It is true that Cooke does have a terrible history in this league when it comes to supplemental discipline. Five different times between 2008 and 2011, Cooke was suspended for illegal hitting. His worst hit was a elbow to the head of Bruins F Marc Savard, but he did not receive a suspension, as the play was deemed to be within the rules. Following the hit, the league made substantial changes to its hitting policy, focusing on hits to the head.
Following his last suspension in 2011 (a suspension that caused him to miss the entire postseason), Cooke took it upon himself to change his game. He wanted to still be that gritty player, but play within the rules. He took the time to go over his hits, and studied how he needed to change. In the time since he studied how to change, Matt Cooke has not been suspended. In fact, its hard to remember an instance where you said, "Thats a dirty play."
In addition to the changed physical play, Cooke also improved his overall game significantly. Offensively, he has decent speed, good hands, and can score 12-15 goals a season. Defensively, he buzzes around the puck causing issues for the opposition (mainly from his physical play), and has been one of the Penguins top penalty killers the past four seasons.
Cooke also brings ample playoff experience with him from Pittsburgh, playing in 58 playoff games with the Pens. He was part of their 2009 Stanley Cup championship squad, scoring one goal and six assists on the Pens third line during that postseason run.
If you all want to hate the baggage Matt Cooke brings with him to Minnesota, fine. But hate the baggage, not the player. The player is much different from when he used to antagonize the Wild with Vancouver many years ago.
You need to ask yourself, why is Matt Cooke here? Is he here to throw elbows around and get suspended several times? Absolutely not. So you need to get over that fact real fast. Because Matt Cooke is here to help this team win. And I know most of you can't believe this when I say he CAN help this team win.
If you are going to be rash and hate the Wild because they have Matt Cooke, go right ahead and hate them. But I'll be right there to show you the door.
We all need to trust in what Chuck Fletcher is doing. Teams who contend for the Stanley Cup every year are not built overnight (this is by no means saying we are going to win the Cup on the sole premise of signing Matt Cooke). It takes time. He has a plan for this team as a whole, and he feels Matt Cooke can be an integral part of that plan. We need to start to trust in Chuck (a hashtag I have been using on twitter lately).
Matt Cooke has changed so much. His past is indeed in the past. Care about his future with the Wild, not his past with different teams.
Lets all take a chance and believe in him.
Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell