Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Defenseman Robert Picard, born on this date in 1957, was a defenseman with the Montreal Juniors who tore up the QMJHL from 1973-74 until 1976-77. As a rookie in junior hockey, Picard introduced himself to the league with 53 points and a whopping 296 penalty minutes as a 16-year-old. Gaining experience and confidence, he returned for the 1974-75 season and made leaps in all categories, nearly doubling his goal total to 13 and raising his assist total to 74 for a total of 87 points in 70 games. His increased offensive numbers did nothing to harm his aggressiveness, as he spent 337 minutes sitting out his various transgressions, the equivalent of more than 5 1/2 games of penalty time.
After a similar season in 1975-76, Picard earned top prospect status for the upcoming NHL draft with a 32 goal, 92 point season in 1976-77 while maintaining his penchant for time in the penalty box with a career "low" of 267 minutes. His leadership was also on display as he was the Juniors team captain that season.
When the 1977 NHL draft arrived, Picard did not need to wait long to hear his name called, as he was selected third overall by the third year Washington Capitals, who hoped he would anchor their defense for years to come.
His first season in Washington of 1977-78 saw Picard finish fourth in team scoring behind a trio of forwards with 10 goals and 37 points while topping 100 penalty minutes with 101.
With the Capitals not qualifying for the playoffs, Picard had the honor of being selected to play for Canada in the 1978 World Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia, where Canada won a bronze medal behind the dominant Soviet Union and host Czechs in only their second year back in international hockey following an eight year absence due to the rules governing the status of amateur players.
Washington improved by 15 points in the standings during his second season of 1978-79 and Picard's numbers reflected their improvement, as he more than doubled his goal total to 21 while scoring a career high 65 points, establishing team records in the process. Even more notable was his improvement from a -26 as a rookie to a +3 rating. During the season he was also a member of the NHL All-Star squad who faced off against the Soviet Union in the 1979 Challenge Cup, held in place of the traditional NHL All-Star Game.
Despite their improvement in the standings, the Capitals again missed the playoffs which freed Picard to participate in his second World Championships in Moscow, where Canada narrowly missed out on another bronze by a single point.
After posting an 11 goal, 54 point season for the Capitals in 1979-80, and appearing in his first proper NHL All-Star Game, Picard was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for goaltender Mike Palmateer. His stay in Toronto lasted less than a full season, as the Maple Leafs sent Picard home to Montreal after 59 games of the 1980-81 season.
With such stalwarts as Larry Robinson and Rod Langway on the Canadiens roster, Picard was not relied on for his offense the way he was in Washington, which obviously reduced his point totals while with the Canadiens, scoring 28 points followed by 38 in 1982-83.
Picard with his hometown Canadiens
Early in the 1983-84 season, Montreal sent Picard west to the Winnipeg Jets after just seven games. He would play two seasons for the Jets, with his second of 1984-85 seeing him score 12 goals, his only season of double digit goals since leaving Washington. He would score 34 points that season and be whistled for 107 penalty minutes while equalling a career best +31 rating, previously set in Montreal in 1983.
Picard while with Winnipeg
His 1985-86 season was split between Winnipeg (20 games) and the Quebec Nordiques (48 games) following yet another trade between Canadian based teams for Picard, his fourth Canadian club in six seasons.
The Nordiques had actually drafted Picard back in 1977 when they were still members of the WHA, even signing him to a contract, but he was not allowed to play for them at the time since he had already signed with the Capitals of the NHL.
He played in 48 games his first season in Quebec, but his total games were limited by a lacerated hand and broken ribs, this following missing the start of the season with the Jets due to a training camp concussion. Despite all that, he still tallied 41 points that season, his highest total since his early days in Washington.
Picard while with yet another Canadian franchise, this time Quebec
He played three additional seasons with the Nordiques before being dealt to the Detroit Red Wings, playing 20 games before retiring as a player.
Picard finished his career with Detroit
His final career totals were 899 games, 104 goals and 319 assists for 423 points.
Today's featured jersey is a 1977-78 Washington Capitals Robert Picard jersey as worn during Picard's rookie season in the NHL with the Capitals. Picard wore #24 in honor of his uncle, former NHLer Noel Picard.
The Capitals wore their star-spangled jerseys from the time of their NHL debut in 1974 through the 1994-95 season when they stopped wearing their classic red, white and blue jerseys and changed to a new blue and black color scheme.
Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1978 Canada National Team Robert Picard jersey as worn in the World Championships when Picard earned a bronze medal.
This loud style was worn during the early days of Canada's return to international competition following their eight years away from the international scene in a dispute concerning the rules governing the amateur status of the full time hockey players from communist countries such as the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia.
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions
Today's video segment begins with an episode of the competition Showdown '80, a shootout style challenge shown during intermissions of network hockey games during the 1979-80 season. This episode features an ever tiring Mike Palmateer facing off against half a dozen NHL stars, including Robert Picard.
This next video features Robert Picard relative and predecessor Noel Picard, who gets emotional when thinking about his playing days with the Blues.