Lindros: Hockey hero or disappointment?

Today, Eric Lindros is expected to announce his retirement from the NHL. Bob Clarke, former Flyers GM and current senior VP, recently weighed in on Lindros and his potential candidacy for the Hockey Hall of Fame:Eric Lindros - 1991 NHL Draft - photo by Rick Scuteri-US Presswire

“He won MVP, he was an All-Star, he went to the Stanley Cup final. If you eliminate the crap that circled him, he is easily a Hall of Fame hockey player,” said Clarke… “Had his parents left him alone I don’t know what this kid could have done because he could really play.”

Given the highly contentious history between Clarke and Lindros, many were surprised by Clarke’s overwhelmingly positive remarks. Others weren’t so sanguine:

“Statistics are great but he wasn’t a good teammate, he wasn’t a good captain, he did not promote the game of hockey the way it should be promoted,” said [Mike] Milbury.

Mad Mike isn’t exactly what I would call the voice of reason, but even Flyers fans wouldn’t argue with his sentiments. The700Level commented on Lindros’ retirement with similar feelings:

Within a month the entire town was wearing the orange “88” jersey. All we had to do now was sit back and wait patiently for Lord Eric to lead the Flyers to multiple Stanley Cups and…Hart trophies. Now here we are 16 years later. No Stanley Cup. One Hart trophy. And the most concussed human being/biggest disappointment this town has ever seen is retiring. And I’ll be honest, I don’t even know what team he was playing for.

This isn’t to say that Lindros didn’t accomplish a lot during his tenure; he won numerous awards and two Olympic medals and played in six All-Star games. He racked up numbers that many players would envy, including his 115 points in the ’95-’96 season with the Flyers. But it was all downhill from there. Thanks to the Concussion Fairy, who visited frequently (and who also effectively ended brother Brett’s career), the world would never truly know the extent of Lindros’ talents. Some may call it karma, but others could see it as a warning sign of the old adage “don’t count your chickens before they hatch.” No player, no matter how remarkable, is going to singlehandedly transform a so-so team into a powerhouse. You never know what’s in the cards. After all, I doubt Lindros would have ever imagined when he entered the NHL that he’d be retiring now, fifteen years and eight concussions later.

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21 Responses to Lindros: Hockey hero or disappointment?

  1. WFY says:

    I love this:
    “But then I come to my senses and remember where I live. The Eric Lindros of sports towns.”
    It was interesting to watch Flyers fans (or which there were many at my alma mater) turn on him, though not as interesting as Stillers fans turning on Kordell Stewart.
    I remember Jason Doig knocking Lindros out before the lockout too.

  2. pgreene says:

    lindros could’ve been a great player. he was, for a season or two, a great player. but he never came close to playing a full season, is just over a ppg career player, and was a shadow of what he should’ve been. that gets you in the hall of fame? not if i have a vote.

  3. PGreene. I think we should counted your vague generalizations with some facts. Lindros played in six straight all star games (thats more than 1 or 2 seasons of greatness). You cannot seriously claim he never came close to playing a full season. He played 81 games once and in excess of 70 games 3 more times. He played 46 games in the 48 game season when he won MVP. Before his concussion problems he had the third best points per game in hockey history (behind only Gretzky and Lemieux). That is a Hall of Fame player. It is also a player who has a disappointingly short career, but a very dominant one for a few years.

  4. Thunderweenie says:

    Thanks, DCSC. Good article.
    My $0.02 worth (which is $0.02 Cdn, so its worth more than it used to be!):
    I don’t count myself as a Lindros fan, but I’m not sure its fair to hold lofty teenage expectations against a guy at Hall of Fame voting time and expect such a measurement to be fair and meaningful.
    I’ve heard a few people argue that if Cam Neely made it into the Hall, Lindros can’t be considered too long of a shot. Not that I have any objection at all to Neely being there—I do think its worth pointing out, though, that Lindros and Neely had comparable production over a comparably short period of actually healthy playing time. Neely never won a Hart Trophy, though, nor did he play on some of the weak teams on which Lindros played (remember, he had the misfortune of being in New York when the Rangers were truly stinking up MSG).
    Plus, Lindros was also in his absolute prime during the worst of the trap years, whereas Neely’s began in 1983, when Swiss Cheese defense was the style.
    Again, not looking to dump on Neely in any way–just saying that we have to keep Lindros‚Äô career in context. At the end of the day, you have to judge the record and not the pre-career hype.
    Food for thought.

  5. Zack says:

    When Lindros was healthy he was the most dominant player in the game. Obviously the issue is whether he stayed healthy enough to warrant a spot in the Hall of Fame – I think yes.

  6. TG says:

    Will people be able to look at his career in a vacuum? Or will the outside stuff (injuries, his family, the forced trade, the expectations) influence people? Personally, I think he was a very good player for several years, but it’s not the “Hall of Very Good”. But would I pitch a fit if he made it in? probably not.

  7. Dan says:

    Just my take…Dino Ciccarelli had roughly 236 more goals, 99 more assists and 335 more points than Lindros. Ciccarelli’s not in, and his numbers dwarf Lindros’s. (Of course they also dwarf Neely’s…so what are you gonna do?)
    Before Lindros gets a look, I’d like to see Dino in.

  8. Thunderweenie says:

    Dan,
    I hear you, but Dino is also a pretty controversial character, in a way that guys like Lindros and Neely just aren’t. No question that his numbers are Hall-worthy, but he was in enough trouble both on and off the ice that you can make a case for keeping him out.
    Even if you don’t buy the argument for Ciccarelli’s exclusion (and not everyone does), you have to admit that Lindros doesn’t carry the same kind of baggage.

