Thursday afternoon in London, Ontario, the original "Next One" hung'em up and the debate began.
Eric Lindros was the heir apparent to Wayne Gretzky's throne. He was a man amongst boys dominating the OHL with the Oshawa Generals in the early '90s and oozed talent as a member of the Canadian National Team while boycotting the Quebec Nordiques*, who drafted him First Overall despite knowing he would never suit up for them.
Even as he entered the NHL, Lindros displayed his game-changing talents, though he would finish behind "The Finnish Flash" Teemu Selanne for the Rookie of the Year Award. Lindros' trajectory to stardom was on course following the 1995 - 96 NHL Season where he won the Hart Trophy as League MVP after posting an easy career best 115 points.
Though the Big E led the Philadelphia Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals in '97, they were beaten by the Detroit Red Wings with Lindros managing only one goal on th ultimate stage. Injuries limited his playing time and his performance, although it has to be said that when he did play, he produced.
The beginning of the end is easily identifiable in Eric Lindros' career. It take the night he crossed the middle of the neutral zone with his head down against the New Jersey Devils and Devils Captain / Bonecrusher Scott Stevens leveled Lindros. From then on, things never were the same again.
While Lindros posted a point a game average during his first year in New York, he also sat out the entire preceding season, as effects of the Stevens hit still lingered.
After three years in New York and zero playoff appearances, Lindros emerged in his home town of Toronto following the lockout, but only lasted 33 games before a wrist injury ended his season with the Maple Leafs. An uneventful year in Dallas followed and wound up being the last of Lindros' career.
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So the question of whether Eric Lindros belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame is one that is sure to be debate a great deal over the next couple of days by hockey analysts, fans and television types. Being the opinionated soul that I am, I figured I would chime in here.
The answer is no.
Beside his one Hart Trophy, only an Olympic Gold Medal as a role player on the 2002 Nagano team resides in the Lindros Trophy Case. There are no Stanley Cup rings, just the one finals appearance and a truckload of unfulfilled expectations.
Some will argue that Lindros marked a changing of the game - the first of the bigger, stronger, faster NHL'ers who combined skill with size and strength, but to me that isn't enough. That would be akin to putting Kevin Garnett in the NBA Hall of Fame simply because he was the first to go from high school to the pros.
Before Lindros goes in, there are a number of other players who deserve entrance, including Dino Ciccarelli and Glen Anderson. And if Lindros goes in, what of his contemporaries?
Sergei Fedorov has a couple of Stanley Cup rings to go along with his Hart Trophy.
Since I don't think Fedorov, his rings and his MVP belong in the hall, when it comes to Lindros, I gotta say, "No Hall for You!"
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Quebec received Ron Hextall, Mike Ricci, Steve Duchesne, Chris Simon, 2 First Round Picks and $15M from Philadelphia. Oh yeah, and some kid named Peter Forsberg who helped lead them to two Stanley Cups as the Colorado Avalanche.