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72-79 WHA CALIBRE & effect on NHL

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08-27-2010, 08:11 PM
  #1
pappyline
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72-79 WHA CALIBRE & effect on NHL

I find that most posters here completely ignore the WHA but give full credit to NHL accomplishments during the WHA period. How should WHA Stats be regarded & how should NHL Stats be downgraded during that period. The NHL certainly had more top level talent than the WHA but what about the second & third line talent. IMO, they ere about equal. Another point to consider is that WHA teams won the majority of exhibition games with the NHL which at the very least indicates that the Top tier WHA teams were better than the lower tier NHL Teams. I am looking for thoughts on the following:

How should we rate NHL performances during the WHA era. Should the accomplishments of Orr, Esposito, Lafleur be downgraded because of the weak & unbalanced NHL of that era.

How should we rate the Top WHA players-Hull, the Howes, Lacroix, Tardiff etc.

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08-27-2010, 08:30 PM
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I don't know if Orr and Esposito are the right players to use as examples since Orr was already scoring 33, 37 and 37 goals in the three years before the start of the WHA, and Espo's numbers were 43, 76 and 66 in the same period, and their numbers didn't take a sudden upturn over the first few years of the WHA.

While the defecting players had an effect on their former NHL teams (the Seals in particular lost their core nucleus of developing young players and never recovered), I don't believe the number of players lost, as a whole, was enough to cause a significant weakening of the calibre of play league-wide. I think the expansion in 74-75 did more to dilute talent and cause an uptick in scoring than the WHA ever did. Look at some of those 10-0 games where Boston and Montreal toyed with the expansion Capitals like a cat with a mouse...

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08-27-2010, 08:42 PM
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pappyline
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Originally Posted by SealsFan View Post
I don't know if Orr and Esposito are the right players to use as examples since Orr was already scoring 33, 37 and 37 goals in the three years before the start of the WHA, and Espo's numbers were 43, 76 and 66 in the same period, and their numbers didn't take a sudden upturn over the first few years of the WHA.

While the defecting players had an effect on their former NHL teams (the Seals in particular lost their core nucleus of developing young players and never recovered), I don't believe the number of players lost, as a whole, was enough to cause a significant weakening of the calibre of play league-wide. I think the expansion in 74-75 did more to dilute talent and cause an uptick in scoring than the WHA ever did. Look at some of those 10-0 games where Boston and Montreal toyed with the expansion Capitals like a cat with a mouse...
I know expansion had already helped Orr & Esposito's numbers But i think the WhA helped keep them up there (BTW, I am a big Orr fan). Actually the expansion of 74-75 was a direct result of the WHA in an effort to keep them out of those markets.Another way that the WHA caused a dilution of the NHL>

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08-27-2010, 10:37 PM
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Originally Posted by pappyline View Post
I know expansion had already helped Orr & Esposito's numbers But i think the WhA helped keep them up there (BTW, I am a big Orr fan). Actually the expansion of 74-75 was a direct result of the WHA in an effort to keep them out of those markets.Another way that the WHA caused a dilution of the NHL>
Personally I don't think Orr and Espo were affected at all by the WHA. Maybe in a negative way because Boston was probably hit hard by the WHA more than any other team. But there was no stopping those guys, they were truly generational talents. Look at Esposito making a mockery of the scoring title all those years. This was against Hull, an old Howe, Ratelle, his own non-Orr teammates, Clarke

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08-27-2010, 10:44 PM
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Originally Posted by pappyline View Post
How should we rate NHL performances during the WHA era. Should the accomplishments of Orr, Esposito, Lafleur be downgraded because of the weak & unbalanced NHL of that era.

How should we rate the Top WHA players-Hull, the Howes, Lacroix, Tardiff etc.
Well the proof is in the pudding. Hedberg and Nilsson were supreme in the WHA and neither of them got more than 78 points in an NHL season. Or Marc Tardif for example? There is no way the guy is a superstar in the NHL, but in the WHA. Robbie Ftorek? Come on. We have clear proof what that guy accomplished once he was in a real league and not the minors (WHA).

