The tournament was basically the swan-song for one Robert Gordon Orr, as he was returning from yet another knee operation. His 1975-76 season had consisted of a mere 10 games and an amazing 18 points. He didn’t actually arrive to Canada’s training camp until two weeks in, he remained at his Parry Sound hockey school easing the knee back into shape on his own. Orr would excel throughout the tournament being awarded the MVP and placing on the All-Star Team along with Sweden’s Borje Salming.
Recently while sitting around the hockey dressing room, one of my friends challenged that Denis Potvin may have outplayed Orr in the ’76 Canada Cup, (this pal of mine is a huge Islanders fan). After he was ridiculed for blasphemy by all present, I thought I’d look into it further.
Having this fantastic book as a resource for each and every game allowed me to really analyse the argument. At first glance, Potvin does actually seem at least equal to Orr, each leading Canada with 9 points in the 7 games. Potvin actually beats Orr in +/- rating, 10 to 8, and +5 to +1 in the two final round games. Hmmm, we may be on to something here.
I decided to create a pointing system for each goal or assist scored depending on how important the tally was. Points scored in the 3rd period are obviously more valuable than points in the first, unless of course the first period point stands up as a winner. Scoring during the later stages of the tournament is more important than scoring in preliminary round routs. What follows is the rating system I came up with.
I believe the assigned point weighting is both fair and accurate. Next, I went game by game for the top defensemen in the tourney; Orr, Potvin, Salming, Jiri Bubla and Alexander Gusev.
Both Orr with 3 assists and Potvin with a goal and assist started off well in an 11-2 romp over Finland. Each of their points worth only one point in my scoring system. Game two, a 4-2 win over USA saw Orr earn assists on each of the first two goals in the first period and 4 rating points. Potvin assisted on the 3-0 goal. The 4-0 win over Sweden saw Potvin shutout and Orr assisting on the last goal.
In the meantime Salming was leading Sweden to a win over the US and a suprise tie with the Russians. He tallied a total of 5 points though the first 4 games before scoring two power-play goals in the 3rd period to beat the Czechs 2-1. These 7 points give him 20 rating points over the 5 games in which he played.
The fifth game for Canada was a do or die against the Russians. Potvin assisted on two big goals in the first period of the 3-1 win earning 10 rating points in the process. Game one of the finals versus the Czechs saw Orr score 2 goals and a helper with Potvin tallying one of each in a 6-0 win for Canada.
The final game, the 5-4 OT win for Canada saw Potvin assist on the first two goals with Orr not registering a point. In the end Potvin's 9 points translate to 27 rating points while Orr's 9 give him 14 points. At the very least, Potvin should have been a tournament All-Star with Orr, this however bumps Salming, and his 20 rating points. Perhaps Orr was more of a sentimental pick as most knew his career was pretty much done. He would, of course, only play 26 more games over the next three seasons tallying 29 points. See the follwing chart for final numbers for the top defenseman.