If Bobby Orr Didn't Have Knee Issues, How Much Better Would His Career have Been?

Discussion in 'The History of Hockey' started by Weissy Baby, Aug 19, 2017.

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  1. Weissy Baby

    Weissy Baby Registered User

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    Bobby Orr is almost undisputedly considered the greatest defenceman of all time, and one of the four greatest players of all time. However, knee injuries really disrupted the latter periods of his career, and I wonder how much longer he could have played at such a high level if it wasn't for these issues.

    So I'm asking if Bobby Orr didn't have knee issues how much longer would he have played, how many more points do you think he would have finished with, how many more individual trophies do you think he would have won, and do you think he would be able to dethrone Gretzky as the greatest hockey player of all time in the minds of most fans?
     
  2. Plural

    Plural Registered User

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    Considering he was only 26 when he played his last "healthy" season, a lot better. After that it was 36 regular season games in 4 years.

    Without his knee giving up I'm confident he'd be widely regarded as the greatest player ever. His last full season he scored 135 points! BTW, how in the hell did Vachon get more Hart votes than Orr that year? Were the kings really that bad so the contrast was so huge? His backup, Edwards went 15-3-8 while Vachon was 27-14-13
     
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  3. Sentinel

    Sentinel Registered User

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    Currently he has the benefit of not having a tail end of career ("The Bossy Effect"). Just to balance out his potential accolades.
     
  4. Canadiens1958

    Canadiens1958 Registered User

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    Big 3

    The major issue is not the longevity but with a healthy Orr would we also have the opportunity to discuss a Boston Big 3 - Orr, Park and Bourque.

    That is where you would have the main focus comparing greatness.

    How they would have played together? What would have benn the sum of the parts.
     
  5. bobholly39

    bobholly39 Registered User

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    Im of the opinion that Gretzky > Orr because Gretzky > Orr head to head in the best years. Meaning Gretzky isn't only ahead because he played longer, and even if he had retired at age 26 i'd still have him #1. But i know a lot of others don't share that and believe Orr was better on a per game basis.

    Defenders usually age better then forwards. So very possible Orr would beat out Gretzky on longevity in a fully healthy career.

    Gretzky didn't necessarily age super well. I know compared to other players in the league he was still fantastic in the 90s - but I think Orr could have aged better, maybe. Probably enough to overtake him as #1 all time with enough longevity.

    But - it's a guess. For all we know Orr could have aged bad too
     
  6. ImporterExporter

    ImporterExporter I troll harder than Poppy

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    Had Orr had relatively good health for another 10 years.....I personally think he'd be almost universally regarded as the greatest hockey player ever.

    His dominance and impact on the game with the usage of defenders is amazing even with his short time playing.
     
  7. Crosbyfan

    Crosbyfan Registered User

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    IMO he would have peaked all around at 28-30, even given that he would have been healthier throughout the early part of his career, and still could have been better, again as an all around player, in early thirties than he actually was early twenties.

    We saw the genius and talent of Orr, but we did not see his best potential as a player.
     
  8. blood gin

    blood gin Registered User

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    I know the 70's were not a low scoring era, and Orr's teams generally scored a lot, but it would've been cool seeing him in the 80s...even if he would've been in his 30's by then.

    What kind of point totals could he have put up say, 1979-1984 (let's say he retires in 1985) No doubt he'd hit 100 again.
     
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  9. Weissy Baby

    Weissy Baby Registered User

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    Absolutely! I personally think he could have lasted until 1986-1990, but I also wonder how many more Norris trophies he could have won, although I doubt he would be able to steal a Hart away from prime Gretzky.
     
  10. The Panther

    The Panther Registered User

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    Think a lot of this depends on where he was playing. Remember, from 1976, he was a Blackhawk -- because of Eagleson, not because of his knees. So if that stays the same, we have a very Gretzky-like situation, where this once-in-a-lifetime talent plays from age 28 or so for a struggling franchise with flashes of achievement, but not very competent team support.