Maybe early on in 1973 when the fad of the WHA existed was there a little drop in quality but even by 1976 just take a gander at the Canada Cup roster. Arguably the best roster of all-time and all but one of them (Hull) played in the NHL. Rene Robert was cut from that team if that tells you anything. So if the WHA had such rare talent then why didn't the Marc Tardifs of the WHA fill those spots rather than Sittler, Clarke, Dionne, Lafleur, etc?

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08-27-2010, 11:12 PM
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Canadiens1958
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Marc Tardiff

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Originally Posted by Big Phil View Post
Well the proof is in the pudding. Hedberg and Nilsson were supreme in the WHA and neither of them got more than 78 points in an NHL season. Or Marc Tardif for example? There is no way the guy is a superstar in the NHL, but in the WHA. Robbie Ftorek? Come on. We have clear proof what that guy accomplished once he was in a real league and not the minors (WHA).

Maybe early on in 1973 when the fad of the WHA existed was there a little drop in quality but even by 1976 just take a gander at the Canada Cup roster. Arguably the best roster of all-time and all but one of them (Hull) played in the NHL. Rene Robert was cut from that team if that tells you anything. So if the WHA had such rare talent then why didn't the Marc Tardifs of the WHA fill those spots rather than Sittler, Clarke, Dionne, Lafleur, etc?
Marc Tardiff. Well three months before the start of the 1976 Canada Cup Marc Tardiff had a career/life changing experience when attacked by Rick Jodzio in the 1976 WHA playoffs during the Calgary / Quebec series:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marc_Tardif

The severe head injuries included brain contusions. Effectively precluding him from the 1976 Canada Cup team and rendering him a shadow of the hockey player that he was for the rest of his shortened career.

Did not post more descriptive links since they might be against board policy. Google marc Tardiff Rick Jodzio and the first page of the results will provide additional details.

Big Phil. This is a history board. You should have known this.


Last edited by Canadiens1958: 08-27-2010 at 11:15 PM. Reason: clarification
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08-27-2010, 11:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Phil View Post
Well the proof is in the pudding. Hedberg and Nilsson were supreme in the WHA and neither of them got more than 78 points in an NHL season. Or Marc Tardif for example? There is no way the guy is a superstar in the NHL, but in the WHA. Robbie Ftorek? Come on. We have clear proof what that guy accomplished once he was in a real league and not the minors (WHA).
Tardif was 30 by the time of the merger.. many players of that era were done their scoring years by then.. and he still put up 400 points in 500 nhl games. His peak was in the WHA but he did well in the NHL sandwiched on both ends.

Kent (the other) Nilsson had seasons of 131, 104 and 99 points in the NHL and is considered one of the most purely talented hockey players ever. He just decided the NHL wasn't worth the effort it required.

From what I understand Mark Howe turned into a pretty decent NHL defenseman too.

Real Cloutier was younger at the time of the merger and put up over a point per game in his NHL career as well.

Certainly the NHL was a tougher league but the WHA wasn't exactly peewee level either.


Quote:
Maybe early on in 1973 when the fad of the WHA existed was there a little drop in quality but even by 1976 just take a gander at the Canada Cup roster. Arguably the best roster of all-time and all but one of them (Hull) played in the NHL. Rene Robert was cut from that team if that tells you anything. So if the WHA had such rare talent then why didn't the Marc Tardifs of the WHA fill those spots rather than Sittler, Clarke, Dionne, Lafleur, etc?
Because there was a definite anti-WHA bias in the selection of the team?


Personally I think the expansion followed by the WHA startup really strained the talent pool. The disparity in the 70s was really bad at times in the NHL.


