SUN Hockey Pool

Big question follows Big E

There is debate whether Eric Lindros should be added to the Hockey Hall of Fame. (SUN MEDIA...

There is debate whether Eric Lindros should be added to the Hockey Hall of Fame. (SUN MEDIA FILE/Stan Behal)

SCOTT MORRISON -- For Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:59 PM ET

So, Eric Lindros will announce his retirement tonight.

The question that needs to be asked is not why, but what is next and, ultimately, for those who like to dwell on the future, does he one day belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame?

The answer to the first question seems academic. Lindros appears destined to work full time for the NHL Players' Association, an organization he already has helped point in the right direction and it seems a perfect fit.

The answer to the second question isn't quite as straightforward.

It says here that Lindros, wisely and regrettably retiring at age 34, eventually will become a member, though it might not happen when he first becomes eligible in three years.

Not everyone will agree with that, of course, but that has been the essence of his career, not everyone agreeing with what he did or how good he was or could have been.

To some, he always will be remembered as the rebel, defying the hockey powers in junior and in pro, seemingly always in conflict.

UNFULFILLED PROMISE

To others, he will be remembered as unfulfilled promise, injuries mostly preventing him from attaining the lasting superstar status many had expected.

What is often forgotten, though, in part because of how his career ended, is that for several years he was a tremendous hockey player.

For one of those years, 1995, he was the very best in the NHL, winning both the Hart and Lester Pearson awards, tying for the league lead with 70 points in an abbreviated post-lockout season. The next season, he scored 47 goals and had 115 points. The season after that, he led the Philadelphia Flyers to the Stanley Cup final -- where they were swept by Detroit -- but still led the way with a dozen goals and 26 points.

Not included in the statistics, either, is the fact the presence of Lindros in Philadelphia was largely responsible for the Flyers being able to construct a big, new money pit of an arena for Ed Snider.

On the ice, Lindros was the complete package. He had great size and toughness, though it could be argued he never quite adjusted his game as those around him got big and strong, too. He was a powerful skater and had a heavy, hard shot, able to score as well as make plays.

During his first nine seasons, regardless of injury, he always finished averaging more than a point a game. Indeed, over his career he had 865 points in 760 games, his points per game average of 1.138 among the best in history.

The question for some, however, is was he good enough, long enough to qualify for Hall of Fame status?

The comparable used most often is that of former Boston Bruins winger Cam Neely, whose career lacked the conflict of Lindros' but was similarly interrupted and shortened by injuries. Neely, inducted into the Hall in 2005, finished with 395 goals and 694 points in 726 games. He played 13 seasons, Lindros 14 (though he missed one entirely because of injury). Few argued about whether Neely belonged.

Many would suggest that Peter Forsberg, who now appears close to retirement himself and was part of that monster deal between Philadelphia and Quebec for Lindros back in 1992, will one day be in the Hall. He has 248 goals and 871 points in 697 games, but also has two Stanley Cup rings.

Lindros' numbers aren't far off, except for the championships, of course, but it is hard to imagine a Hart Trophy winner who doesn't belong in the Hall. In fact, over the years, of those eligible, just two Hart winners have failed to make it into the Hall, goalie Al Rollins and defenceman/winger Tom Anderson.

So the numbers do add up, by comparison, for Lindros. To accept that he is a future Hall of Famer, the naysayers have to get past the baggage, something that wasn't easily done even when he played. It only figures that even now that his career is over, Lindros still inspires a polarizing debate.

As it began, so it ends.


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