October 17, 2016

Bobby Orr

"He's the perfect hockey player."

Those are the words of Boston coach/GM Harry Sinden, who had the best look at Orr on a nightly basis and insists Orr is the best player ever because he blended extraordinary talent and a brand of toughness that no one else has ever possessed.

"(Gordie) Howe could do everything, but not at top speed. (Bobby) Hull went at top speed but couldn't do everything. The physical aspect is absent from (Wayne) Gretzky's game. Orr would do everything, and do it at top speed."

To make matters even more interesting, Orr was the sport's most dominant player, arguably its perfect player, and he did from the blue line. By doing so Orr revolutionized the game of hockey. His slick passing and playmaking and his end to end rushes were unheard of by a defenseman. Only the very very best forwards would try a solo effort. Orr did it seemingly effortlessly, and so convincingly, therefore forever changing the hockey landscape.

Perhaps the great writer Jack Falla sums it up best:

“Orr had broken scoring records by such huge margins and played with such creativity and abandon as to alter a half century of tactical hockey orthodoxy about the proper role of a defenseman.”

Before Bobby Orr defensemen were counted on primarily for defensive purposes. They would rarely join a rush, never mind lead one. They stayed in front of the net and helped clear the puck out of the defensive zone. Their main job offensively was to get the puck out of their end and create a quick transition game. The best players would almost always be forwards.

But the kid from Parry Sound, Ontario played like a forward, while still delivering sound defense. His display of end to end rushes and his mastery on the point of the power play changed the way offense was generated, and how defenses would cover them. He was simply the most skilled player the NHL has ever seen, even more so than Wayne Gretzky or even Mario Lemieux, both of whom benefit from the game revolutionized by Orr.

Orr won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 1967. He would finished second in scoring among defenseman with 13 goals and 41 points, astounding numbers in those days. Harry Howell won the Norris Trophy that year, but was quoted after being named the winner - "I might as well enjoy it (Norris Trophy) now, because I expect it's going to belong to Bobby Orr from now on." He would be proven correct.

By 1969 Orr set an NHL record for defensemen scoring with 64 points including 21 goals. The following season he would nearly double that point total to 120 points based on 33 goals and 87 assists, becoming the first defenseman to score 100 points in a season, and the first (and only) to lead the league in scoring! In three years Orr obliterated scoring records not only for defensemen, but for all players.

The 1970-71 season was Orr's best statistically, as he piled in an amazing 139 points based on 37 goals and 102 assists. No player had ever scored 100 assists in one season before, and only two have since (Gretzky and Lemieux). Remember, this was all before Wayne Gretzky's offensive rewriting of the record books. These numbers were even more mind-boggling than Gretzky's considering Orr was a defenseman, and the era he played in.

1974-75 would rival the 1970-71 season as Orr was on a mission to become the first defenseman to score 50 goals. He came up just short, finishing with 46, but added 89 helpers for 135 points. No defenseman has ever scored 50 goals since, although Paul Coffey bettered Orr's total by 2.

All this time Orr was bothered by knee surgeries. However he managed to play a full schedule for the most part. During his prime he played 75-80 games, with the 1972-73 season being the lone exception. He played in only 63 that year, yet still managed 101 points.

He would end up winning the Norris Trophy as best defenseman for 8 consecutive years. In 1970 he became the first player in history to win down four individual trophies in one season. He won the Norris, Art Ross (Top scorer), Hart (MVP) and Conn Smythe (MVP in playoffs). He ended up with 3 Harts and 2 Smythe Trophies, as well as two Stanley Cup rings.

Speaking of Stanley Cups, Orr may have scored the most famous playoff goal in hockey history. Orr's overtime goal that won the final game of the playoffs and brought the Cup back to Beantown for the first time in 29 years. Just 40 seconds into overtime of game four, Orr took a centering pass from Derek Sanderson right in the slot and shot it past a sprawling St. Louis Blues goaltender, Glenn Hall. As soon as the puck hit the back of the net, Blues defenseman Noel Picard would hook Orr's skate with his stick, sending Orr flying through the air. The picture of Orr celebrating the winning goal in mid-flight will forever be etched in the minds of hockey fans all around the world.

