Leaf of the Day - Feb 4, 2009 - Rene Robert

Feb 4, 2009 - Rene Robert


From the bet-you-either-never-knew-or-completely-forgot-he-was-a-Leaf file, here is Rene Robert.  Rene was a Leaf at two different points in his career - before he really got going and once he was pretty much done.  He's one of those players who might have made a difference in the mid 1970s had the Leafs found a way to keep him.  Imagine him as the second-line right winger behind Lanny....
As it was, Buffalo and Pittsburgh fought for his rights in 1971, with Pittsburgh winning the battle.  Buffalo sent Eddie Shack to Pittsburgh half a season later, decided to try Robert next to Gilbert Perreault, and the rest was history.  As part of "The French Connection", Rene Robert put in most of a decade of really good hockey with the Sabres.

In January of 1980, the Leafs picked him up again, sending a third-rounder to the post-Cherry Colorado Rockies.  Rene fit in right away and looked like a real keeper until a wrist injury destroyed the rest of that season.  His 1981-82 was also shortened, and that was pretty much it.  Too bad, because those teams could have used him.  Rene had had a rep of not being easy to work with, but Cherry found him to be a real pro.

Rene's stats:

1965-66   Trois-Rivieres Leafs   QJHL   42 13 38 51 31   5 0 2 2 7
1966-67  Trois-Rivieres Leafs  QJHL  41 34 32 66 73 11 5 12 17 15
1967-68  Trois-Rivieres Leafs  QJHL  49 69 74 143 4 3 5 8 4
1967-68  Tulsa Oilers  CPHL  3 0 2 2 0 2 0 4 4 14
1968-69  Tulsa Oilers  CHL  59 21 30 51 57 7 4 3 7 2
1969-70  Vancouver Canucks  WHL  5 0 0 0 2
1969-70  Rochester Americans  AHL  49 23 40 63 57
1970-71  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  5 0 0 0 0 -2          
1970-71  Tulsa Oilers  CHL  58 26 36 62 85
1970-71  Phoenix Roadrunners  WHL  7 4 3 7 6 10 5 3 8 7
1971-72  Pittsburgh Penguins  NHL  49 7 11 18 42 -11
1971-72  Buffalo Sabres  NHL  12 6 3 9 2 -5
1972-73  Buffalo Sabres  NHL  75 40 43 83 83 +16 6 5 3 8 2
1973-74  Buffalo Sabres  NHL  76 21 44 65 71 -16
1974-75  Buffalo Sabres  NHL  74 40 60 100 75 +6 16 5 8 13 16
1975-76  Buffalo Sabres  NHL  72 35 52 87 53 +17 9 3 2 5 6
1976-77  Buffalo Sabres  NHL  80 33 40 73 46 +27 6 5 2 7 20
1977-78  Buffalo Sabres  NHL  67 25 48 73 25 +19 7 2 0 2 23
1978-79  Buffalo Sabres  NHL  68 22 40 62 46 -12 3 2 2 4 4
1979-80  Colorado Rockies  NHL  69 28 35 63 79 -20
1980-81  Colorado Rockies  NHL  28 8 11 19 30 -13
1980-81  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  14 6 7 13 8 +5 3 0 2 2 2
1981-82  Toronto Maple Leafs  NHL  55 13 24 37 37 -11          
Leaf Totals    74 19 31 50 45 -8 3 0 2 2 2
NHL Totals  744 284 418 702 597 0 50 22 19 41 73

QJHL First All-Star Team (1968)
NHL Second All-Star Team (1975)
Played in NHL All-Star Game (1973, 1975)

- Signed as a free agent by Toronto (Tulsa-CHL) to a five-game tryout contract, March 20, 1968.
- Traded to Vancouver (WHL) by Toronto with Brad Selwood for Ron Ward, May, 1969.
- Traded to Toronto by Vancouver (WHL) for cash, May 15, 1970.
- Claimed by Buffalo from Toronto in Intra-League Draft, June 8, 1971.
- Claimed by Pittsburgh from Buffalo in Intra-League Draft, June 8, 1971.
- Traded to Buffalo by Pittsburgh for Eddie Shack, March 4, 1972.
- Traded to Colorado by Buffalo for John Van Boxmeer, October 5, 1979.
- Traded to Toronto by Colorado for Toronto's 3rd round choice (Uli Hiemer) in the 1981 Entry Draft, January 30, 1981.

the HHOF take on Rene:

During an NHL career that extended to a dozen seasons, Rene Robert was an important offensive weapon. The right wing on the French Connection Line with Gilbert Perreault and Richard Martin, Robert reached the 20-goal mark eight straight years between 1972-73 and 1979-80. Possessing blinding speed and a lethal shot, Robert was a fine complement to the slick playmaking of Gilbert Perreault.

The native of Trois Rivieres, Quebec, was originally the property of the Toronto Maple Leafs. After playing junior with the hometown Reds of the Quebec junior league, Robert was signed by Toronto and then spent most of his first three professional seasons in the minors. In an odd turn of events, he was first claimed by the Buffalo Sabres at the June 1971 Inter-League Draft, then left unprotected and picked up by the Pittsburgh Penguins. He received his first extensive NHL action in Steeltown. Forty-nine games into the season, he was traded to Buffalo for popular forward Eddie Shack. Knowing he was replacing a solid NHL veteran, Robert became energized with his new club. His nine goals in the last 12 games of the regular season served as a precursor of what was to follow.

In 1972-73 Robert and his linemates helped the Sabres reach the post season in only their third NHL year. The flashy right wing scored 40 goals and became one of the team's most recognizable stars. Two years later he reached the 40-goal mark again and recorded a career-best 100 points. Robert established himself as one of the league's most accomplished point men on the power-play and often excelled on the second line penalty killing unit.

In 1975 the high-flying right wing contributed 13 points in 16 playoff games as the Sabres drove all the way to a Stanley Cup final showdown with the defending champion Philadelphia Flyers. Robert provided the overtime heroics in the pivotal fifth game of the semi-finals against the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs never recovered and dropped the sixth game on home ice. In the fourth game of the finals, Robert scored one of the most famous overtime goals in history. On the winning play he blew a shot past All-Star netminder Bernie Parent, who was unable to judge the movement of the puck because Buffalo's Memorial Auditorium ice was shrouded in a thick layer of fog. The Sabres lost the series after six hard fought games. Following the season, Robert was voted to the NHL's Second All-Star Team.

Robert played another four years in Buffalo before he was traded to the lowly Colorado Rockies for offensive defenseman John Van Boxmeer. When informed of the trade, Robert was stunned and pondered retirement. Coach Don Cherry convinced him that he would bring in a few players and instill a winning attitude on the club. He looked to Robert to be one of the pillars in the rebuilding process.

When Cherry was fired halfway through the 1980-81 season, Robert was one of the most vocal dissenters.

The veteran winger returned to the Leafs but retired after his release by Toronto. The knock against Robert had always been that he was moody and difficult to handle at times. Some even suggested he rode on the coattails of Perreault and Martin. Robert's quick adjustment to new teams and situations during his career dispelled this opinion. After retiring, he became the president of the NHL Alumni Association.


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