Picard grew up, and played his junior hockey in Montreal and thus was an avid fan of the Montreal Canadiens. The Capitals were able to secure his NHL rights before the Montreal Canadiens had a chance to select Picard. Although there was one other possibility. The WHA was still around and kicking, and there was a chance the Quebec Nordiques could draft and sign Picard. The WHA held its draft a week after the NHL had theirs. The Capitals signed Picard to a contract on the same day they drafted him. This was not enough to scare the Nordiques away, as the Nordiques drafted Picard 37th overall in the WHA draft and then also signed Picard to a contract. Picard was now under contract to the Capitals in the NHL and the Nordiques in the WHA.
The Nordiques offer was about $50,000 more and they also had homefield, or provincial, advantage over the Capitals. Picard was adamant about playing in Quebec and even stated "I would rather deliver pizzas in Quebec" than play for Washington. The contract with the Quebec Nordiques was ruled void by WHA president Howard Baldwin, based on a 1974 agreement between the leagues that the WHA would not sign players under NHL contracts. Picard reluctantly joined the Washington Capitals in time for the 1977 training camp. As fate would have it, the Capitals visited the Quebec Nordiques for a cross-league exhibition on October 12, 1977. During the game, a pizza was thrown on the ice. No word if Picard delivered the pizza off the ice.
Picard scored 37 points in his rookie season and then followed it up with a career best 21 goals and 65 points. The next season his totals took a slight dip to 11 goals and 54 points. He also set a career high of 122 PIM, which is surprising since his NHL career high was less than half of his QMJHL career low in PIM, 267. The Capitals sold high on Picard in the 1980 offseason and dealt Picard in a package deal to the Toronto Maple Leafs for goalie Mike Palmateer. OPC caught wind of the trade and Picard got the airbrush treatment for the 80-81 set. Since it was Picard's only card as a Leaf, I decided to give Picard a proper card as a Leaf.
|1980-81 OPC Robert Picard|
Picard was selected to play in the 1981 All-Star game as the lone representative for the Leafs. I found this very strange since the Leafs also had defencemen Borje Salming and Ian Turnbull, and neither were injured at the time of the All-Star game. Picard had 25 points and a -32 by the all-star break compared to Salming's 58pts and +3, and Turnbull's 53pts and -7. Why Salming or Turnbull didn't play instead is beyond me. Picard would not return to Toronto as he was traded on the day of the All-Star game to the Montreal Canadiens for goalie Michel Laroque.
Picard was finally a Montreal Canadien. Unfortunately, it was not the homecoming Picard had hoped for. The Canadiens entered the play-offs as the number three overall seed, but were swept by the coming-of-age Wayne Gretzky and Edmonton Oilers in the first round. Picard had 72 points in 141 games over parts of four season with the Canadiens. A month into the 1983-84 season, Picard was dealt to the Winnipeg Jets for a third round pick in the 1984 draft. It is arguable the most important trade of the decade for the Canadiens. They use the 3rd round pick to draft future HHOFer Patrick Roy.
Picard played about two seasons with the Jets, scoring 12 goals in 84-85, it was his first time reaching double digits since 1980. The following season he was dealt again, this time to the Quebec Nordiques. The trade seemed to jump start Picard, as he collected 34pts in 48 games after the trade. No reports of pizza this time. He led the team in defenceman scoring even though he barely played half the season with the team. Quebed won the Adams division but were promptly swept in the first round. Picard spent three more full seasons with the Nordiques, scoring 28, 16, and 21 points.
In his final season, Picard was traded mid-season once again, this time to the Detroit Red Wings. Including his stats with Quebec, he finished the season with 0 goals and 8 assists in 44 games. Even with the junk wax explosion of 1990, Robert Picard was absent from cardboard. The Red Wings designated Picard to the minors at the end of training camp, instead Picard retired.
Picard came out of junior as a top prospect who could score and fight. Early in his career he did some scoring but never show the same truculence as he did in junior. He had 1282 PIM in 282 games in the QMJHL, or 4.54 PIM per game. In the NHL, he average 1.14 for his career and had a career high of 1.71 PIM per game with the Canadiens in 81-82. It is interesting how he left that part of his game in junior and never returned to it during his career in the NHL, even after it was evident he would not be a top offensive defenceman.
Picard's last card was part of the 1989-90 OPC set. He never had a card as a Red Wing. So here is the Lost Card of Robert Picard.
|1990-91 OPC #529 Robert Picard|
|1990-91 OPC #529 Robert Picard|