June 17, 2010

Hall of Fame Worthy? Eric Lindros

If I told you about an anonymous player whose resume includes a Hart Trophy, an All Star, an Olympic gold and silver medalist and, when healthy, one of the most dominant players of his era, I think you would consider that to be a strong case for enshrinement for the Hockey Hall of Fame. You would be even more convinced when I tell you that player has the highest point per game average of all top candidates entering the debate.

But when I tell you that that anonymous player's name is Eric Lindros, all best are off.

I'm going to preface this article and come right out and say it: I like Eric Lindros. Actually he's one of my favorite players of the 1990s. There, now I said it. Full disclosure. I don't expect you to like Eric Lindros. It is not the easiest thing to do. He dug his own hole, taking unpopular stances about dictating where he was going to play. He's guarded, moody, abrupt and has no visibly likable personality, and he pissed off a lot of fans and a lot of hockey people along the way.

But if you are able to be objective enough, you can not deny he was also a great hockey player.

Though his career numbers were lessened by all the injuries, he was the sixth fastest player in NHL history to score 600 points, joining the elite company of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Peter Stastny, Mike Bossy and Jari Kurri.

Combined with the accolades I mentioned to start off this article, is that enough to land him in the Hockey Hall of Fame? I don't know. They let Bernie Federko. Same with Bob Pulford and Dick Duff and Clarke Gillies. And I'd say Lindros was a far better player than they were.

They also let Cam Neely in. And as Ken Campbell points out in the September 18th, 2007 issue of The Hockey News, Neely is a very comparable player, but not as good as Lindros. And since they let Neely in, the Hall might have to save face and let Lindros in.

Both players were similar power forwards and both had careers decimated by injuries. Scoring wise Lindros was a significantly better scorer on a point per game basis in both the regular season and playoffs.

Neither player won a Stanley Cup, but Lindros is by far the more decorated player. He won a Memorial Cup and was named top player in the OHL and CHL before arriving in the NHL. He won a Canada Cup, an Olympic gold medal and an Olympic silver medal on the international stage. In the NHL he won the Hart and Pearson trophies as the best player in the game, and essentially shared a scoring title. He was also a first and second team all star at the much more competitive center position.

It's a tough call, and Lindros' character will undoubtedly be questioned. I think there will be a movement to keep him out because while he was the best player in the world at times, he wasn't good enough for long enough. But to me the Hockey Hall of Fame has to let Lindros in just to save face from some of their past questionable decisions.

The only thing I know for sure is that if Lindros does make it to the Hockey Hall of Fame, there will be lots of controversy surrounding him. As always.


Anonymous said...


randy said...


Geoff_9 said...

The fact Eric Lindros wasn't durable and he would choke in the big games really hurt his legacy and his chance to be in the Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame is a shrine for outstanding ACCOMPLISHMENTS in the TEAM sport of hockey.

It is not a place for "what-might-have-beens." Lindros only had a couple elite seasons — but he did not have an elite career.

He peaked or "jumped the shark tank" when he was 24 years old (1997: the year the Flyers made it to the finals).

His career was a slow, steady decline after that. He was a "Me-First" sulky prima dona that was never the "great" player that he thought he was. Even when healthy, he never came close to touching his first few seasons.

And his impressive poinst per game is a statistical aberration due to his inability to stay healthy for an entire season.

By the time of his 6th season and his first concussion —he had missed tons of games due to various injuries (approx. 87 games).

He never had a 50 goal season and he only ONCE had a 100 point season (not very impressive or "Hall of Fame" standards) ... even Pierre Turgeon managed to accomplish this during Lindros' rookie season.

Out of 8 seasons with the Flyers, Lindros only lead his team in points for THREE seasons.

The only time he won the Hart Trophy was during the shortened lock-out season. Odds are he wouldn't have won if it was an entire season.

In the Olympic gold medal he won in 2002, he was benched by Coach Pat Quinn for a significant part of the tournament because of his poor play.

His only point in the tournament was during garbage time in a 3rd period power-play against Belarus.

And his last 5 seasons as a non-Flyer were mediocre to embarrassingly poor due to his concussion problems.

Interestingly, If you looked at Roenick's first 5 full seasons, I would say he was actually more successful than Lindros because he was more durable and he put up better numbers.

Roenick had three 50-goal seasons and three 100-point seasons during this time.

Roenick's team was in the playoffs each of those five year. Once they made the finals (swept by Pits) and once they made the semi-finals (lost to eventual Cup winner Calgary).

The only time Lindros looked unstoppable was the first 3 rounds of the 97 playoffs — especially against the Rangers (with Gretzky + and a lame looking Messier).

Lindros tossed Messier around like a rag doll and totally exposed him as a "has-been." Messier was never considered an elite player after that (except by the Canuck brass that gave him 8 million a season ... Yikes!)

I honestly thought Lindros would finally emerge as "The Next One" during the 1997 playoffs. But he did his typical disappearing act and bickered and sulked with his coach as his team was swept by Detroit in the finals.

Lindros was given every opportunity to be great — and he consistently came up short. He could never make the big play or be the clutch performer at the biggest stage and in the biggest games.

He might possibly go down as the most talented untapped potential ever.

It's too bad. He honestly could have been one of the best ever.

Funny, the 1997 finals between Philadelphia and Detroit proved the "The Next One" was actually the 12-year veteran Steve Yzerman.

From 1997 on, Yzerman was part of 4 Stanley Cup championships (3 as a player and 1 as front office) and 2 Olympic Gold Medals (1 as a player and 1 as the general manager).

Sure, his stats were way down from his five 50-goal seasons and six-100 point seasons of his youth — but he transformed into something Lindros would never be — a leader and a true champion — and the real-deal "Hall of Fame" material.

hippomancy said...

no to Lindros entry to HHOF. As much as I dislike headshots, it pains me to say that I enjoyed seeing that Scott Stevens elbow. Lindros was a whiner coming into the league, he didn't get any less selfish off the ice, and on the ice he may have been graceful but he seemed to lack a certain hockey sense. Keep your head up. True, if you're marked, they'll get you. But I agree there was a choke issue, and the indignities Bobby Clarke rained down on him seemed almost justified given his arrogance off the ice. Lastly, this NHLPA constitution imbroglio should pretty much put the nail in the coffin. If you have a builder category to get in, how about an anti-builder whereby you actually harm the game's prestige? Lindros was a heck of a player when he could subsume his ego into the game, but too often he failed to...

Anonymous said...

"Lindros had statistical success than the two Hall of Famers he is most often compared to: Cam Neely (694 points in 726 games) and Clark Gillies (697 points in 958 games)."

"Lindros averaged 1.14 points per game, much higher than Neely (0.96) and Gillies (0.73), plus he was named NHL MVP and earned two Olympic medals with Team Canada."

"Lindros captured the Hart Trophy in 1995 with the Flyers after recording 70 points in 46 games in a lockout-shortened season. He enjoyed his most productive campaign the following year, posting career highs in goals (47) and points (115) in 73 games for Philadelphia."

"I think you have to separate all the crap that went on. Particularly when he played for the Flyers, it was just outstanding, dominant hockey - the first of the huge, big men with small man's skill."

I wouldn't be surprised if Lindros one day was inducted... and wouldn't be surprised if Crosby's career suffers the same ending... A superstar is always a target for a hit.

--Bobby Clark, who fueded with Lindros constantly even admits he belongs in the HOF.