Dave Lozo's Bag Skate: What Does Eric Lindros Have to Do to Get into the HHOF?

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Dave Lozo's Bag Skate: What Does Eric Lindros Have to Do to Get into the HHOF?
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Eric Lindros has been eligible for enshrinement into the Hockey Hall of Fame since 2010 yet has not received a phone call from the selection committee. It's not a travesty on par with Jason Alexander never winning an Emmy for his portrayal of George Costanza on Seinfeld, but it's not far off, either.

The HHOF announced its 2014 inductees Monday and, once again, Lindros was not among them. Dominik Hasek, Peter Forsberg, Mike Modano and Rob Blake will gain entry as players, while Pat Burns is finally receiving his due in the builder category with referee Bill McCreary getting the nod as an official.

The four players are excellent, but Lindros has just as strong of a case as any of them.

There was hardly a peep about a fifth straight year of Lindros being snubbed. The gang over at Broad Street Hockey mustered four paragraphs about the story, correctly stating that the four players chosen are deserving, although Lindros is just as, if not more, deserving. The Star-Ledger buried Lindros' career numbers in the final paragraph of its story. Philly.com, like most outlets, was resigned to Lindros falling short in the days leading to the announcement.

The support for Lindros this year was tepid at best, although James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail made a pitch. It's confounding, as only Jaromir Jagr was more dominant during the prime of Lindros' career.

The obvious reason why Lindros won't be inducted this year is his career being cut short by injuries, thus making his totals less impressive than that of his contemporaries. Lindros finished his career with 865 points in 760 career games, which ranks 114th all-time. That's not wholly unimpressive, but it's not a number that demands induction into the Hall of Fame.

Unless you consider Forsberg's career regular-season numbers—885 points in 708 games—that are only slightly better and also undercut by a slew of injuries. Forsberg benefited from playing for nearly a decade on an excellent Colorado Avalanche team that won two Stanley Cups (with a foundation created by Lindros demanding a trade from Quebec to Philadelphia when he was drafted) and were perennial playoff participants. That allowed Forsberg to put up 171 points in 151 playoff games, the 18th-most playoff points in NHL history.

For eight seasons, before concussions ravaged his career, Lindros was a wrecking ball with hands. From 1993 to 2002, Lindros posted 657 points in 497 games; his 1.32 points per game were the second-most during that period, trailing only Jagr (1.46) and leading recent inductees Forsberg (1.24) and Joe Sakic (1.23). 

For his career, Lindros averaged 1.14 points per game, the 19th-best mark in league history.

Most Dominant Nine-Season Stretches Since 1990
Player Period Games played Points per game
Jaromir Jagr 1993-2002 644 1.46
Jaromir Jagr 1992-2001 656 1.45
Jaromir Jagr 1994-2003 639 1.43
Jaromir Jagr 1991-2000 645 1.40
Sidney Crosby 2003-12 434 1.40
Sidney Crosby 2005-14 550 1.40
Eric Lindros 1990-99 431 1.39
Jaromir Jagr 1995-2004 668 1.38
Wayne Gretzky 1990-99 640 1.37
Eric Lindros 1991-2000 486 1.36
Eric Lindros 1992-2001 486 1.36

Hockey-Reference

The only thing that prevented Lindros from a lengthy career were concussions, at least eight that were documented.

If you think concussions are a problem now, consider how rampant they were during Lindros' career.

Lindros suffered six concussions between March 1998 and May 2000, the final three of that stretch occurring over a three-month period. He sat the entire 2000-01 season, partly because of injuries, partly because of a contract dispute with the Flyers, before resuming his career with the New York Rangers and suffering at least two more concussions before his career ended at the age of 33 with the Dallas Stars.

The league was so indifferent about treating concussions during Lindros' career that when he suffered his eighth concussion in January 2004, a doctor made a diagnosis over the phone.

From a Jason Diamos New York Times story:

After last night's defeat, Glen Sather, the Rangers' president, general manager and coach, said that the team's medical staff had spoken to Dr. Karen Johnston, the concussion specialist based in Montreal, who has examined Lindros several times. Lindros was examined at the Garden last night by Dr. Andrew Feldman and Dr. Ron Preston.

''These things are hard to judge,'' Sather said. ''By Dr. Johnston's over-the-phone diagnosis after speaking to our doctors, they don't think it's that severe. But we'll have a better idea tomorrow.''

An "over-the-phone" diagnosis. Incredible.

It's not unprecedented for a player to gain enshrinement despite a career being cut short by injuries. Just look at Pavel Bure, who was inducted in 2012. 

Bure finished his career with 779 points in 702 games, a greater but less impressive total than what Lindros amassed. Bure's peak years were between 1992 and 2001 and were not as dominant as the eight-year stretch Lindros enjoyed in almost the exact same time frame; Bure averaged 1.17 points per game, while Lindros averaged 1.36 points per game.