  9. Dan says:

    I just don’t get why Dino is held in that light. By today’s standards, he’s darn near a model citizen! His hit on Luke Richardson looks almost like a love pat compared to Marty McSorley and Todd Bertuzzi. As for the alledged rape in Georgetown. That was thrown out of court…and doesn’t appear to have negatively impacted the way Scott Stevens is regarded…he was in that limo too.
    As for Lindros…yeah, he doesn’t carry the baggage. His numbers are comparable to Neely’s, and that’s with losing a lot of time to injury. The NFL is going through the same debate right now, with Terrell Davis. What kind of numbers would they have had if injury didn’t cut their careers short? I think Lindros will get in…Davis, I just don’t know. I don’t think he played long enough. Dino…the guy scored 600 goals (most of them while getting his a** kicked in the crease) and 1200 points I don’t care if he kicks dogs, babies and old people, based on those numbers…he should be in the Hall. lol.

  10. The Peerless says:

    “Lindros: Hockey hero or disappointment?”
    …neither. From his first game until his first (reported) concussion in March 1998 he was 191-237-428 in 308 games. Over an 82-game season, that’s 51-63-114. That’s pretty much what was expected of him coming into the league.
    He was a victim of circumstance, of his Achilles heel that was more his “Lindros’ head.” I don’t know that he was a hockey hero — he never played long enough at high enough a level to merit that. And I don’t think he was a disappointment, any more than Mario Lemieux was for having contracted Hodgkin’s Disease or enduring a chronic back problem.
    He was a guy with immense talent and, as it turned out, immense vulnerability.

  11. Thunderweenie says:

    Peerless,
    I see what you’re saying, and for the most part I agree, but I’ve never heard anyone suggest that Mario Lemieux was a disappointment.
    In spite of his battles with cancer and a bad back, Mario still won two back-to-back Stanley Cups, three Hart trophies, two Conn Smyths, six League scoring titles, an Olympic Gold medal, and set a pile of scoring records…
    Lindros, of course, was by no means a wash-out (as some folks in the hockey world have very unfairly suggested that he was). However, his injuries did mean that a lot of his talent and potential went unrealized. For a variety of reasons, that simply was not the case with Lemieux.

  12. norske says:

    Lindros was a dominating player in his day. People actually feared playing against him. He won the Hart and the Pearson Trophies one year, showing how the league considered him. He made a couple of post-season All Star Teams. He was better than a point a game player.
    On the other hand, he never exceeded 50 goals in a season, and exceeded one hundred points only once. He’s below 500 goals and 1,000 points for his career. (Yes, many of hall of famers don’tmeet that standard, but those stats can sway a close case.) He looks good next to Cam Neely, though, with more points and more honors (Neely’s only trophy was the Masterton, which no one really aspires to win). So, on the Neely scale he should make it, but I’m not at all sure he will. Neely basically got in through sheer sentimentality. People loved the way he played, so they overlooked the obvious shortcomings in his injury-shortened career. I don’t see Lindros getting the benefit of that kind of sentimentality. Neely was beloved, in Boston and elsewhere. I don’t think Lindros is beloved anywhere.

  13. It is sad to see Mr. Lindros go. He was a target from the first day he stepped onto the ice.
    He was a talent. It is sad to see him broken down and out.

  14. jeremy says:

    Wow… great shot on Lindros… Hmmm… Can you say Scott Stevens!

  15. Thunderweenie says:

    Here’s the Canadian Press’ take. The Clark Gillies comparison is an interesting one.
    http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/news_story/?ID=222465&hubname=

  16. MulletMan says:

    I thought that Lindros was loved in Colorado. They would not have been the same team if Lindros would have signed with the Quebec Nordiques.
    I think that will be the biggest factor on him not getting into the hall. He outright stated he would not play for a Canadian team…unless it is the Canadian Olympic Team.
    I didn’t realize until now that he had pulled the same I won’t play if you pick me stunt when he was drafted in the OHL by Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

  17. MulletMan says:

    Also, a quote from the Cam Neely wiki “He became the archetype of the ultimate power forward”. I don’t see or hear anything like this while discussing Lindros. People today still talk about Cam and how he changed the role of Power Forward. When I hear talk of Lindros I think about improved head gear and keeping my head up while skating…the boy never learned to skate with his head up.

  18. JR says:

    The great 88 had a couple of amazing years and a nice run. Hall of Fame? No way.

  19. The Peerless says:

    Thunderweenie…
    I don’t mean to suggest Lemieux was a disappointment. Far from it. That he accomplished as much as he did in the face of the obstacles in his path speaks to the player he was.
    The point is that both players had to face obstacles not of their making that perhaps resulted in both not achieving the full potential of their talent. Lemieux has those Cups and MVP awards and scoring titles, but had he not have his own obstacles to overcome, he might be called “The Great One.”
    In Lindros’ case, without his history of concussions (which in a purely hockey sense, in terms of being able to play the game, had — in my opinion — more of an impact on him that Lemieux’ problems had on him) he might have had the record of accomplishment you noted for Lemieux.
    That’s the unsatisfying “well never know” thought.

  20. Schultz for Calder says:

    If he had learned to skate with his head up, he might have spent so much time twitching on the ice.
    If he goes into the hall, they definately need to put him next to Scott Stevens. Under Stevens, if that’s possible…

  21. Hockey Dad II says:

    I hate to see Lindros’ career come to this. My son idolized him and uses his name in his email address still. My son is now 22 and fighting in Iraq for the Army. That kid played 16 years of youth hockey up through Junior B level and was constantly inspired by Lindros. It is that kind of influence and idol worship that kept him out of trouble and on the ice through some really good games. Lindros’ numbers alone should get him into the hall but his inspiration should make up for anything he may lack.

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