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What If He Had Not Played in the WHA?


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Questions like the one asked in the title of this thread are not uncommon. It is a question frequently asked about guys like Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull, but today, I want to ask about a guy that is much less frequently mentioned in Hockey discussions. The guy I want to discuss in this thread is Marc Tardif.


Why Tardif? I chose him because holds the WHA record for career goals with 316 and has a decent sample of NHL experience before and after his WHA days. I think it fair to say that if he had spent his entire career in the NHL, that this stats would not be as high as his combined NHL and WHA stats, but what would his numbers look like with a full NHL career?


His career began in the NHL, playing for the Montreal Canadiens. He soon proved himself to be a capable goal scorer, posting 31 goals in 1971-72 and 25 in 1972-73. In 1973-74, he made the jump to the WHA, and his goal scoring jumped to 40. If he had stopped there, he would probably be of little interest in the whole scheme of hockey history, but that 40 goal season was just the beginning. In 1975-76, he scored 71 goals in 81 games, in 1976-77, he scored 49 goals in 62 games, and in 1977-78, he scored 65 goals in 78 games.


Now let us look at his return to the NHL. In his last season in the WHA, he averaged 0.55 goals per game and 1.30 points per game. In the first season of his NHL return, he average 0.57 goals per game and 1.17 points per game. Note that there is a bit of a decrease in his points per game average, but his goals per game average increased ever so slightly. If nothing else, that fact gives some level of credence to his goal scoring exploits.


Tardif's stats are as follows: 316 goals, 350 assists, and 666 points in 446 WHA games and 194 goals, 207 assists, and 401 points in 517 NHL games. The combined totals are 510 goals, 557 assists, and 1067 points in 983 games. When considering that his post-WHA years in the NHL were much better than his pre-WHA seasons, and the somewhat limited amount of decline in his stats upon returning to the NHL, I believe he could have been a 400 goal scorer, and would have amassed 800-850 points. I do not think he would have posted a 70 goal season in the NHL, but I do not believe that 55-60 goals would have been out of reach for him at his peak. He probably would have been somewhat short of a point per game average, but I feel that he would have had multiple all-star seasons in the NHL. Tardif is certainly one of the WHA's biggest "what if's."

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His pre-WHA days he was buried on the depth charts in Montreal, still putting up decent numbers but with guys like Lafluer and Cournoyer and Shutt and the rest of the ridiculous depth the Habs had back then, well, there is only one puck to play with. When he came back he was established and played with worse teams but was being counted on as the offense.

Would he have been a HOFer? Possibly. I think if he had remained in Montreal he would have taken the Steve Shutt role because as much as I like Shutty I believe that Tardif was simply a better player and would have risen tot he top. Shutt is in the Hall so obviously if Tardif had outplayed him and claimed his job he would have had a wonderful shot.

Tardif signed with the Los Angeles Sharks and was supposed to be a superstar and put Los Angeles on the map as far as hocket went, but the problem was, he was very quiet and spoke very little English so that didnt work out. When the team moved to Detroit he was dealt to Quebec for Pierre Guite and it was in Quebec that he discovered who he was meant to be as a player.

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My guess is that he would have been a borderline Hall of Famer. I'm not willing to say for sure that he would or wouldn't have made it. I think his chances would have increased if he had left Montreal because of the depth you noted. I do think it's possible that he would have competed for a bigger role in Montreal, but elsewhere, he definitely would have had it. Regardless of whether or not he would have made the Hall, I think he's too often overlooked.

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