NHL: Eric Lindros and the 10 Best Players Whose Careers Were Derailed by Injury

Adam GreuelSenior Analyst IJuly 12, 2011

NHL: Eric Lindros and the 10 Best Players Whose Careers Were Derailed by Injury

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    Ask people the what the worst thing about hockey is, and the majority of them will tell you that the injuries a lot of the players suffer are too common and can really affect a persons lifestyle once they retire. 

    From permanent knee injuries to back problems, there are many players who must retire early and suffer well past their playing days. One of the biggest hot topics in hockey right now is concussions, and what can be done to prevent them.

    Many wonder just how dominant Eric Lindros could have been if he didn't suffer numerous hits to the jaw while cutting through centre ice with his head down. What kind of stats would Bobby Orr have put up with two healthy knees? How about Pavel Bure? Could Mario Lemieux have beat some of Gretzky's records without his nagging hip and back injuries?

    Unfortunately, we will never know. In this list I count down the top ten players who either had their careers cut short due to injury or just suffered from diminished skill due to their nagging problems. 

10. Keith Primeau

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    Years Active: 1990-2006

    Career Statistics: 909 GP, 266 G, 353 A, 619 P

    Major Injuries: Concussion

    Expectations were high for Keith Primeau after being drafted third overall by the Detroit Red Wings in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft. Despite not meeting the expectations of many, Primeau put together quite the career as a power forward.

    He would go on to play with the Carolina Hurricanes and captain the Philadelphia Flyers after starting his career with the Wings. Primeau put together three 30-or-more goal seasons and six 20-or-more goal seasons.

    He really came into his own during the 2004 playoffs, when he led the Flyers to within one game of the Stanley Cup Finals after scoring nine goals in 18 games.

    Primeau continued to captain the Flyers after the 2003-04 lockout. Unfortunately for him, his season ended after just nine games because of post-concussion symptoms.

    This concussion also signalled the end of his career at the age of 33. Primeau has been quoted in the Toronto Star on how he was foolish to play through some of the concussions he did and how he would do things differently if he had the chance to do it all over again.

9. Marian Gaborik

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    Years Active: 2000-present

    Career Statistics: 640 GP, 283 G, 288 A, 571 P

    Major Injuries: Groin Strains, Back, Hip

    Big things were expected from Marian Gaborik after the Minnesota Wild made him their first draft pick in franchise history.

    Yes, he did have five 30-or-more goal seasons with the franchise, but he is almost remembered more for the time he spent off the ice than the time he spent on it.

    He played only 48 games in the 2006-07 season because of a nagging groin injury that just wouldn't go away ,and he played only 17 games in his last season for the Wild because of a back injury and hip surgery.

    After a relatively healthy first season with the New York Rangers, Gaborik missed 20 games in 2010-11 because of a separated shoulder and concussion.

    Many are starting to wonder if his body is just going to fall apart in the near future.

    Although he still has plenty of speed and can be an effective player, I believe Gaborik had the potential to reach the 500-goal plateau for his career if not for his brittle body.

8. Vladimir Konstantinov

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    Years Active: 1991-1997

    Career Statistics: 446 GP, 47 G, 128 A, 175 P

    Major Injuries: Brain Damage

    Known as "Vlad The Impaler", Konstantinov was an incredible force on the ice for the Detroit Red Wings.

    He played extremely well on both ends of the rink. He was feared by many players because of his hitting ability. There is no doubt that all Wings fans remember the hit he put on Dale Hawerchuk in the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals. 

    Konstantinov was also part of the famous Russian Five, which consisted of fellow Russians Slava Fetisov, Igor Larionov, Sergei Fedorov, and Slava Kozlov. He was the runner up to Brian Leetch for the Norris trophy (best NHL defensemen) in 1996-97.

    Unfortunately, things turned for the worst on June 13th, 1997, after Konstantinov left a private party celebrating the recent Cup win.

    Konstantinov, Slava Fetisov, and team masseur Sergei Mnatsakanov hired a limousine to take them home. The driver, whose license was suspended at the time, lost control of the vehicle and hit a tree.

