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11-14-2012, 04:46 PM
Big Phil
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I think his demise goes further back than people think. It comes before his steroid scandal and even before the eye injury in 2000.

He was a well deserved rookie of the year in 1997. Then came 1997-'98 when he started the season off with a bang. He had 18 points in his first 20 games and I can remember a Hockey News article (back when that magazine was gospel) where he was aiming at 82 points. I thought that was pretty amazing but it wasn't outlandish either. He had skill, he rushed the puck up the ice very well and seemed to have little fear doing it. He was on the US Olympic team in 1998 as well and if anyone remembers the NHL landscape at that time it was predicted that he would win some Norris trophies someday.

I don't know what happened to him in 1998-'99 but he dropped. He had 15 points in his first 31 games with the Islanders and then he was traded. It was strange to say the least. The guy wasn't even 22 years old yet and he was a potential Norris winner. He is traded to Toronto, which was the highest scoring team in the NHL that year. He finishes the rest of the year off with 19 points in 38 games. Not Norris material that's for sure.

Then in 1999-'00 he is still with the Leafs and somehow only musters 30 points in 64 games before the eye injury from Hossa's stick. People that think he could have been something forget that he seemed to have already hit his peak in his rookie season and was going down after that. He was on the Leafs, one of the best in the NHL then and he is definitely not their best defenseman.

You might say, "Yeah well Mike Milbury was nuts, he traded everyone away on the Isles." This is true, but this was a trade that didn't shock anyone for some reason. For once Milbury might have been onto something. I wish I could tell you why he never panned out as a star but my only way of thinking was that Berard just seemed to be a good rusher with the puck and not great defensively. It's true Housley among others wasn't either, but Berard seemed to lack the hockey sense that these others had. Housley had great hockey sense. I never saw that with Berard. So maybe he was becoming an easy guy to figure out earlier than we thought and he didn't have an answer to it. That's my thought anyway.

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