Why Philadelphia Flyers Legend Eric Lindros Deserves Spot in Hockey Hall of Fame

Erik CottonCorrespondent INovember 22, 2012

Lindros has been passed over the last two years since he became eligible in 2010.
Lindros has been passed over the last two years since he became eligible in 2010.Rick Stewart/Getty Images

As another class of players were recently inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, many fans wondered why former Philadelphia Flyers star Eric Lindros wasn't in the group.  Is it because he was as divisive a player as the NHL's seen in its history?  And does he really deserve to be enshrined with all the other greats of the game?

Love him or hate him, there's no arguing that Lindros was one of the best players of his generation, and he should be honored as such.

No player has ever begun their career with as much hype but also as much controversy. 

He angered a lot of hockey purists by refusing to play for the Quebec Nordiques after they selected him No. 1 overall in the 1991 NHL entry draft. 

Ironically, though, his eventual trade to Philly solidified Quebec's lineup for years to come.  It allowed them (albeit as the Colorado Avalanche) to win a Cup in 1996.  Peter Forsberg, whose rights were acquired in the Lindros deal, was integral to that championship run.

Is Lindros the only athlete to force his way out of a situation he didn't want to be in?  Of course not. 

When you think of Eli Manning, do you think of the guy who refused to play for the San Diego Chargers, or the QB who has won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants?

Regardless of how you feel about draft-pick holdouts, Lindros entered the NHL at a time when no one had seen a player combine size, strength and skill the way he did.  Yet there were constant questions about his character, as many saw him as spoiled and selfish.

Bruce McCurdy of the Edmonton Journal echoed a common sentiment about No. 88:

First things first, I was no fan of Eric Lindros. Something about the guy rubbed me the wrong way as he stood up to the powers-that-be and snubbed a system that would send him to Sault Ste. Marie or Quebec City. In the process it could be argued he struck a blow for worker’s rights, but he did so with such a sense of entitlement and a degree of parental interference. It always seemed to be about Eric, not about the rank and file.

In that statement, McCurdy references the first holdout of Lindros' career, which came in juniors.  He refused to sign with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and eventually forced a trade to the Oshawa Generals.

So the criticism levied at him for those decisions is more than fair.  At the same time, a player's personality shouldn't be the overriding factor as to why he should or shouldn't be afforded hockey's greatest honor. 

The other case that's been made against Lindros' induction is the lack of longevity in his career. 

His concussion issues limited him to 760 games over the course of 13 seasons.  That works out to a little over 58 games played per year, taking into account the lockout-shortened season in 1994-95.

In those 760 games, though, Lindros totaled 372 goals, 493 assists, 865 points and 1,398 penalty minutes.

According to Travis Hughes of BroadStreetHockey.com, if you remove the years following the now infamous Scott Stevens hit in the 2000 playoffs, he'd rank sixth all time in points per game.

The only players to rank ahead of him would be Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, Sidney Crosby and Bobby Orr.  Even with all of the injuries he endured toward the end of his career, he still ranks 19th overall in that category.

Compare his numbers to those of Pavel Bure, who was part of this year's HHOF class.  Bure played 702 games with 437 goals, 342 assists, 779 points and 484 penalty minutes.

Neither player won a Stanley Cup.  Bure was a pure goal scorer, while Lindros was much more of a playmaker.  And yet Lindros spent almost triple the amount of time in the penalty box that Bure did and still had better numbers.

The "Russian Rocket" never captained his team and was hardly the physical presence Lindros was on the ice.  Arguing that Bure should be in but the former Flyer shouldn't is impossible.

Keep this in mind as well when thinking about whether or not Lindros should be in the HHOF.

On November 8, 2007, the same day he announced his retirement from the NHL, Lindros donated $5 million to the London Health Sciences Center.  That's one of the largest personal donations ever by a Canadian sports figure.

The donation supported programs like the Fowler Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic, a facility that Lindros received treatment at throughout his career.

Despite what you may have thought of him when he played, there's no questioning Lindros' generosity or the talent he brought to the ice.  It's about time the committee in Toronto recognized that.