Orr finished his career with 270 goals and 915 points in 657 games, absolutely mind boggling numbers for a defenseman. He remains as the only defenseman to lead the NHL in scoring. He held 12 individual records at the time of his retirement. He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1979. Perhaps the greatest accolade given to Orr was the by the fans. The Boston Globe once conducted a poll of New Englanders to determine who was the greatest athlete in Boston history. It was not Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Bob Cousy, Bill Russell or Larry Bird. The winner was Number Four, Bobby Orr.

Often overlooked is Orr's physical attributes. He was a ferocious body checker and an astute shot blocker. People would often tell Bobby not to sacrifice his body, because his knees couldn't handle the punishment, and he was good enough to play without that abuse. Bobby would simply reply "It's the only way I know how to play."

Orr's brilliant career was shortened by bad knees. Had he been able to continue for a few more years, maybe there would be no question as to who is the greatest of all time.

In January 1998, The Hockey News named Orr the second greatest player of all time, behind only Wayne Gretzky. He would finish just 13 polling points out of first, and 13 points ahead of third place Gordie Howe. I think that proves the three stars from different eras are on a level all on their own.

Howe dominated the way hockey was always played, up and down the wing, bash and crash and physically intimidate. Gretzky would dominate the all offense era of fast skating and high scoring. Some how the game had changed between the Howe and Gretzky eras. Bobby Orr was largely instrumental in the revolutionization of hockey. One can only imagine how much more he would have altered the game had he been fortunate enough to stay healthy.


Unknown said...





WENT 7 GAMES. Bill's record...10-0

CASE CLOSED................

Unknown said...

Bobby Orr is with out a doubt the greatest hockey player ever. PERIOD!!, He dominated the game like nothing I have ever seem. Maybe Tiger Woods dominance of golf is a close second

Anonymous said...

You got everything right - so why didn't you place Orr Number One? Anybody who's seen them play knows that Gretzky is not in the same league as a hockey player. A great player for sure - smart and skilled. But what is the most important skill in hockey? And who was the greatest skater you have ever seen? He could shoot, pass with incredible accuracy, he could play defence, body-check, block shots and fight. Bobby Orr is the greatest athlete I have ever seen in ANY sport. He was so good that it brings tears to my eyes when I see how good he was ... it was truly a thing of beauty.

Unknown said...

Again Bobby won us Cups in 1970 and 1972. No complaints here.

But remember the competition in the NHL was 65% expansion teams.

Essentially the iron of the league,

AS a result there were scores of 11-2 9-3 etc. ORR ESPO MAKITA,BOBBY HULL PILED UP THE POINTS against weak opposition.

Bobby ORR played in three playoff series vs the Canadians and LOST ALL THREE twice losing the deciding games on home ice.

Bobby paticipated in 17 playoff contests vs Montreal and lost 12 of the 17.

In the 1974 final vs Philadelphia, we were a minute from going up 2-0 in the series.

With 50 seconds left Rick Macliesh took the puck away from Bobby centered it to MOOSE dUPONT, who tied the score.

We lost in OT. Went down to Philly lost both, and lost the series 4-2. That play where he coughed up the Puck in game two cost us the 1974 CUP

So A great player yes during the regular season. Was instrumental in the 1970 and 1972 Cups wins.

But he lost 12 of 17 playoff games
vs Montreal and that 74 final.

Check out on YouTube....Boston Bruins worst loss in their history. See who was on the ice for all 7 goals

Also track down game seven of that 1971 nightmare on you tube. Bobby
on the ice for 3 of the 4 scores.

Anonymous said...

the Greatest Athlete in Boston sports history. Bar none. Including Brady, and including Bill Russell. Or Larry Bird. Or the Conig. The man who built a thousand hockey rinks. Anyone who lived through that period knows that Orr changed everything in hockey. Every member of those 69-74 teams in a local legend in a town where the Bruins were miserable for 30 years before he got there. The Sox own the town no doubt. The Celtics were outstanding in an era when they were in a league with one or two teams that could come close. But at their height in the early 70s you could get free tickets with $40 of groceries at Stop & Shop. And in the NHL he changed the game, won two cups, and played playoff level with knees that were turning into jelly. With an agent who screwed him. The greatest.

Anonymous said...

