In a few days, the latest class of NHL Hall of Fame inductees will take their place in the Great Hall at the corner of Yonge and Front St. in Toronto. Pavel Bure, Adam Oates, Joe Sakic and Mats Sundin all deserve to take their place amongst legends after careers that spanned at least two decades apiece while amassing many accolades along the way.

The 1990s were a golden time for prolific talents. Many stars from the decade prior were still running out their string in impressive fashion while a new wave took the game over — imprinting a legacy and serving as a catalyst for the infinite number of changes we’ve had in the game since. Yet, for an era in perpetual flux, one player, in my mind at least, simultaneously imprinted his mark as the most feared player of the era and the most dismaying cautionary tale and I firmly believe he deserves a place in that Hall sooner rather than later.

For his dominance and the excitement it brought, Eric Lindros should be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

You’d be hard pressed to find a player who was more utterly dominant over a span of time than Eric Lindros was during his heyday in Philadelphia. Physically, his thick 6-foot-4 frame was a nightmare for any opponent who lined up against him. He was faster and more agile than any other player to carry that frame. He was as skilled as they come.

Let’s take a trip back in time and conduct a little thought experiment. The year is 1997. Your team (fake) needs to win a single game. You can pick any active player in a one shot fantasy draft to put them over the top. Who do you go with?

I’ll grant you that there are going to be plenty of votes for the likes of Sergei Fedorov, Steve Yzerman, Jaromir Jagr, or perhaps even twilight Wayne Gretzky. Maybe a blueliner tickles your fancy and you want to go the Brian Leetch, Chris Chelios or Paul Coffey route. There are no wrong answers. But, I’m willing to bet that of a 100 person poll the name and number which pops up the is Eric Lindros. The Big E. 88.

It’s difficult to understate what a force Lindros was at his peak. Consider that he still ranks among the NHL’s all time leaders in points per game, despite the obviously lean years to close out his career. Lindros is currently 19th all-time in points per game, and the top 20 is comprised exclusively of Hall of Famers or Hall of Fame calibre players. The active contingent, for example, is Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Jagr and Evgeni Malkin. Jagr is already a lock to make it in to the Hall and the other three are certainly well on their way.

The numbers and accolades (Hart Trophy, Lester B. Pearson Award, seven time All-star, Olympic gold medalist) all seem to point towards a place in the Hall for Lindros. There’s also an argument to be made that the only power forward comparable to Lindros in the modern era was Cam Neely (Hall of Famer). So, why the reluctance or debate surrounding Lindros?

The obvious knock for anyone taking a cursory glance is the distinct lack of a Stanley Cup ring. Those of us with sense, however, know Lindros was not a center/general manager. Frankly, many of those Flyers teams only experienced a semblance of success because of his presence — in tandem with the likes of John Leclair and Mikael Renberg, of course. It’s horrifying to think how different history could be if quality goaltending wasn’t illegal inside Philadelphia’s city limits.

More to the point of Lindros’ detractors is he wasn’t particularly well liked during his time in the NHL.

Refusing to go to the team that drafts you is never a good way to start your NHL career, especially after you pulled an identical stunt in junior. Then there was the falling out with Bobby Clarke which resulted in the public trade negotiations to New York. His career gradually faded out from there with underwhelming stops in Toronto and Dallas en route to the light at the end of the tunnel despite putting up quality numbers under the circumstances.

With these noted personality critiques (much of which can be attributed to lacklustre advice from Mr. and Mrs. Lindros), it’s worth wondering how much differently Lindros’ attitude would be seen if he had played in the “New NHL.” Pundits and executives regularly criticized his integrity and desire due to his reluctance to play injured.

A nice advent of the 21st century is we’re now very much aware of what serious business concussions are. Lindros spending time in the press box has nothing to do with the ‘pansification‘ of hockey, but rather the fact you only get one brain and no mulligans. The Sidney Crosbys of the modern world are handled with oven mitts because hockey’s antiquated machismo was a prime contributor to the deterioration of Eric Lindros, the original “Next One” who is believed to have suffered upwards of eight (EIGHT!) concussions in his career.