    Had he stayed in Boston, it's likely a different story, since the Bruins stayed near the top from the late 70s through 1984.
     
  11. tony d

    tony d Registered User Sponsor

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    If he had been healthy he would be the unquestioned #1. As it is many consider him #1. To me Gretzky's #1 but Orr is #2.
     
  12. vadim sharifijanov

    vadim sharifijanov ugh

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    i wonder if the real question isn't whether bobby orr would be the undisputed greatest player of all time, or if the biggest consequence to an alternate history with a healthy orr is where phil esposito would rank.

    if bobby orr was healthy, would they have even needed to trade esposito and hodge for park and ratelle? and in the eight games before the trade in '76, espo scored at a 106 point pace without orr. once he was traded, he slowed down from that and scored basically 80 points a year for the last five full seasons of his career.

    i don't know quite how to "read" that 106 point pace. i'm guessing it was a combination of cherry's bruins being a better offensive team than the rangers team he went to (so the 106 pace being higher than the subsequent 80 point pace), bobby orr not being there (so the drop from the previous year's 127 down to 106), and espo's natural aging and decline. but if orr is there over the next half decade, i'd figure espo would still be contending with lafleur (and orr) for the art ross and putting up 110-125 points for at least 2-3 extra years, and probably also staying around the 100 point range up until he retires. and maybe orr even extends his career by a few years.

    let's estimate that gives espo one more art ross, two more runners up, and 2-3 more fringe top tens to round out his career. let's also add 80 goals and 80 assists to his career totals (+40, 40, 30, 30, and 20 in his last five full seasons).

    so if he still retires in 1980, espo finishes with 790 goals, 940 assists, and 1,730 career points. he already retired second all-time in goals and points, but he leapfrogs mikita for second in assists in this scenario. more importantly, that puts him within spitting distance of howe's records. does espo stick around to compile himself to #1? knowing what i know of espo, it's hard to believe he wouldn't.

    i also don't think, however, that a healthy orr-led boston in the '79 season could have possibly finished low enough to have the top ten pick that landed bourque.

    edit: oh wait, i forgot that boston schrewdly acquired the bourque pick from LA. in that case, we saw how much bourque learned under park's tutelage. in this alternate scenario, would we also be talking about how much greater historically ray bourque would have been with orr as his mentor? (plus, orr probably cuts into potvin's norris trophy case so potvin vs. bourque might not even be a question at all.) makes the head spin.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2017
  13. Boxscore

    Boxscore #OldNHL

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    Let's say he played until he was 36 (1984-85) ... and he didn't have the short years from 75-79, we're probably looking at:

    A) 5-6 more Norris Trophies - (13-14 total)
    B) 1-2 more Hart Trophies - (4-5 total)
    C) Potentially another Stanley Cup (3 total)
    D) *Today is still the NHL's highest scoring defenseman (career)
    E) Is considered the clear GOAT, ahead of Gretzky

    That's 10 extra full(ish) seasons for Bobby.

    *Let's say he averaged 73 GP /per season - that's 730 more GP (1,387 total); placing him 15th all-time among GP by a Dman.

    Let's say during those years, he averaged 0.992 PPG (Denis Potvin's career average; factoring old years). That is a conservative PPG in my estimation, considering Orr's career PPG was a sickening 1.393.

    So, assuming he played 730 extra games ... at a 0.992 PPG he scores another 724 points. That gives him a career total of 1,639 points. That places him ahead of Bourque and his 1,579 points, despite playing 264 less games.
     
  14. Johnny Engine

    Johnny Engine Moderator

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    Nitpick - Hodge went to New York in a separate trade for Rick Middleton.
     
  15. Dissonance

    Dissonance Registered User

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    The other really fun question is what would have happened if Bobby Orr's knees had been healthy for the 1972 Summit Series.