Last edited by BraveCanadian: 08-27-2010 at 11:28 PM. Reason: clarity
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08-27-2010, 11:39 PM
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The WHA

Used to catch a fair number of WHA games every season in Quebec - seeing every league team at least once per year.

The impact of the WHA comes down to three assumptions.

1.) at any time in the NHL how much of the third line talent is readily replaceable? Example a player like Ron Buchanan at age 28 joins the WHA after two small tryouts in the NHL and a long minor league career. Yet he leads the the Cleveland Crusaders in scoring during the 1972-73 season.

2.) that important veteran talent - Dave Keon as an example. If such talent stayed in the NHL would it have found an appropriate team where an impact would have been made?

3.) does the NHL Amateur Draft lower its age from 20 to 18? Two years of WHA as opposed to 2 junior seasons impacts junior hockey much more than the NHL if the Draft age stays at 20.Probably helped a number of them since they played against pros as opposed to juniors that they could dominate so in the end when they joined the NHL they were better players.

The talent level in the WHA was such that it would have been impossible to put together a single team from the pool of players as it was to contend for the Stanley Cup. The team would be in the bottom third of the playoff teams at best.

As for the WHA stats and records.Outside of Marc Tardiff, Real Cloutier and Mark Howe the defineable WHA talent was not their.For the three players in question their WHA stats do not overcome the injury issues that impacted and shortened their careers. As for the others - Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Bernie Parent, Gerry Cheevers, Dave Keon, they make the HHOF without their WHA performance being considered.


Last edited by Canadiens1958: 08-27-2010 at 11:40 PM. Reason: typo
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08-28-2010, 12:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Canadiens1958 View Post
As for the WHA stats and records.Outside of Marc Tardiff, Real Cloutier and Mark Howe the defineable WHA talent was not their.For the three players in question their WHA stats do not overcome the injury issues that impacted and shortened their careers.
I'm a little surprised you didn't include Hedberg and Nilsson in that grouping. Do you feel they could've been elite offensive players in the NHL without Nilsson's injury problems, or if their style would've fit in better under a different coach than Shero?

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08-28-2010, 12:38 AM
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Originally Posted by reckoning View Post
I'm a little surprised you didn't include Hedberg and Nilsson in that grouping. Do you feel they could've been elite offensive players in the NHL without Nilsson's injury problems, or if their style would've fit in better under a different coach than Shero?
Anders Hedberg put up solid number for the Rangers, of course they were nothing compared to his run at 2 ppg in his last WHA season, but they were solid numbers none the less.

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08-28-2010, 01:45 AM
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Originally Posted by pappyline View Post
Another point to consider is that WHA teams won the majority of exhibition games with the NHL which at the very least indicates that the Top tier WHA teams were better than the lower tier NHL Teams. I am looking for thoughts on the following:
The Jets and Nordiques, for example, would have probably done okay in the NHL, but still I think The Habs (duh), Bruins, Flyers, Sabres, Islanders - at least - would have been too much for them to handle; just don't talk about any Stanley Cups.

I don't know what to say about those exhibition games, except that as far as I can remember, almost every time a WHA team faced a genuinely good NHL team (like the Flyers), they got beaten. NHL was so uneven at the time that there was a huge gap between the top 5-6 and the rest. Top WHA teams beating the crappy NHL teams in exhibition games doesn't prove that much IMO.

The Finnish great Matti Hagman (who played for the Bruins and later Oilers in the NHL and for the Nordiques in the WHA) - while being critical of the NHL and the coaching there - has said that the difference between the two leagues was "huge" - in NHL's favour. That is just one opinion, but I have no reasons to doubt it.

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08-28-2010, 02:18 AM
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Accomplishments in the WHA are worth something, just not as much as NHL accomplishments. they should definitely not be just ignored.

