, if that’s the way it is going to be, so be it. The Avalanche can chase whomever they want around the ice all night. If Thursday is any indication, they won’t catch their intended target anyway, and the Wild can reap the benefits. The Avalanche may be an angry bear right now, but they lack focus, and they need that more than payback tonight. If they aren’t careful, they will end up with neither.
*Seriously, that kind of beating should have been reserved for a quarter-strength preseason roster, or the Edmonton Oilers in mid-February.