And there, of course, is the problem with the lofty heights we set for phenoms. Lindros was the first to emerge from the shadow of Gretzky, many now forget Jason Spezza was the next to take that mantle and Crosby is the latest. Soon Nathan MacKinnon and Connor McDavid will take their place in the hype machine. When the bar is set beyond anyone’s grasp, you ensure failure. Failure makes us happy.

The fact is that Eric Lindros was a generational talent. He was big, he was fast and he was prodigiously skilled. But, he was “The Next One” and that was when the bell tolled for his legacy. From the day he was dubbed a phenom, the hockey world watched and scrutinized. Trade request? Prima Donna. Out of the lineup? Wuss. Can’t play more than 50 games? Washed up.

The only thing we enjoy more than watching a prodigy fulfil the prophecy is watching them combust. As evidence I present you everyone who roots for Sidney Crosby to fail (outside of Philly, of course, because they hate everyone). The sane human being (read: non-sports fan) ought to appreciate what a magnificent talent he is rather than root for his humanity to shine through.

Much of Lindros’ lack of public support can be attributed to the fact that many were rooting for him to fail from day one, and with every PR misstep, injury and idiotic frat boy column that wondered if he was ‘faking it’ the detractors became closer to winning. These footnotes are obstructing him from getting his due today.

Many reflect on the career of Eric Lindros as a failure. They are wrong. He is one of the most prolific scorers in NHL history, a one man revolution for power forwards and for a stretch of time — no matter how brief it was — he was the best hockey player in the world.

Bobby Clarke will be the first to tell you that he ought to be in the Hall of Fame. The same Bobby Clarke that clashed with Lindros time and time again. If that isn’t a ringing endorsement to get that plaque ready, I don’t know what is.

It doesn’t matter how you spin it. Eric Lindros should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Comments (32)

  1. I was as big of a Lindros fan as there was in his heyday (being a teenage Flyers fan in the 90′s will do that to you) but I don’t agree he had a hall of fame career. As good and as dominant as he was, he didn’t really have the longevity we look for in hall of famers. It’s easy to forget (I did till the winter classic last year) that he was only 28 when he was traded by the Flyers, it seemed he had been there forever, when it reality it had only been eight years. Though it was injuries that definitely derailed his career, it’s also easy to forget that it was a fatal flaw in his own game that led to the majority of those concussions. Coming up through the ranks and in Juniors he was so much bigger and stronger than everyone he came up against that he could play the game with his head down and get away with it. It was a habit he never broke himself of and continued through his last days in the league. When you watch the hits that concussed him, the prevailing theme is Lindros charging towards the net with his head down. If he had ever learned to break that habit, it’s likely that his career arc is a very different one. Heck, he could still be playing today (it would be his 20th season) given the advances in training and nutrition. But the fact of the matter remains, he simply wasn’t dominant for a long enough time to be a hall of famer.

    • I never liked Lindros, but he was a really really talented player who was always amazing to watch. The combination of size and skill was unmatched at the time. He was absolutely dominant in multiple facets of the game…that said, he didn’t have a long enough career to justify the hall of fame. His single season stats were great, but never overwhelmed (a lot of people forget that he only had one 100+ point season and never hit 50 goals). Further, his career was too short to have spectacular career numbers. He had great PPG, but if we use that as our means for choosing hall of famers, where does it end?

      • Your bias a devils fan eliminates any chance of anyone taking your opinion seriously

        • I said that he was an amazing player. Unfortunately, his stats don’t line up with the stats of those in the Hall of Fame. If we lower the bar for him, who else are we letting in?

          • The slippery slope argument is nice, but what you’re really asking is:

            Is it more important to be the best player for 7 years, or to be a very good player for 14 years?