At the same time, there was some pretty good talent in the WHA. Does it affect Orr, Esposito, Lafleur? I don't think so at all. But, guys who made the top-10 and top-20 in scoring would see their spot in the overall pecking order drop if Howe, Hull, Hedberg, Nedomansky, Tardif, Savard, etc were in the NHL. There is a long list of marginal NHL players who had a one season stint as a top-20 goalscorer or playmaker during the WHA era, and in a deeper league I don't think that happens. So yes, when it comes to counting top-10 or top-20 seasons, you do need to be careful for 1970s NHL players.

Luckily most great WHA players also had some NHL seasons that can serve as a better reference point for what their capabilities were. On average it appears that a player could score at about 65% of their WHA level, in the NHL. Some more, some less, obviously. And I'm not interested in seeing a mass formula applied to all these numbers to try to normalize them to the NHL, it would be an abject failure. But just based on what some players did in both leagues. 65% looks like a decent starting point for judging how "impressive" a player's WHA season was.

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08-28-2010, 06:51 AM
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Hedberg and Nilsson

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Originally Posted by reckoning View Post
I'm a little surprised you didn't include Hedberg and Nilsson in that grouping. Do you feel they could've been elite offensive players in the NHL without Nilsson's injury problems, or if their style would've fit in better under a different coach than Shero?
Talent and having the preparation for the rigors of an 80 game NHL - 3 games in 4 nights, regular season plus playoffs with the multi time zone travel are distinct. Looking at Ulf Nilsson's pre WHA history:

http://www.hockey-reference.com/play...nilssul01.html

you see a background of seasons and games with low physical demands against mainly minor league competition. Throwing in the handful of WC games each season or international exhibition games
upgrades the schedule but not sufficiently. Very few players are like Borje Salming who can adapt to the difference and have a long, high end career. Two examples - Inge Hammerstrom, Mats Naslund.

http://www.hockey-reference.com/play...y=games_played

Eliminate Bob Nystrom from the list since he had a Canadian background, and the number of games played by those who had a complete career between 1972 and 1990 does not equate to 10 complete seasons with the exception of Salming. True even if the WHA career is added.

Years ago - O6 era when the junior schedules were much shorter, season length was a major obstacle in the transition between junior and pro. Playing an extra 2-3 months against physically mature men is not a trait acquired during the summer off season.Usually took 2-3 years if it developed at all. Even today you have juniors who peak as teens.

Injuries more often than not are a function of fatigue and a lack of overall preparation.

Getting back to Hedberg and Nilsson, the raw talent was there but the lack of a sufficient hockey background shortened their careers. Would have happened with or without the WHA and regardless of the NHL coaching.

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08-28-2010, 06:58 AM
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Originally Posted by seventieslord View Post
Accomplishments in the WHA are worth something, just not as much as NHL accomplishments. they should definitely not be just ignored.

At the same time, there was some pretty good talent in the WHA. Does it affect Orr, Esposito, Lafleur? I don't think so at all. But, guys who made the top-10 and top-20 in scoring would see their spot in the overall pecking order drop if Howe, Hull, Hedberg, Nedomansky, Tardif, Savard, etc were in the NHL. There is a long list of marginal NHL players who had a one season stint as a top-20 goalscorer or playmaker during the WHA era, and in a deeper league I don't think that happens. So yes, when it comes to counting top-10 or top-20 seasons, you do need to be careful for 1970s NHL players.

Luckily most great WHA players also had some NHL seasons that can serve as a better reference point for what their capabilities were. On average it appears that a player could score at about 65% of their WHA level, in the NHL. Some more, some less, obviously. And I'm not interested in seeing a mass formula applied to all these numbers to try to normalize them to the NHL, it would be an abject failure. But just based on what some players did in both leagues. 65% looks like a decent starting point for judging how "impressive" a player's WHA season was.
Just to add to what 70s said, here's a great post by Hedberg in the MLD where he concluded that 0.75 was a good multiplier for WHA numbers:

http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=2...9&postcount=44

There's no definite answer, but somewhere in this range seems reasonable.