Lindros, who finished in the top nine in Hart Trophy voting five times and won it once, was arguably the second-most dominant player in the NHL for any nine-year period between 1991 and 2002. But injuries prevented him from enjoying the twilight of his career, when he could have compiled statistics that would have been easier for the voters to acknowledge as Hall-worthy.

Eric Lindros Career Statistics During His Prime
Nine-year period Seasons Points per game Ranking Leader
1990-1999 7 1.39 1st
1991-2000 8 1.36 2nd Jaromir Jagr (1.40)
1992-2001 8 1.36 2nd Jaromir Jagr (1.48)
1993-2002 8 1.32 2nd Jaromir Jagr (1.46)
1994-2003 8 1.19 4th Jaromir Jagr (1.43)

Hockey-Reference

It's not as though Lindros is lacking in international bona fides, either. He represented Canada at three Olympics, posting eight goals and nine assists in 20 games. He had 11 goals and six assists in eight games at the 1993 World Championships and three goals and three assists in eight games during the 1996 World Cup.

In 53 career NHL playoff games, he had 24 goals and 57 points, numbers that were stifled just as much by time missed because of concussions as it was by playing on bad Flyers and Rangers teams. Lindros reached the Stanley Cup Final once, leading all scorers with 26 points during the 1997 postseason.

Perhaps if Lindros played today, where there is more concern shown for head injuries, his career could have been prolonged enough to allow him to reach 900 or 1,000 points, a far more psychologically satisfying number for voters. 

Instead, Lindros was casually swept under the rug for a fifth straight year despite being among the best of his era.

It's likely Lindros will gain entry in 2015, as Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov appear to be the only slam dunks, although there is no guarantee.

It's a shame Lindros has had to wait this long.

 

Three Letters

(If you'd like to ask a question for the weekly mailbag, you can reach me via email at dave111177@gmail.com, fire your query at me via Twitter at @DaveLozo or leave a question in the comments section for next week.)

That's hard to say, because it all depends on where a player lands. Some teams are better fits for certain players. 

But if I have to hazard a guess as to who will be 2014's incarnation of David Clarkson, I'll say it's Jussi Jokinen.

With 21 goals and 57 points last season, Jokinen is the fourth-leading scorer among this crop of unrestricted free agents; he'll be No. 3 if the Avalanche re-sign Paul Stastny before July 1. Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford told the Tribune-Review that he doesn't expect Jokinen will be back in Pittsburgh, so teams will be throwing money at him for his services.

Clarkson benefited greatly from playing with Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise during his final year in New Jersey, much the same way Jokinen benefited from playing a lot with Evgeni Malkin. Wherever Jokinen lands, he won't have that caliber of center dishing him the puck, which means he's very likely to find the sledding much tougher.

Jokinen has always been a solid possession player but saw his numbers jump after arriving in Pittsburgh. It's possible they regress or fall off the table depending on where he signs.

Will he cause similar levels of regret that Clarkson has in Toronto? Doubtful, but relatively speaking, Jokinen could be this year's version of that awful signing.

 

Vinny Lecavalier received five years, $22.5 million from the Philadelphia Flyers last summer. If Brad Richards can get half that, he should consider it a coup.

Lecavalier was 33 years old and had 32 points in 39 games when the Tampa Bay Lightning bought him out last season; Richards is 34 years old and had 51 points in 82 games for the Rangers last season. The decline of Richards is much clearer now than Lecavalier's was a year ago.

The one thing Richards has going for him is the dearth of UFA centers on the market. As of now, he's tied with David Legwand for second among UFA centers in scoring with 51 points last season and will be No. 1 if Stastny stays in Colorado. The three UFA centers behind Richards in scoring are Olli Jokinen, Derek Roy and Mikhail Grabovski.

That's why we will very likely see many teams attempting to fill their needs at center via trade. Best guess, Richards is looking at a potential two-year deal from a new team, three years at most.

 

They will trade it to the Minnesota Wild for Cal Clutterbuck. Oh wait, they already did that with Nino Niederreiter.

With the fifth pick in this year's draft, GM Garth Snow will do everything in his power to turn it into an NHL player who can jump into the Islanders' lineup right away. Arthur Staple of Newsday reported just that a few days ago, and there's no reason not to believe Snow.

The problem is most experts don't consider this a very deep draft, so the No. 5 pick might not fetch all that much unless Snow packages another asset. It will be very interesting to see what Snow does, especially with the Florida Panthers shopping the No. 1 overall pick.

My prediction: The Islanders deal the pick for something. 

 

Dave Lozo covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @DaveLozo.

All statistics via NHL.com or ExtraSkater.com.

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