    Konstantinov spent several weeks in a coma before pulling through and suffered serious head injuries and paralysis. He requires a full-time nursing aid and a walker to get around.

    His career was cut short at the age of 30.

7. Cam Neely

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    Years Active: 1983-96

    Career Statistics: 726 GP, 395 G, 299 A, 694 P

    Major Injuries: Knee, Hip

    One of the best power forwards in the history of the game, Cam Neely was an offensive force for the Boston Bruins. He had three 50-or-more goal seasons, including an incredible 50 goals in just 49 games during the 1993-94 season. 

    Due to his incredible shot and punishing body checks, Neely became known as "Bam-Bam Cam". Not only was he a force during the regular season, but he was a great playoff performer. He scored 28 points in 21 games during the Boston Bruins 1990 Cup run and had 16 goals in 19 games during the 1991 playoffs.

    Neely's knee problems all began because of one player, Ulf Samuelsson. Samuelsson hit Neely with two dirty knee-on-knee hits during the 1991 playoffs, and Neely developed myositis ossificans in the injured area, causing him to miss all but 22 games during the next two seasons.

    Despite the pain he regularly felt in his knee, Neely was able to put up some eye popping goal totals in the years that followed. A degenerative hip condition forced Neely into retirement at the age of 31, after the 1995-96 season.

6. Pavel Bure

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    Years Active: 1991-03

    Career Statistics: 702 GP, 437 G, 342 A, 779 P

    Major Injuries: Knee

    One of the most explosive players in the NHL during his prime, Pavel Bure was blessed with some of the fastest feet in NHL history, helping him to become one of the best pure goal scorers in NHL history.

    He recorded an incredible five 50-or-more goal seasons and his .623 goals-per-game average is third among the Top 100 goal scorers in NHL history.

    Although he left the Vancouver Canucks on bad terms after holding out for a better contract than what they were offering, many Canucks fans remember the run Bure led the team on in the 1994 playoffs. He recorded 16 goals in just 24 games in leading the Canucks to within just one win of the championship. 

    Bure suffered a knee injury during a pre-season game against the New Jersey Devils just before the 2002-03 season was set to begin. He returned after missing just three regular season games, but was again the victim of a knee-on-knee collision in December via Curtis Brown, knocking him out for the remainder of the season.

    Bure officially announced his retirement on November 1st, 2005, due to problems with his chronically injured knee. He was only 32 years of age when he retired. 

5. Peter Forsberg

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    Years Active: 1994-08, 2011

    Career Statistics: 708 GP, 249 G, 636 A, 885 P

    Major Injuries: Ankle, Groin, Hip

    One of the best passers in NHL history, Peter Forsberg nearly put up an assist per game in his very good career that was riddled with injuries, but he was ultimately done in by two extremely bad ankles that made skating a daily chore.

    Forsberg was drafted sixth overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1991 NHL entry draft and was involved in one of the most famous trades in NHL history. Forsberg and many other assets were traded to the Quebec Nordiques for Eric Lindros, another player who could have been one of the best ever if not for injuries. 

    Forsbergs injuries began to appear during his third NHL season and hampered him nearly every year after that season. His ankle got so bad that he missed the entire 2001-02 season. However, he was so dominant that he returned for the 2002 playoffs and led them in scoring with 27 points despite the fact that the Avs didn't even make the finals. 

    After attempting a comeback this year with the Avalanche, Forsberg found that his ankles were worse than he thought and he retired for good on February 14th, 2011.

4. Steve Yzerman

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    Years Active: 1983-06

    Career Statistics: 1514 GP, 692 G, 1063, 1755 P

    Major Injuries: Knee

    Lets get one thing straight: Yzerman had an incredible career, but he could have been even better if not for the major knee injuries he suffered throughout his career.

    Drafted fourth overall by the Detroit Red Wings in 1983, Yzerman became the heart and soul of the franchise and captained the team to three Stanley Cup victories.

    It all started in 1988 for Yzerman, after he tore up ligaments in his right knee.  Despite this, Yzerman continued to put up eye popping totals into the early 90's. Yzerman even changed his game for the better, becoming a great two-way player under the tutelage of coach Scotty Bowman. 

