Eric “The Big “E” Lindros retired from hockey this week and the news left me scratching my, um, head, trying to assess number 88’s career.
On the heels of a dominating junior career with the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario hockey league and with the Quebec Nordiques equipped with the first overall pick in the 1991 entry draft, Eric Lindros decided to go punk and proclaimed he did not want to play in Quebec.
It went something like this, “I, Eric of Swedish descent, shall not cut ice with my artistic blades in a place such as this!”
Of course, I paraphrase.
At the time, there was tremendous hype around a player people ordained the “Next One.” Crosby, for the record, is the “Real Next One.”
Indeed, not only did Lindros have a menacing aspect to his game but was given a 6’4’’ 240 pound frame by God. That helps enormously if you’re going to ram people into a goal post or the boards.
He had all the tools to revolutionize the power forward position.
In the OHL, Lindros was a man among boys. During the 1990-1991 season, he led the league in scoring with 71 goals, 71 assists and 149 points – in 57 games. He was so dominant that he even before ever playing a shift in the NHL he was invited to join a star-studded Team Canada team (the same squad who cut Steve Yzerman) that won the Canada cup in 1991.
In 1992, Nordiques traded the centerman to the Flyers where he would stay put until 2000. The Flyers gave up a bunch of decent players and some guy named Peter Forsberg. With the Screaming Viking (please catch the Cheers reference) les Nordiques found themselves with a core nucleus of talent that would eventually become a two-time Stanley cup powerhouse with the Colorado Avalanche.
The fans of Quebec deserve a moment of silence. After enduring numerous scandalously embarrassing seasons, team owner Marcel Aubut split with the treasure in 1995 to Colorado. In 1996, they won their first Stanley Cup. Ouch, for real.
With an unorthodox start to his pro career, Lindros immediately fell into two categories: either he was going to flop or be everything hockey experts thought he was going to be.
In reality, his career ended up being somewhere in the middle. He certainly did not live up to the hype but he did have a productive career. Lindros was no chopped liver as he helped to lead the perennially goalie-challenged Philadelphia Flyers to a Stanley Cup final, only to lose to the Detroit Red Wings – where he was thoroughly neutralized.
His legacy is not that hard to summarize. He scored 372 goals and 865 points in 760 games. That translates into 1.12 points per game. Among the top 100 active players with 400 points or more, he was behind only Jagr and Forsberg. He was a First All-Star in 1994-95 and a Second All-Star the next season. He was tied for the league lead in points during the shortened ’94-’95 season with 70 points in 48 games. However, he lost the Art Ross trophy to Jaromir “Caps” Jagr because he scored 32 goals while Lindros tallied 29. Interestingly, Lindros played in 46 games that year – two less than Jagr. He reached the top 10 in scoring on two other occasions in 1995-96 and 1998-99.
He’s not a Hall of Famer in the purest sense. He had a couple of dominant seasons. But this is the watered-down hockey HOF we’re talking about here. Not exactly a tough gig to get.
The Hall is filled with players who never dominated, did their time and amassed solid numbers. It’s only normal that Lindros will get in.
There should be two Halls: A hall of fame and a hall of recognition. Lindros and many like him would fall into the latter. In any event there is only one true “Hall” and that’s the Hall of Justice.
After a falling out with the contentious Bobby Clarke and a series of concussions, Lindros was traded to the New York Rangers in 2001.
He was officially on his way to becoming a hockey vagabond. James Taylor should write a song about him.
Just like that, this once marvelous specimen of size and talent could never quite reach the promise of his potential.
In some strange way, is this poetic justice for the defunct Quebec Nordiques?