            Dick Duff is in the Hall of Fame, so are Bob Pulford and George Armstrong. All three played over 1,000 NHL games, but none of them broke 0.60 points per game, or finished in the Top-10 of points per game more than once in their careers.

            If they’re in the Hall of Fame, if we “lower the bar for them”, who else are we letting in?

            The problem isn’t Lindros’ stats (which, by the way, would rank 48th in points, 49th in goals, 13th in plus/minus and and 14th in points per game out of 135 forwards).

            The problem is the question: Do you want a guy who hung around for years, proved himself above average; or do you want a guy who was elite for a decade?

    • How many games did Cam Neely, Peter Forsberg and Bobby Orr play? The answers are 726, 708, and 657. Lindros played 760. While it is true the last few seasons were injury riddled messes, his period of dominance speaks for itself. Neely was never the best guy playing. Lindros was, at least for a time, and he played well enough for long enough that he should be in the hall.

    • Remember this is the hockey hall of fame not the NHL hof. After Gretzky and Lemieux, Lindros was the greatest junior player ever, he was absolute beast for Canada in international competitions and he was for 2-3 years the most dominant player in the NHL. If guys like Clark Gillies and Mark Howe are in how can Lindros not be?

      • I’m pretty sure a lot of people are selling Peter Forsberg short in this equation. Lindros had more regular season goals and pim, but Forsberg had more assists and points overall in less games and his playoff stats (and cups) are the things that make him great. Not to mention Forsberg’s own battles with injuries that cut his career shorter than Lindros’s. Also to claim Lindros was the greatest Junior player ever is ridiculous hyperbole to say the least, he was great, but so was Forsberg and so were many others.

        • What does Forsberg have to do with this argument? Plus Forsberg never played junior. No doubt Peter the great deserves a spot too in the HOF.

          • Forsberg comes up as another guy who had a pretty dominant career that was cut short. For a while, Foppa was the best player alive. The big train wasn’t quite as good for as long (not too far off though) but there was a point in time where he was the best player on the planet. Not Markus Naslund “I caught lightning in a bottle” good for one year but a dominant force.

        • FOPPA also played with some pretty stacked teams. Lindros made Renberg and LeClair into all stars for pete’s sake.

          Don’t get me wrong, I think Foppa was a better player but there are lots of guys in the HOF that are better than other HOFers. I think the Big E deserves to be in the HOF is all.

          • Some of those Philly teams were pretty stacked too….well, except in goal.

          • #1 Forsberg was never the “best player on the planet” he wasn’t even the best player on his team (Sakic was)

            #2 The Avalanche won a cup with forsberg not even playing in the playoffs the one year.

  2. Hey Lindros, keep your head up in the neutral zone! Scott Stevens is coming…

  3. It’s a real shame that this guy’s career was cut short by a dirty player who went out of his way (leaving his feet) to target Lindros’s head.

  4. Is a point a game (or close to it)for that long of a career not enough?

  5. He passes the eyeball test for sure. You can’t talk hockey in the 1990′s, especially late 90′s, without talking Lindros. I know there are some who have HOF eligibility whittled down to a calculated score, but Lindros is a HOF’er.

    Also, P88. Come on.

  6. At his best, he was the best. A total package and wrecking crew.
    Though the total games played may not be impressive but he still had 10 productive seasons.

  7. Scott Stevens was a cheap head hunter who went out of his way to hurt guys. In today’s game he’d spend half of every season on suspension. I’m no Lindros or Flyers fan, but Scott Stevens in my eyes is one of the top 5 dirtiest players in NHL history.

    • You can’t retroactively decide that a player is dirty. He played within the rules, the end. Were the rules wrong? Sure. And if he played in today’s game, he wouldn’t make those hits.

      Anyway, if he’s in your top 5 dirtiest players in NHL history, you’ve got bigger problems. Just off the top of my head, I’d say Dale Hunter, Bobby Clarke, Billy Coutu, Eddie Shore, and most especially Sprague Cleghorn.
      I remember one story about Cleghorn where he had several stick-swinging fights with a specific opponent. So this one time, they get together to slash/fight each other, and Sprague convinces his opponent to drop his stick, and go hand to hand. The opponent does, and Sprague two hand slash’s the guy over the head.

