Eric Lindros was on a trajectory to super-stardom in the 1990s that prompted this to be said about him in the 1997 book The Top 100 NHL Players of All-Time: “No NHL player has ever combined Lindros’ size, skill and skating ability with such willingness to play physically.”
The 50 voters who established that esteemed ranking put Lindros in the No. 54 slot, which was incredibly remarkable seeing that he was only 24 at the time with just five years service in the NHL. The thinking at the time was Lindros would surely continue to climb that list and settle in the top 10.
Lindros was an exceptional goal scorer, playmaker, power forward and difference maker for multiple seasons. He was a lock for the Hall of Fame by his mid-twenties. No one thought otherwise.
But a series of injuries and concussions took the edge off Lindros’ game and he was just a shadow of his former self by the age of 30. Actually, Lindros was never the same after the devastating shoulder to chin hit from Scott Stevens in the 2000 playoffs that knocked him out of the game for a year-and-a-half. Lindros was 27 then.
So is this why Lindros isn’t in the Hall of Fame, three years after being first-time eligible? Did he not sustain his excellence long enough? Or was it because Lindros was, at times during his career, perceived as a high-maintenance player who didn’t follow the conventional path of protocol. He refused to report to the team that drafted him (Quebec) first overall in 1991 and later ran afoul with the team (Philadelphia) that landed him in a nine-player deal. In short, Lindros made a few enemies along the way.
One thing was clear during the first half of Lindros’ short 760-game career. He was the most imposing player to play against and almost unstoppable for many defenders and teams. Lindros won the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP in the lockout-shortened 1994-95, in which he turned 22. He finished third in Hart Trophy voting the next season and was top 10 in voting on two other occasions.
Career not long enough? There’s recent precedence to rule that out.
Cam Neely (726 games), Pat LaFontaine (865) and Pavel Bure (702) are recent Hall inductees whose careers were shortened by injuries. Lindros is in the same ballpark, yet was a better player in his prime than those three were in their primes. Before getting the Hall call, Neely had to wait six years after being first-time eligible, LaFontaine two years and Bure six years. Lindros is approaching four years beyond being first-time eligible.
Too many enemies out there? There are 18 members of the Hall of Fame’s selection committee and no doubt some of them have long memories. Doug Gilmour, Glenn Anderson, Dino Ciccarelli and Bure are recent inductees with checkered pasts (either run-ins with the authorities or considered high maintenance players) who had to wait long beyond their first-time eligible years to be voted in.
Lindros will be like this latter group and eventually make it to the Hall of Fame. He was just too dominating for a defined slice of NHL history to keep him out much longer.
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This is the fourth in a series of Hall Monitor blogs. Others have been on:
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN