Stealing Money

December 18, 2013 6:27 am

The talking points around the Toronto Maple Leafs always leaves me slightly in awe. While the Leafs are floundering away, TSN 1050’s Leafs Lunch program on Tuesday (click here to listen to the segment) decided the time had arrived to ask questions about winger Nikolai Kulemin. This is the Kulemin who has become deployed solely as a defensive player since a career year in 2011-12. Below is the exact comment that was made by Ray Ferraro about the 27 year old winger:

what are you paying Kulemin right now, $3 million? [It's actually $2.8] Um, somebody making $700 grand can do the same thing. I like Kulemin in the sense that he tries hard and seems to be a team-first guy, but uncle. At the end of the day, they look at that board that hangs from the roof – the $5 million dollar scoreboard – and it’s about those numbers up there. And he doesn’t compute ever on there.

The fact that Ferraro thinks somebody who makes $700,000 can play every night against the oppositions’ best offensive players is hilarious. Ferraro (who used to play the game) grasps situational hockey, right? I mean, he understands that a player used solely in a defensive role is going to have his offensive production limited, doesn’t he? How much offense is expected from a player who never plays on the power play and whose main job is to be defensively responsible? Kulemin continually fails to get properly recognized for what he brings to the Leafs. I guarantee people will definitely miss him when he’s gone.

To say Kulemin doesn’t compute ever offensively is incorrect considering he has a career high season of 30 goals and 57 points on his resume. Is that a high water mark for the winger that he probably will not accomplish again? Maybe, but that doesn’t mean he has never produced. It also demonstrates that the ability is there. Keep in mind his career season is also better than big time UFA signing David Clarkson who has a career high of 46 points and earns $5.25 million a year, first line centre Tyler Bozak career high 47 points for $4.25 million a year and Dave Bolland – whom Ferraro opined was due a contract around 6 years and $30 million dollars – who has a career high of 47 points. Yet Kulemin is the player accused of not being productive? Kulemin is not only more valuable than all three of these players to the Leafs due to his defensive ability, but he also has a better track record when it comes to providing offense.

How about if we look at it this way: Kulemin (136)  has actually outscored all of Clarkson (125), Bolland (130) and Bozak (90) throughout their individual careers at even strength. Hmm, so where does this point about Kulemin not being an offensively capable player come from? Why is he being singled out in any way? I don’t know which circles Ferraro is frequenting but 27 year old wingers that are above average defensively (if not elite) aren’t easy to come by. It’s just odd that of all the places Ferraro decided to point a finger at, Kulemin’s lack of offensive production ended up being the one.

Based on what he has provided in the past, it goes to show that if Kulemin was actually used in an offensive role he can be quite a productive contributor. In fact, last season (in what was viewed as a down year for Kulemin offensively) he still managed 23 even strength points to Bozak’s 18, Clarkson’s 16 and Bolland’s 10. This season, Kulemin is on pace for 14 goals and 32 points over an 82 game season. For a player who does not ever get placed in offensive situations, those are very solid numbers. Ferraro’s point is one that was similarly used against Mikhail Grabovski last season. Deployment is a key factor when evaluating production, just ask Chris Kunitz or Teddy Purcell.

Looking at it solely on that $5 million dollar scoreboard that Ferraro felt like bringing up, Kulemin is actually worth quite a bit to the Leafs. One thing that these numbers demonstrate: he is definitely not capable of being replaced by a $700,000 player. I’m not going to get into the more in depth analytics. If you look at them though, the value of Kulemin is evident. For the sake of just looking at the plain numbers that demonstrate a player’s value, Kulemin is worth every single penny of the $2.8 that he is currently making.

Below is my interaction with Ferraro about this topic. If you don’t feel like reading it, scroll past to the bottom.

Is the basis for this entire argument the fact that Kulemin missed an open net against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night? I certainly hope not. Ferraro is an analyst for the biggest hockey broadcaster (for now) in Canada, does he not do his research prior to coming to such conclusions?

Personally I enjoy Ferraro and his radio segments on TSN, but the fact that he feels it necessary to slag on Kulemin of all people really baffled me. This was the same criticism that was launched towards Grabovski last season and it has now been transferred over to Kulemin. Talent, effort and production are on display every time Kulemin wears the blue and white. Continuously misidentifying and misusing the pieces on your roster only to allow them to walk for free is a sign of a bad organization. The Leafs have begun to do so and it is time they both recognize what the assets are in order to begin to turn the ship around and retain valuable members of their team. It may be time for people like Ferraro to understand these things too.

This article was written by on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 6:27 am. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
  • LeeM

    you have all those nice stats pointing to kulemin being underrated yet when tweeting with those guys and they actually responding to you, your only come back is “you’re wrong”. Next time send facts their way instead. It will make all of us feel better hehe.
    That exchange you posted makes you look like a chump imo
    The article is great though.

    • hope_smoke

      Don’t you think a ‘professional’ like Ferraro should be aware of those stats? I guess it’s my fault for assuming he actually knew what he was talking about. He’s wrong, whether I provided the facts in a twitter conversation or not is irrelevant.

      The reason Ray was so worked up was because he thought I was calling him anti-European. That was the basis of our conversation. Odd that he misinterpreted my comment and assumed it was about him being xenophobic? When people are too defensive about something it certainly raises questions.

      Thanks for the comment.

      • LeeM

        You know that guy has no clue. Don’t pretend you don’t know that. The best way to shut him up is to say exactly what you said about ev points for instance, might actually get somewhere with him. He doesn’t know you like “we your readers” know you so insinuating things to him is pointless.

        • hope_smoke

          I guess

  • Dan

    Like I mentioned to @mlse last night on the twitter, I think Ray is a little more than bitter than he isn’t even the best hockey player in his household — his wife, Cammie, was a complete boss on the ice…his rants are more than bit delusional. I’m thinking that he thinks the faults of the Leafs lie with the players and the management is due no grief…

  • Killawatt

    Kulemin scored 30 goals once in the NHL and it was now four seasons ago under Ron Wilson. He’s never come close to that number again, neither playing for Ron Wilson OR Randy Carlyle. His big year is looking every bit like a one-off.

    Yet, I’m with you, I like Kulemin a lot and I feel like he’s always just around the corner from another “breakout” year. He has all the tools. The skating, the physical play, the shot and the smarts. But the longer he has seasons scoring less than 0.45 PPG he’s going to be seen as a defensive asset and yes, people are going to think that $2.8M dollars is too much money for that role.

    The team is losing. People start looking for players to blame. It’s Kulemin’s turn I guess.

  • Gordie

    Living on the west coast I unfortunately get more Ferraro than I can handle. Day in and day out he takes shots at the Leafs at every opportunity during his segments on the western sports talk circuit. He clearly has an anti-Leafs bias so I am forced to take most of what he says as just another troll spewing non-fact based nonsense that crumbles when faced with well researched fact based arguments so aptly demonstrated here.