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Kovacevic: Senators' tiptoeing on Cooke speaks volumes

| Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013, 9:27 p.m.
Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson limps off the ice as a team trainer arrives to help him after Karlsson collided with Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Matt Cooke during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013. AP file photo
AP Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson grimaces as he falls to the ice after colliding with Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Matt Cooke, left, during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013. Karlsson was helped off the ice. (AP Photo | Gene J. Puskar)

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Dear Ottawa Senators,

Do, please, shut up.

Better yet, speak up.

Say what's really on your mind about Matt Cooke. Say that you believe he maliciously - no, viciously - brought his skate crashing down on the back of Erik Karlsson's ankle with the intent of injuring him.

I'm imploring you. Say so in the simplest of terms.

Because, you know, I don't think any of us has heard you come right out with anything beyond veiled accusations.

Am I missing something?

When Paul MacLean, your coach, was understandably disturbed to lose his Norris Trophy defenseman Wednesday night at Consol Energy Center, this was as close as he came to evaluating the play itself: "We all know who's involved in it."

Meaning Cooke. When pressed upon the play itself, MacLean flatlined: "That's not for me to decide."

When the GM, Bryan Murray, addressed it Thursday in Ottawa, this was his response to the NHL's ruling that the outcome was an accident: "They suggest it was a hockey play gone bad. I suggested that Matt Cooke had somewhat of a history and that maybe that should be considered, as well. I don't believe that was the approach they took. They took it as the individual act."

As for the play itself, the best Murray produced was, "I can't do anybody's else job but my own."

Anyone hear a direct call-out anywhere in there?

Me neither.

But hang on. The best was still to come from Eugene Melnyk, the franchise owner, for crying out loud. He took a ton of shots at Cooke in an interview with the Ottawa Sun published Friday, but this came out, too: "Whether it was accidental or whether it was reckless or whether it was intentional, to me, it doesn't matter."

Oh, that's immaterial?

Seeing the pattern yet?

No one directly accuses Matt Cooke of anything other than being Matt Cooke.

As if that's somehow a case.

As if sifting through Cooke's ugly, five-suspension past - and ignoring the universally lauded change to his game the past two seasons - somehow fully prosecutes a single play in the present.

Gee, wonder why such a cautious approach to criticizing.

Is it because talking about the actual collision would require explaining how Cooke - or any human limited to just two eyes - could target a highly specific body part of a player to his left while the video shows Cooke looking to his right?

Is it because complaining about Cooke raising his leg during the check could prompt someone to easily compile a video montage of how common that technique is?

Wait, Canada's TSN did that?

Right. Coaches and players call it the stick-and-pin, and you can count such checks into double-digits in every game.

So, Senators, what else could it be?

Why not just say you really, really seem to want to say but can't?

Is it because Melnyk already once made a fool of himself by demanding the lifetime ban of Kris Letang - no, really, look it up - for a routine shoulder check that hurt Jason Spezza?

Is it because Melnyk is nervous casting aspersions on fair play when, in his capacity as chief executive of the Canadian pharmaceutical giant Biovail, his misreporting financial statements forced him to settle with the Ontario Securities Commission on a $565,000 fine and a five-year ban from running any public company?

Or that he has paid more than$1 million to settle other claims with the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States?

Should Melnyk be held forever accountable for those transgressions, as Cooke apparently should for his?

Is it because the moment Melnyk blurted out his most boneheaded statement of all - "I'm just shocked that that organization employs that type of individual?" in reference to the Penguins and Cooke - that he immediately grasped the inherent hypocrisy in having employed Chris Neil, Jarkko Ruutu and a list of similar players that's longer than the Rideau Canal?

Wow, imagine if any NHL owner known to more than a dozen people outside Canada's capital had made such a statement, essentially pointing the finger at an entire franchise in relation to one incident.

Imagine if Mario Lemieux had made such a statement.

Only time Lemieux's spoken up about a game incident in his capacity as owner was following that farcical, 15-fight bloodbath on Long Island two years ago. That night, you'll recall, the Islanders actually did act institutionally by promoting nearly every thug on the organizational payroll for the purpose of putting on a circus. Slightly different circumstance.

This was a single play.

And for some reason, our good friends to the north, you don't seem all that comfortable talking about that play.

I'll ask again: Why is that?


Still there?

Dejan Kovacevic is a sports columnist forTrib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @Dejan_Kovacevic.

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