Is this the same player, who was on the on the ice during the last minute of games 1 @ 2 of the 1969 semifinal that allowed 37 yrd old Jean Bleveau to tie the gameS up and send them to OT.
The same player who screened Cheeves on the winning goal.
THOSE GOALS COST US THE 1969 CUP AS THE bruins were unbeatabLe in the Garden In 1969

The same player who wss on the ice for all 7 goals in game two of the 71 playoff vs Montrwal See youtube it is here.

SAME PLAYER WHO COUGHED up the puck 3 times in game 7 on the way to
the biggest choke in NHL history. EAsposito also took the gas pipe
that day. in 1971

Bill Rusell played 40 seriesd that went 7 and and was 10-0

FAST FORWARD TO 1974.Leading 2-1 in game two, Rick Mcliesh took the puck way from Bobby and passed to Moose Dupont who tied the game and senD it to OT. WE COULD HAVE BEEN up 2-0 again

Bobby cost us possibly the 1969 cup and 71 and 1974.

So here are 3 years where Bobby had the chance to turn the series into another Cup, but failed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In Bobby's career and Espo's they played MONTREAL in 17 playoff games AND LOST 12.

Did you kow that BOBBY PLAYED IN
. Bobby and PHIL lost 7 out of 8
The only playoff they won was MAY 10, 1970

CONVERSDELY DON CHERRY'S bruins won 7 PLAYOFF GAMES IN OT without Bobby or Phil. They were replaced by Jean Ratelle and BRAD PARK !

Makes you think a ittle?

Anonymous said...

The most important skill is scoring points. Checks, hits, fights and speed don't win games, goals do. Gretzky has more Assists than any other player has points. End of discussion.

Ravenswing said...

You know something, Jay Davidson, for someone who boasts about how many Bruins games you've attended, you really do hate the Bruins, don't you?

Unknown said...

There is Bobby Orr, then everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Orr was a center who played out of position. Would have been the greatest center ever though, since he could play defense with the best of them

He played defense but was always the one leading the rush so it is very difficult to call him a defenseman.

Anonymous said...

Orr didn't play in Summit series in 1972. He never played in USSR. Soviet TV never showed NHL games.
But he was so unbelievable good, so even little kids in Soviet Union in early 70's knew Bobby Orr is by far the best Canadian player. And perhaps in the world.

From Russia with love

Anonymous said...

Just because you are the best by far does not mean you make no errors, it only means you make many less of them. In a game that relies on playing your best as much as you can, being on the ice when the opposition scores a goal is no indication of anything, it only tells you that the poorer players were actually on the bench. Boston Bruins back then didn't really have any poorer players however so it really just came down to who was on the ice and who was not. Any ways, statistically this man was the best hockey player that the world has ever witnessed and I would agree that he was probably better at his sport than any person has ever in all time been at theirs. Very professional and a real gentleman to boot, something that you much more rarely see today in sports. Having watched him extensively in my youth makes todays game seem quite a bore in comparison frankly. I am not sure what it would take within the confines of the seriously more restrictive game that we have today to reignite that type of sheer magic on ice of those fabulous times.

Anonymous said...

Those of you who cherry pick stats know nothing. Dan Marino never won a Super Bowl. Great players had bad games. Bobby Orr was the greatest hockey player ever, period. Gretzky was a figure skater. Mario was closer to Orr. Orr revolutionized hockey, changed the game. He played both ways and took his hits as well as gave them. Blocked shots, ragged the puck, understood the game.
It was an era of great hockey players, he was and is still the greatest. Hockey is a different game now. Put Gretzky in that era an$ see how long he would last.
If you never saw him on a penalty killing shift, find an old video. Wait behind his net, make other team commit. Then bring the puck to center ice and when they all fell back, he would turn ariund and bring the puck back behind his own net. Then wait. When they committed again, he would bring the puck all the way up ice and set up for a shot.
I was a kid then. I’m 60 now. I’ll never forget watching him.
He is the greatest.

GJM said...

Just look at Orr's +/- per game played (+.8858). Gretzky's +/- per game played (+.3496). Howe +/- per game played (.0905). He was the best there ever was. That stat says it all. If Orr had played as many games as Howe or Gretzky this wouldn't be a discussion. There is something to be said for longevity and I'm a huge fan of both Gordie and Wayne, but really there is no comparison. Orr is in a league of his own.