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Fishing With Dynamite: Berger Bingo

By now I would imagine that everyone has read the ultimate Howard Berger takedown penned by CoxBloc commenter Varry Galk. While it is certainly difficult to follow up perfection people did not stop playing hockey after Wendel retired so why should bloggers stop calling attention to Howard's horrible writing?

The answer of course is that we should not because who knows maybe one day an editor will read one of these pieces and realize what a crap writer he's been employing. Then again, odds are, based on The Omen, Garrioch, Brennan et al, that Berger would end up getting a promotion instead of the punch in the mustache he deserves. Memo to Howard: in the world of facial hair there is suave and debonair at one end of the scale and "oh dear God please don't open your trenchcoat" at the other end. Guess where yours lies?

I know, I know, we all promise ourselves that we are not going to go to that site or read any of Berger's columns ever again. However, we're already visiting blogs so we are inherently a sports addicted group so naturally once in a while we'll sneak over to that site to partially sate our unquenchable thirst for rumours and innuendo or to see what is the latest insane barb being launched at our fellow fans. Plus, rebutting them is too easy. It's like fishing with dynamite.

Today, via Howard Berger, Leaf fan's greatest sin: Having hope that some of the young players in the Leafs' system might turn out pretty good.

Does not sound like a mortal sin does it? Well, wait until you see how Working Class Howard proves his point. It is a new (and of course hilariously sad) low for the Mustachioed Maven of Make-Believe.

If you dare to endanger your eyes you can read Berger's post over at that site or you can check out the four screen caps [One Two Three Four] I made to ensure that he could not delete the offending articles or passages (standard shady Hockey Buzz practices). If, however, you have neither the desire to make your eyes bleed or to send clicks The Fraud's way then today is your lucky day because I've compiled the highlights.

Working Class Howard
I have to wait and see what the young guy can do in the NHL before offering an educated opinion.

What a wonderful start to the post. Maybe Howard will look at comparables for Kulemin or maybe he'll talk to some Russian experts or maybe even to some of the Leafs' actual scouts. That's why he has a job right? It gives him access to those kinds of sources and that sets him apart from bloggers right? So where did Howard go?

Working Class Howard
One of my frequent correspondents copied me this rose-colored outlook from an Internet chat board:

A 'frequent correspondent'? How exciting! I wonder who it could be? Kulemin's old coach Dave King or maybe Dave Morrison, the Leafs Director of Amateur Scouting, or possibly one of the European scouts like Peter Ihnacak or Thommie Bergman? Nope. He's just referring to this guy's chat room signature. Wow. I wonder if anyone that pays WCH for his work knows that he is writing his stories based on random chat room signatures?

Then again, WCH could still take the journalistic approach and look at what might make a fan believe that Kulemin could pot 42 goals this season and what might make that seem a tad unrealistic. Who am I kidding? The sportswriters in The Centre of the Universe have come up with some doozy arguments for why the Leafs will not win the Stanley Cup or any other award but here's the kicker:

Working Class Howard
In the 74 seasons in which the Calder Trophy has been presented, a total of nine Maple Leafs players have won the award – but none since Brit Selby, 42 years ago [in 1965-66]. Kulemin would therefore bust off an impressive famine if he were to cop rookie-of-the-year honors.

Wow, using history as predictive tool. Yikes. Somewhere stockbrokers are laughing their ass off:

Obscenely Rich Guy # 1: Maybe we should be careful about investing. Things could take a quick turn for the worse and we'd be in trouble

Obscenely Rich Guy # 2: Ha! It's 1987 my good man! Stocks haven't plummetted since 1929! It'll never happen again.

Obscenely Rich Guy # 1: Excellent point! Quite right. There is nothing to fear except the wrath of the colonists. (note: These voices should sound British. Also, the guys are wearing monocles).

Obscenely Rich Guy # 2: Quite right. Let's make sure that we are pitting the kind of poor against the really poor. They'll never figure out that they outnumber us wildly.

Obscenely Rich Guy # 1: Brilliant!

I guess most teams in the NHL can fold up their tents since it's been so long since they've won the Cup that it would take a miracle for them to do it again.

Now, I wonder what other young player on the Leafs WCH can drag into his stunning analysis...

Working Class Howard
Naturally, this hasn’t prevented success-starved followers of the Blue & White from dreaming in Technicolor... a symptom of just about every off-season in recent memory. It wasn’t long ago that Alex Steen was going to be the Leafs’ savior, and a top point producer. Kulemin is the Steen of 2008. Practically every line projection my e-mailers send me has Kulemin on the No. 1 forward unit, whether or not Mats Sundin returns.

Kulemin is the Steen of 2008? He's going to put up 45 points as a rookie even though he will only play part of the season on the top line and basically no powerplay time? Or is he the Steen of 2008 in that he's at least partially a comparable player to a Red Wing player whose deal was (predictably) slobbered over by the media while the Leafs' deal is now crap? Since when did three years of improvement as a player become a bad thing? And do you want to know why Kulemin is projected on the top line Howie? Because Cliff Fletcher himself intimated that he would be getting that kind of opportunity this year.