    Yzermans next knee surgery didn't happen until just before the 2002 Winter Olympics. After helping Canada with their first goal medal in fifty years, Yzerman went under arthroscopic knee surgery. He was back in time for the 2002 playoffs and put on a performance for the ages.

    Everyone could see that the pain in his knee was almost unbearable for Yzerman, as he had to use his stick as a crutch to get up any time he fell on the ice. Despite this, Yzerman put up 23 points in the playoffs to lead the team in scoring and was the second best player on the Wings after Nicklas Lidstrom.

    Yzerman retired after the 2005-06 season, ending his career with a first round loss against the Edmonton Oilers. In my opinion, he would have put up over 2000 points without his knee problems. 

3. Eric Lindros

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    Years Active: 1992-00, 2001-07

    Career Statistics: 760 GP, 372 G, 493 A, 865 P

    Major Injuries: Concussion, Wrist

    Probably the player most people wonder about, Eric Lindros had the potential to be one of the best. He was probably the most hyped prospect in NHL history and the package the Quebec Nordiques received for him from the Philadelphia Flyers was incredible. 

    Lindros showed just how dominant he could be during the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season when he won both the Lester B. Pearson and Hart Trophy awards. His combination of speed, size, and skill could not be matched by anybody in the NHL.

    Lindros's first reported NHL concussion came in 1998, when Darius Kasparaitis crushed him as he was skating across centre ice. Over the next two years, Lindros missed time on five separate occasions due to concussions or concussion-like symptoms.

    The most "famous" concussion Lindros ever received came via a bone crushing hit by Scott Stevens. Anyone who has seen the hit can surely remember the sickening way Lindros crumpled to the ice immediately afterwards.

    Lindros ultimately retired in 2007 at the age of 34, long past the days of his old dominant self, ruined by the multiple head injuries he suffered throughout his career.

2. Mario Lemieux

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    Years Active: 1984-97, 2000-06

    Career Statistics: 915 GP, 690 G, 1033 A, 1723 P

    Major Injuries: Hip, Back

    Mario Lemieux is quite possibly the greatest talent ever to play in the NHL, and probably could have broken more than a few of Wayne Gretzky's records if he didn't suffer through an amazing amount of different ailments throughout his career.

    After being drafted first overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1984 NHL entry draft, Lemieux recorded an incredible six straight 100-point seasons, including seasons of 199 points and 123 points in just 59 games. His injury problems began in 1990-91 when he injured his back and it progressed to a herniated disc.

    Lemieux eventually underwent surgery to fix his back before the 1990-91 season began, but still missed the first 50 games of the season. Despite continued pain from his back, Lemieux returned to lead the Penguins to a victory in the Stanley Cup Finals, as he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

    After setting the league on fire with his play during the beginning of the 1992-93 season, Lemieux was shockingly diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma and he had to undergo energy draining radiation treatments. When he returned, Lemieux was 12 points behind Pat Lafontaine for the scoring lead. When the season ended, Lemieux was 12 points ahead of him for the scoring lead despite missing 22 games.

    With all of the injuries he suffered early in his career, Lemieux retired for three seasons, but came back to play in 2000-01. He proved to everyone that he didn't miss a beat as he scored at nearly a two points-per-game pace. 

    Everything officially game to an end midway through the 2005-06 season when Lemieux retired for good because of an irregular heartbeat. He got to play 26 games with the Penguins' next elite talent, Sidney Crosby.

1. Bobby Orr

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    Years Active: 1966-79

    Career Statistics: 657 GP, 270 G, 645 A, 915 P

    Major Injuries: Knee

    Already considered the best defensemen to ever play the sport despite only playing in 657 career games, Bobby Orr was one of the fastest players of his era and would hold most scoring records for a defensemen if he had two healthy knees.

    Known for his exhilarating rushes up the ice, Orr had so much speed that he was always able to make it back in time so that he wasn't caught up ice. He scored over 100 points in six straight seasons, something that is unprecedented for a defensemen.

    By 1978, Orr had over a dozen operations on his knees, but he still attempted to play after sitting out the 1977-78 season. Unfortunately, he only lasted six games as he could barely skate anymore and was even having trouble walking during his everyday life.

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