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08-28-2010, 08:45 AM
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Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
Just to add to what 70s said, here's a great post by Hedberg in the MLD where he concluded that 0.75 was a good multiplier for WHA numbers:

http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=2...9&postcount=44

There's no definite answer, but somewhere in this range seems reasonable.
There were 87 players who played at least 20 games in the WHA in 78/79 and at least 20 games in the NHL in 79/80. The average ppg of those players were 0.594 in WHA and 0.469 in the NHL, 79% of the WHA production. The median ppg was 0.570 in the WHA and 0.404 in the NHL, 71% of the WHA production. So your number seems reasonable.

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08-28-2010, 09:56 AM
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There were 87 players who played at least 20 games in the WHA in 78/79 and at least 20 games in the NHL in 79/80. The average ppg of those players were 0.594 in WHA and 0.469 in the NHL, 79% of the WHA production. The median ppg was 0.570 in the WHA and 0.404 in the NHL, 71% of the WHA production. So your number seems reasonable.
Matnor do you have the average and median ppg of the NHL in 78/79 to compare to 79/80?

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08-28-2010, 09:59 AM
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Matnor do you have the average and median ppg of the NHL in 78/79 to compare to 79/80?
Edit: The mean was 0.483 and the median 0.432 in 79/80 and 0.480 and 0.436 in 78/79


Last edited by matnor: 08-28-2010 at 10:10 AM.
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08-28-2010, 10:31 AM
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Edit: The mean was 0.483 and the median 0.432 in 79/80 and 0.480 and 0.436 in 78/79

Thanks, I was curious about that.

I'm actually surprised it is that close, all things considered.

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08-28-2010, 10:36 AM
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Simply inaccurate

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
Just to add to what 70s said, here's a great post by Hedberg in the MLD where he concluded that 0.75 was a good multiplier for WHA numbers:

http://hfboards.com/showpost.php?p=2...9&postcount=44

There's no definite answer, but somewhere in this range seems reasonable.
Using Marc Tardiff is awkward due to the Rick Jodzio incident and the impact short and long term on Tardiff's abilities.

Multipliers would have to go both ways NHL to WHA, WHA to NHL. If 0.75 proves to be a good multiplier for WHA numbers then one should not assume that 1.33 would be the appropriate multiplier for NHL numbers.

Also a comparison of numbers for the NHL/WHA/NHL career path as opposed to the strict NHL path.


Last edited by Canadiens1958: 08-28-2010 at 10:44 AM. Reason: Simplification.
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08-28-2010, 11:03 AM
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I'm a little surprised you didn't include Hedberg and Nilsson in that grouping. Do you feel they could've been elite offensive players in the NHL without Nilsson's injury problems, or if their style would've fit in better under a different coach than Shero?
Or if they still had (a younger) Bobby Hull on their left wing?

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08-28-2010, 11:17 AM
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I find that most posters here completely ignore the WHA but give full credit to NHL accomplishments during the WHA period. How should WHA Stats be regarded & how should NHL Stats be downgraded during that period. The NHL certainly had more top level talent than the WHA but what about the second & third line talent. IMO, they ere about equal. Another point to consider is that WHA teams won the majority of exhibition games with the NHL which at the very least indicates that the Top tier WHA teams were better than the lower tier NHL Teams. I am looking for thoughts on the following:

How should we rate NHL performances during the WHA era. Should the accomplishments of Orr, Esposito, Lafleur be downgraded because of the weak & unbalanced NHL of that era.

How should we rate the Top WHA players-Hull, the Howes, Lacroix, Tardiff etc.
WHA teams played those exhibitions like they were the playoffs. NHL teams played them like exhibitions.

Saw the Bruins beat the Whalers 5-0 in Hartford. B's brought their best players probably because of the bad blood with Hartford management when they skipped town in Boston without playing their rent for use of the Garden in their first season. B's led 5-0 after the first period and then played the bottom tier guys for the rest of the game and let Gillies Gilbert stand on his head to get the shutout. The local press played up the fact that the Whalers dominated the Bruins for two periods. The Boston press reported a 5-0 Bruins exhibition win over a WHA team. Highlight of the game was Gordie Howe snapping Terry O'Reilly's head back with an elbow after the naive kid took liberties with the old man in the corner. The Bruin's bench was roaring.

