This isn’t an article about why Scott Niedermayer, Brendan Shanahan and Chris Chelios were undeserving inductees for the Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2013.
But it is one about why the selection committee swung and missed again on a player that should’ve been a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee, and that former superstar’s name is Eric Lindros.
During his prime, Lindros was undeniably among the top five players in the world for a period of at least five years, which itself should be enough to get the London, Ontario native enough votes to gain entry into hockey’s most exclusive club.
Unfortunately, the prospect once referred to as “The Next One” never captured the number of Stanley Cups, scoring titles or individual awards he seemed destined for when he entered the NHL in 1992 as the most highly-touted prospect since Mario Lemieux.
In fairness to Lindros, he earned some of the vitriol himself by refusing to play for the OHL’s Sault St. Marie Greyhounds and the NHL’s Quebec Nordiques immediately after being selected No. 1 overall by each team in their respective league drafts. At first, few outside of Quebec City had any issues with the young prodigy’s choices, as Lindros continued to dominate at every level of play.
In fact, after Lindros informed Quebec that he would not be reporting to the team following the 1991 NHL Draft, the wunderkind played his way onto Team Canada’s roster for the 1991 Canada Cup, becoming the first non-professional player to do so.
There, as an 18-year-old, Lindros didn't look out of place alongside Gretzky, Lemieux and Canada's impressive collection of superstars, and the controversial big man tallied five points en route to the Canada Cup crown.
Once Lindros made his NHL debut, the 6’4” force didn’t just meet expectations early on, he exceeded them. As a 19-year-old rookie, Lindros tallied 41 goals and 75 points in just 61 games, seemingly ensuring that the Flyers had made the right decision in signing the playmaking pivot to the then-richest deal in NHL history.
He followed that up with a 97-point season.
He enjoyed arguably his greatest year as a pro during the lockout-shortened 1994-95 campaign, as Lindros edged out Penguins star Jaromir Jagr for the 1995 Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player.
Despite all of these accomplishments, the argument that could make Lindros’ case most convincing is the impact his presence had on those around him.
Take John LeClair for example. When the former Montreal Canadiens winger was dealt to the Flyers early during the 1994-95 season, the big man immediately blossomed into a star, becoming the first American winger to register three consecutive 50-goal seasons. And he did it all while playing with Lindros.
The same can be said for Swedish journeyman Mikael Renberg, who combined with Lindros and LeClair to form “The Legion of Doom,” which was undoubtedly the most feared offensive unit in the league for a time.
No, it didn’t last forever, as Lindros’ repeated concussions and related injuries (such as an incident involving a collapsed lung), took a toll on the superstar center.
Lindros soldiered on and managed to post better than a point-per-game numbers during each of his first nine NHL seasons, including seven 30-goal performances during that span.
But beyond the numbers, Lindros' style of play and vision made him one of the hardest players to stop on a nightly basis, which is something the selection committee seemed to appreciate upon granting Pavel Bure admission to the Hall.
Like Lindros, Bure's magnificent career was short. The two have remarkably similar career totals—Lindros finished with 865 points in 760 games, Bure with 779 in 702.
Both Bure and Lindros rank among the top 25 all-time in terms of points per game, with Lindros sitting at No. 19, six spots ahead of Bure. And what makes Lindros' lack of recognition even more puzzling is that of the 18 players ahead of him on the list, former Calgary Flame star Kent Nilsson is the only eligible player not currently in the Hall of Fame.
In terms of accolades, Lindros has to be deserving of Hall of Fame consideration, as he’s received more honors and individual awards than Cam Neely, Clark Gillies or Doug Gilmour could ever dream of, but whether he sustained the greatness long enough remains a question.
What he did do, though, was help Canada to an Olympic title in 2002, a silver in 1992 and earn eight All-Star selections along the way.
More importantly, Lindros changed the way the game of hockey is played, as he was the first big man to combine the playmaking skills of a smaller player with the physical strength and grit of a bruiser.
Eventually, Lindros will almost certainly get in, but it may be that he has to wait for the right year, just like Adam Oates, Glenn Anderson and many others did before him.
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