April 1, 2011
The Griffins’ all-time top-10 lists contain familiar alumni like Travis Richards, Michel Picard, Jiri Hudler, Tomas Kopecky, Matt Ellis and Ryan Oulahen, among others. The 2010-11 campaign has seen captain Jamie Tardif and third-year pro Francis Pare surge into that elite group in several categories.
Tardif has spent his entire pro career in Grand Rapids, aside for three games with the Iowa Stars and Manitoba Moose during the 2006-07 season. During his tenure in the Griffins jersey he has accrued 78 goals and 74 assists for 152 points in 310 games.
His 310 career games played entering the month of April places the talented right wing third on the team’s all-time list. Only Richards (655) and Picard (364) have totaled more games as a Griffin. Tardif’s commitment and overall health have played a large role in him climbing to third so quickly. Although his 2008-09 season was cut short due to injury, the Welland, Ontario native has played at least 70 games in four of five full seasons in Grand Rapids.
This season, Tardif leads the team in goals (27) and has moved into second place on the all-time list with 78 for his Griffins career, after not even being listed among the top-10 at the start of the year. He might need a little more time to take over the top spot, as Picard resided in that position with 158 tallies.
Like many hard-working hockey players, Tardif recognizes that success does not come without assistance, as he credits the role fellow linesmen Tomas Tatar and Ilari Filppula have played this season.
“I think we’re a great fit,” the 25-year-old Tardif said. “You’ve got one of the most skilled guys in the whole league as far as hands go with Filppula and Tatar’s a great scorer, play maker, kind of does everything. It’s my job to get the puck to them but also to get open because they make unbelievable passes. They’ve gotten me some great goals, and I’ve gotten them some great assists. It’s a great line.”
Similar to Tardif, 23-year-old Pare has moved up the list of all-time Griffins players this season. His 23 goals through the current campaign bring his three-year total to 63, tying him for seventh place with Kopecky and only two behind Hudler (65).
“You’re always looking at the Griffiti’s and seeing where you are,” Pare said. “Obviously you want to do well every single year and this means something for Jamie and for me as well.”
Both Pare and Tardif have also been successful distributing the puck to their teammates, consistently racking up the assists as well as scoring goals. Pare’s 30 assists through March 26 gives him 77 in the Griffins’ sweater, good enough for ninth on the all-time list. With 74 assists, Tardif is one shy of breaking into the top-10, as his next assist will bring him into a three-way tie for 10th with Kopecky and Ed Patterson.
“I think my game is pretty good right now. The way I’m skating, I’m a lot better,” Pare said. “If you look at my skating my first year, I was like a little turtle on the ice. I’m not as fast as (Jan) Mursak, but I’m getting there.”
For Tardif, the added responsibility of captain is more important than any personal glory.
“You know, I’m a firm believer that how well your team does, that’s how well you’re going to do as a player. The points are a big thing in any sport, but if your team makes the playoffs and you can be a leader, then that’s going to take care of itself. As captain I just try to lead by example. A lot of guys do a lot of talking in this room, I might be one of them, but I think mostly I want to lead by example on the ice.”
Tardif is hoping that what has been the best year of his pro career will lead to that elusive call-up to the parent Detroit Red Wings.
“Who knows what can happen, but I think I’ve definitely set myself up well,” Tardif said. “At the end of the day, I can only control what I do so long as I’m playing my best, that’s all I can ask for. But now with six games left in the year, my main focus is with our team’s effort to make a playoff push.”
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