To be fair to Howard, he does provide some pretty damning evidence of Kulemin's inevitable mediocrity. Just look at these completely, in no way at all cherry picked, valid evaluations of Kulemin's talent:

Working Class Howard via Hockey's Future
While Kulemin is unlikely to ever develop into a top line scoring sniper, his upside is that of a very capable third line checking forward who would also be able to fill in on the top lines in the case of injury.
Working Class Howard via Russian Prospects
does not possess a huge upside, but is a safe choice who will deliver well in the role described above, but will never become a top line forward in the NHL.

Ouch. He sure showed all of one ridiculously optimistic Leaf fans what a dud Kulemin is going to be in Toronto. Wait, I think I've read the reports that Howie is quoting. I am pretty sure that there are some details that he is missing.

Hockey's Future
not a very imaginative player, but makes solid, responsible decisions with the puck...strong skater with an above average top speed...works very hard to get back into his zone...responsible defensively...drives hard towards the net and plays with a lot of intensity...has a solid frame, even though he is not overly big, he is physically built and plays bigger than his height...fights hard at the boards and in the corners... doesn’t avoid contact, in fact seems to look for it and bring the game to his opponents
Russian Prospects
He brings a physical edge to his team and a strong work ethic. He has shown a scoring touch, especially on the national team. His style will transfer well to the NHL and considering Kulemin's achievements on the international arena, including the World Championships squad in Latvia, he is one of the top Russians players eligible for the 2006 NHL Entry draft.

And that's not all from Hockey's Future. There is an in-depth pre-draft interview and then Kulemin pops up in their top 50 NHL prospects list at 42:

Not known for their prowess on draft day, the Maple Leafs may very well have pulled of a heist with the selection of this Russian sniper in the second round of the 2006 NHL draft...With major changes expected in Toronto next season, it would be quite a surprise if Kulemin did not make the team. He could step in right away as a top six forward and be a strong candidate for the Calder Trophy.

Of course, one really huge detail that he is missing which Norman kindly points out:

The quote you posted in your Kulemin article from his HockeyFuture's bio is outdated and was written during his 05-06 season when Kulemin was playing a 3rd line role and put up 5 goals and 8 assists in 31 games.

Since then, he's gone on to win the RSL MVP award, back-to-back 20 goal seasons, and lead his team to the league championship (2007).

It's not fair to remind Howard that the top 50 ranking has only been on the internet since April 10, 2008. He cannot be expected to have read that much of the intertubes. He is still on 2006! You can probably imagine Howie's response but it rhymes with Go Phoque Yourself. Considering Berger's total lack of interaction in the comments on his blog maybe he just doesn't know how to navigate those two websites so he does not have an accurate picture of their views on Nikolai Kulemin.

At Hockey's Future he's rated 8.0 but what does that mean?

8 - First line forward / No. 2 defenseman / No. 1 goaltender -- players with definite skill that might be just a cut below elite status, but still possessing All-Star potential. Think Patrik Elias, Keith Tkachuk

Wow! That's insane. All-Star potential and borderline elite skill set? Well, I guess it's good but Detroit would have drafted a 10.0. What about Russian Prospects? Steve actually took a look a while back and things seem pretty good. What are other Russian players ranked? Ok, Kulemin's an 88, Ovechkin is a 99, Poni is an 83, and Nikita Filatov, the player that the Leafs 'should have drafted' (quote - every jackass commenter) is ranked the same as Kulemin. Maybe the hype is at least partially justified. Just a little. Of course, the hypocrisy of Berger dismissing hype while working for The Fraud is not lost on everyone:

False predictions is pretty funny coming from a guy who blogs on the same site as Eklund.

Leave it to Down Goes Brown, while on vacation, to leave us the inspiration for a new game. I'd suggest making it a drinking game but it would probably leave you in a booze-induced coma:

Reference to legions of vague, impossible to verify correspondence from "my e-mailers" that proves his point... check.

A single cherry-picked example of an optimistic Leaf fan... check.

Lack of any links to other blogs or web sites, an appearance in the comments section, or any other type of interaction with the readers that every other blogger in the world does... check.

Use of a fictional limo driver character... nope, not this time.

Use of the word "delusion"... check.

Lack of any evidence of Howard actually speaking to a real live Leaf fan... check.

Wait... hold on...

I CALL HOWARD BERGER BINGO!

I win! I win! I did it!

I also picked out:

  • Ignoring proof that his theory is wrong
  • Sporting that smug picture that makes small children scream "Stranger Danger"
  • Bad enough to move Hockey Buzz commenters to start a petition to get him removed (seriously, this happened)

What other squares would you put on Berger Bingo?