      In other words, Stevens has NOTHING on Cleghorn for dirtiness.

      • Stevens actually was remarkably clean for the damage he did. Watch tape of his hits – almost all of them are shoulder to shoulder and within the rules. That said, he injured a lot of people (I still remember Ron Francis crawling and falling over and over as he tried to get up after a big Stevens hit).

        • Lindros should be considered not as the player he never became but for the player he was.

          Using this criteria, he wasn’t the best all-time hockey player, but he was better than most of his cohort for several years. He should be in the Hall.

          Even if he stiffed Quebec at the draft.

  8. Lindros had two strikes against him by the time he reached the NHL, in my book. But you have to recognize that he was a unique combination of size, strength and talent. He was an exciting player to watch and made the NHL a better, more interesting league. And to top it off, he gives back to the game since retiring. As a fan in a Western Conference city without a bias either way, Lindros looks like he belongs in the HoF.

  9. The answer is : yes.

    • x2. And I didn’t care for the mommy/daddy led prima donna attitude one bit. But on elite merit he deserves to be in the hall.

  10. One of the things you may have noticed following Alex Ovechkin…every so often the broadcast will pull up a list showing “most goals in first __ seasons” or “fewest games to ____ goals” or something. The lists have generally been Bossy, Gretzky, Lindros, Lemieux, and Selanne ahead of Ovechkin.

  11. For the Hockey Hall of fame?

    All Time Leading Scorer for Canada at the WJC: 31 Points
    2 WJC Golds
    1 Olympic Gold
    135 Points shy of 1,000
    Hart Trophy
    Lester B. Pearson Trophy
    7 Time All Star
    Lost in 97 Finals to Detriot literally carrying the Flyers to the finals (26 points in 19 games)
    Revolutionized how the game was played by Power Forwards

    Sounds like a HOF to me.

  12. Not a chance. He simply doesn’t have HOF numbers. It goes far beyond that though. He was difficult to coach or manage. Starting in junior hockey up till when he turned pro Lindros along with his mommie dearest tried to dictate where and when he would play. Sorry but it doesn’t work that way in sports. The irony is that had he reported to the team that originally drafted him, Quebec, he would’ve ended up in Denver winning Stanley Cups.
    I would say his hockey career was a major disappointment.

    • Would the Avs have won if Quebec didn’t deal Lindros and reap such a huge return? Forsberg, Steve Duschene, Chris Simon, Mike Ricci, Jocelyn Thibault (who was part of the trade to bring Patrick Roy to Colorado), Kerry Huffman, and $15 million to afford to pay for all of it… that’s a hell of a lot of assets. The amazing thing here isn’t that the Avs were able to turn that largess into Stanley Cups, but that Lindros went to Philly and got them to the finals without all that extra help. He truly was a dominant player.

    • “Not a chance. He simply doesn’t have HOF numbers.”

      If this is true, I would love, then, for you to explain why he has better numbers than 50-80 forwards already in the Hall of Fame.

  13. HOF for sure. The bar is already “low” based on the others who have been voted in. This year’s class includes P Bure – who was also considered a difficult player at times, scored like crazy, and had a career cut short. Lindros was better than Neely in a similar position/style (with all appologies to Bruins fans, but even Don Cherry would take 88 over 8 if he had to pick). Compare the Flyers version of Renberg vs the Leafs version – the only difference was linemates. Outside of the dislike for the man, no matter what comparison you draw, there are numberous examples of players who would rate less than 88 in the HOF today.

  14. I also believe Eric should be in the HOF, great player of his time regardless of his draft saga…Was a dominant force in the NHL!!!
    A hall of famer even though his name isn’t on Lord Stanley’s Cup..

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