Is Lindros Hall-worthy?

The most controversial candidate for the 2010 Hall of Fame is Eric Lindros. (Sun Media/Sue Reeve)

The most controversial candidate for the 2010 Hall of Fame is Eric Lindros. (Sun Media/Sue Reeve)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

The Big E.

The Big Enigma.

Eric Lindros.

Is this a man who one day, perhaps as early as next year, deserves to find himself in the Hockey Hall of Fame?

Some say yes, arguing his dominant presence on the ice made him an iconic figure in the sport.

His detractors, meanwhile, point to an injury-riddled career and a collection of off-ice issues as reasons to keep him out.

Such is the polarizing effect that Lindros has on people. Let the debate officially begin.

While tonight's inductees -- Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Brian Leetch and Lou Lamoriello -- pretty much were shoo-ins, the class of 2010 definitely will not be as cut-and-dry for the Hall's selection committee.

And the most controversial candidate is Lindros.

From the time he first the national hockey spotlight as a high-scoring junior, Lindros has never lacked for bashers who eagerly jumped on one of the off-ice warts that dotted his career.

There was his refusal to report to the OHL's Sault St. Marie Greyhounds, then, several years later, the NHL's Quebec Nordiques.

There was his highly publicized run-in with a patron at Koo Koo Bananas, a Whitby watering hole.

And there was his well-known feud with then-Philadelphia Flyers general manager Bob Clarke, who eventually shipped his No. 1 headache to the New York Rangers.

But to simply portray Lindros in such a negative light without highlighting the deep footprint he left on the sport would be wrong.

Nor would it be fair.

Don't take our word for it, though. Just listen to Clarke, whose mudslinging exchanges with the Lindros family over the years got downright nasty, at times.

"Yes (he belongs), based on his ability to play the game and based on his contributions as a player," Clarke surprisingly said two years ago at the time of Lindros' retirement.

"I think you have to separate all the crap that went on. Especially when he played for the Flyers, it was just outstanding dominant hockey, the first of the big men with small-man's skills."

Lindros recorded 865 points in 760 games, an average of 1.14 per outing. He represented Canada at three world junior championships, three Olympics, one world championship, one Canada Cup and one World Cup. He was Canadian junior hockey's player of the year in 1991 and captured the Hart Trophy as the NHL's MVP four years later.

A series of concussions crippled Lindros' quest for longevity, eventually forcing him to retire. That, unfortunately, will be yet another sidebar in the does-he-belong debate.

Then again, with Lindros, nothing has ever been black and white, has it?

Class of 2010?

Lindros and Joe Nieuwendyk lead the list of first-time candidates eligible for 2010, one that also includes John LeClair, Peter Bondra, Pierre Turgeon and Theo Fleury.

Nieuwendyk's accomplishment of helping three different teams (Calgary, Dallas, New Jersey,) win Stanley Cups, along with his impressive stats, should get him in one day. But beyond he and Lindros, it seems more likely that candidates who were passed over in recent years now have a realistic shot, since next year's class is nowhere near as strong as this year's edition.

Doug Gilmour is the most worthy of that group, but there are other intriguing names such as Pavel Bure, Adam Oates, Alex Mogilny, Sergei Makarov, Phil Housley, Mike Richter, Tom Barrasso and Mike Vernon.

Tweet trouble

Alan Walsh, agent for Habs goalie Jaroslav Halak, created a stir Saturday after Montreal's 3-1 loss to Tampa when he tweeted: "Interesting stat of the night ... Price is 10W, 32L in last 42 starts. Hmmm." Quizzed about that message, Walsh responded, via Twitter: "It was a tongue-in-cheek comment not meant to be taken seriously, forgot it was Montreal and everyone loses a sense of humour." For the record, the aforementioned Carey Price was in goal against Tampa.

Cross checks

Carolina GM Jim Rutherford is exploring a trade or the signing of another goaltender after Cam Ward had his left leg sliced open by a skate blade Saturday , an injury that will keep him out for "a fairly long period of time." Ward remained in a Columbus hospital yesterday ... Among those players who have impressed the Team Canada Olympic brass this season: Patrick Marleau ... The NHL will hold board of governors meetings tomorrow and Wednesday in Toronto.

MIKE.ZEISBERGER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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