    Does Canada win easily? And if so, what happens then? Team Canada's close call had all sorts of far-reaching ramifications. It kicked off a regular international hockey tournament and the Canada Cup. It was a factor in helping bring more European players over to the NHL. North American teams realized they had to focus more heavily on off-season training and preparation, etc. etc. (IIRC, the shock of the summit series heavily influenced how Fred Shero built the Flyers in the 1970s.)

    Most of those trends were probably inevitable, but I do wonder if some of the changes might've come about more slowly if an Orr-led Canada had dominated in 1972.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2017
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  16. BobbyAwe

    BobbyAwe Registered User

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    If they obtained Park because of losing Orr, would they have had all 3?
     
  17. vadim sharifijanov

    vadim sharifijanov ugh

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    oh wow, i never knew that. espo + vadnais for park + ratelle. then at the end of the season hodge follows espo to NY and the Bs get nifty.

    hate to lose esposito, but that is a nice nice haul for boston isn't it?
     
  18. Canadiens1958

    Canadiens1958 Registered User

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    Idea

    The key idea behind the trade was having both, effectively coming close to Montreal's Big 3 in terms of TOI.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2017
  19. Leafsdude7

    Leafsdude7 Stand-Up Philosopher

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    I think this'll be quite similar to my question in an earlier thread asking about the effect being signed by Montreal would have had on Orr's career, but I think it's worth asking anyway:

    What I think one must consider is what effect Orr's continued career would have on the NHL as a whole, style-wise. If Orr plays into his mid-30s, meaning he plays into the mid-80s, does that lessen or delay the emergence of the run-and-gun, wide-open 80s, or does it develop like it did without him?

    If its the former, I think Orr puts up, let's say, ~1300 points? That would put him around Gilbert Perreault, 3rd all-time among defensemen behind only Coffey and Bourque. If it's the latter, I would imagine he passes Coffey and Bourque quite easily and gets near the 1600s in points, probably passing Espo's 1590.

    This is, of course, assuming nothing damages his scoring prowess outside of injuries, especially later in his career.
     
  20. Dennis Bonvie

    Dennis Bonvie Registered User

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    They hadn't lost Orr yet when they obtained Park.
     
  21. Boxscore

    Boxscore #OldNHL

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    You are correct Sir.
     
  22. Crosbyfan

    Crosbyfan Registered User

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    Wow. Too many "what ifs?" rolled into one. Early years he would have been the best player on a Team including an aging Beliveau and Henri Richard. Might have been even better (no doubt better defensively IMO, maybe less points but top on the Team rookie/sophomore season aside), and possibly safer on the knees overall. Later the "big three" on defence become Orr plus "those guys". The rest of the League folds...or do they all succumb to a black hole...who knows

    Beliveau might have more Cups but be looked on differently (he probably wouldn't have it any other way)

    Maybe we would be talking:

    Orr GOAT, with Gretzky, Howe, Lemieux and Lafleur as the "Big 2-5"
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2017
  23. kytem2

    kytem2 Registered User

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    The Bruins only picked up Park because they knew Orr was done.
     
  24. tinyzombies

    tinyzombies Registered User

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    Eagleson stole Orr's money, so there's every possibility he would have gone to the highest bidder (Boston being notoriously cheap). Ballard likely would not have shelled out the cash. Montreal was also cheap back then, so no to the Habs as well. Maybe Jack Kent Cooke signs him and he goes to the Kings years before Gretzky did it and plays with Dionne? Dionne got $1.5 million contract over 5 years with the Kings in 1975, so doubtless Orr would have asked for more and longer term. He was 28 in 1976 when his contact with Boston ended. So, assuming he asks for a similar 5 year contract for more money, that makes him a free agent again at 33 in the summer of 1981. Could he have then been an Oiler? Pocklington was throwing crazy money around at the time. Shave a few Islander Cups away if that happens and take away that Habs Cup in 86.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2017
  25. cupcrazyman

    cupcrazyman Chex Lemeneux

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    Maybe they would become the dynasty of the 70's

    Matching up vs Robinson,Lapointe & Savard would have been classic
     

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