This week we’re debating the merits of players who may have been overlooked for induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Using the Hall’s criteria of judging a player based on their “playing ability, sportsmanship, character and contributions to his or her team or teams and to the game of hockey in general” we will debate who should be up next for inclusion in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Up next, Eric Lindros.
- 372 goals (113th all-time)
- 493 assists (140th all-time)
- 865 points (119th all-time)
- 111 power play goals (120th all-time)
- 46 game-winning goals (149th all-time)
- 0.489 goals per game (28th all-time)
- 1.138 points per game (19th all-time)
- 24 playoff goals (228th all-time)
- 0.453 playoff goals per game (28th all-time)
- 1.075 playoff points per game (18th all-time)
- 1994-95 Hart Trophy winner
- 1994-95 Ted Lindsay Trophy winner
Why He Should Get In:
The best argument for Lindros is simply that he’s the only Hall of Fame eligible player who has won the Hart Trophy in the last 60 years and isn’t in the Hall of Fame. The number one overall pick in the 1991 draft appeared in six All-Star Games and captained the Flyers for six seasons. His scoring prowess doesn’t come across quite as well in his raw totals, with 372 goals (113th all-time) and 865 points (119th all-time). Due to his relatively short career, you get a better sense of how strong he was offensively with his 1.138 points per game over the course of his 760-game career. That’s the 19th best mark all-time.
He was an elite player that the opposition had to plan for, and he was elite for a good stretch of time. He was a different kind of player and arguably the first big, physical player who had elite-level skills.
Former Flyers GM Bob Clarke, who sits on the Hall of Fame Selection Committee as of March 2014, asked if Lindros belonged in the Hockey Hall of Fame, famously said, “Yes, based on his ability to play the game and based on his contributions as a player, I think you have to separate all the crap that went on. Particularly when he played for the Flyers, it was just outstanding, dominant hockey — the first of the huge, big men with small man’s skill.”
The interview continued:
“The standards that were put on this kid were very unfair,” Clarke said. “Nobody could live up to those standard, and I think he was awful special as a player and awful good.
“But he wasn’t Wayne Gretzky and he wasn’t Mario Lemieux. He was a different type of player, but had he stayed healthy … he may have been at that standard.”
Outside the NHL, he had a decorated international career with Olympic gold in 2002; gold in the World Junior Championships in 1990 and 1991; a Canada Cup Championship in 1991 where he was the only non-NHL player on Canada, scoring five points in eight games; and a runner-up spot in the 1996 World Cup.
He also led his junior squad, the Oshawa Generals, to an OHL Championship and a Memorial Cup Championship.
Why He Shouldn’t Get In:
He had a tendency to rub people the wrong way, starting from day one of his NHL career when he refused to report to the Quebec Nordiques who had drafted him first overall. After not playing the year following the draft, the Nordiques were forced to make a trade — one that arguably hurt their future in Quebec, but led to the Avalanche winning the Stanley Cup in 1996. It wasn’t the first time he acted in that manner either, he refused to report to Sault Ste. Marie after being drafted first overall in the OHL draft as well.
The brevity of his career due to concussions is also a factor in him not yet being inducted. He not only missed nearly three full seasons due to injury, he missed an entire season largely due a contract hold out with the Flyers that ultimately led to him heading to the New York Rangers. The last game he played before that contract battle was maybe the concussion that started the early end of his career. He took a massive hit from Scott Stevens — one that TSN said “defined two careers” — and was never really the same afterward, despite a decent first season with the Rangers.
Additionally, he never won a Stanley Cup, but like we discussed with Jeremy Roenick, the lack of his name on the Cup isn’t entirely on him. He averaged 0.453 goals per game (28th all-time) and 1.075 points per game in the playoffs (18th all-time).
I put him in, despite the arguments against his inclusion from the brevity of his career to some not liking his aggressive style of play. He was a league MVP and the fact that he was so good in his prime that teams had to adjust to account for him says too much to exclude him. I don’t oppose that he wasn’t a first ballot guy and that it’s taken this long for him to get in — he became eligible in 2010 — but he’s due.
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Dustin Nelson writes about news and the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.