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08-29-2010, 12:12 AM
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Some interesting stuff here and IMO some guys don't take the dilution of the NHL talent and level of play in the post 67 expansion, and the WHA years seriously enough.

To put a multiplier number on stats though is tough as it is only an average IMO but here is some interesting stuff from the 79-80 season were the 4 WHA teams came into the NHL 20f the top 10 and 6 of the top 20 goal scorers were from the WHA.

2 0f 10 and 5 of 20 in assists and in points
6 of the top guys were from the WHA the year before.

Obviously the WHA affected everything that went on in the NHL from 72-79 and sure the great players like Orr and Espo and the perfect storm situation that the Bruins played in would have been similar but anyone who says that it had little or no affect is on shaky ground IMO.

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08-29-2010, 07:01 AM
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Obviously the WHA affected everything that went on in the NHL from 72-79 and sure the great players like Orr and Espo and the perfect storm situation that the Bruins played in would have been similar but anyone who says that it had little or no affect is on shaky ground IMO.
I agree with you and it is one of the reasons I keep on harping on the relative strength of competition being ignored while adjusted stats based on league averages get applied willy nilly.


Last edited by BraveCanadian: 08-29-2010 at 07:21 AM.
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08-29-2010, 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Canadiens1958 View Post
Marc Tardiff. Well three months before the start of the 1976 Canada Cup Marc Tardiff had a career/life changing experience when attacked by Rick Jodzio in the 1976 WHA playoffs during the Calgary / Quebec series:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marc_Tardif

The severe head injuries included brain contusions. Effectively precluding him from the 1976 Canada Cup team and rendering him a shadow of the hockey player that he was for the rest of his shortened career.



Did not post more descriptive links since they might be against board policy. Google marc Tardiff Rick Jodzio and the first page of the results will provide additional details.

Big Phil. This is a history board. You should have known this.
I'm aware of that. He was 24 years old in his last NHL season prior to the WHA (1973). He had 50 points in 76 games. You can't tell me he was a young pup and green by then, he had won two Cups. Also he probably isn't making the Canada Cup team in 1976 anyways unless you have some idea as to who he would kick off.

Also despite the 1976 incident Tardif had 154 points in the 1978 WHA season, leading the league. In comparison only Yzerman, Gretzky and Lemieux have had that many points in a single NHL season. Two years later Tardif is in the NHL and has 68 points in 1980. Followed by 54, 70 and 52. So you tell me, was the WHA clearly an inferior league when a guy like Tardif is putting up those points or shall we rank the guy among the elite in hockey history? I know my answer.

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08-29-2010, 12:55 PM
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Here's another comparison. Robbie Ftorek. Far from a guy who anyone would even mentioned half jokingly as a HHOFer. Ftorek had 59 goals in the WHA season of 1978. Guy Lafleur had 60 that year. Ftorek had 77 assists in 1979 which was the same amount as Lafleur in the NHL and 10 behind Trottier the league leader.

Ftorek then arrives in the NHL and is not even a point per game player despite being in his late 20s.

Sure, the 1970s did have a few players gone to the WHA that would have still been good in the NHL but they were few and far between. Ftorek wouldn't have been a star in the NHL. Come to think of it, he WASN'T a star in the NHL.

Even so, in the 1970s there were still tons of players vying for the awards. Esposito, Orr, Dionne, Clarke, Sittler, Trottier, Bossy, Lafleur, Ratelle, Perreault, Lemaire, Barber etc. I stand by my theory that while some other eras of the NHL had tougher competition there was never a time when the NHL was easy and the 1970s shouldn't be considered easy either unless you don't respect those above names

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