Lindros not worthy of hall

DAVE FULLER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

Of all the controversies that dogged Eric Lindros, the hockey player, this one is the most complicated, the most polarizing.

Personally, I don’t think Lindros deserves to be elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

I’m not sure he belongs there, at all.

But don’t be surprised if next Tuesday the Hall of Fame’s selection committee — which includes Scotty Bowman, Colin Campbell, Pat Quinn and Dick Irvin — announces that Lindros is among its 2010 inductees. It would be the conventional thing to do — no mess, no lingering debate. It will eventually happen, so let’s do this the easy way.

That kind of thinking, though, isn’t particularly fair to, say Doug Gilmour or Dale Hunter — two extraordinary players who currently are viewed as too blue-collar to be Hall-of-Fame worthy.

Funny how that goes. We name hospital wings after folks born into privilege, not the people actually saving lives.

Exaggerated

Like Alexandre Daigle, the most over-paid, over-hyped first-round pick of the two decades I covered the NHL, Lindros’ potential was exaggerated by a fawning media which dubbed him the Next One before the kid set foot in the NHL. The Toronto Star’s Randy Starkman had written a book on Lindros in advance of his first pro contract.

While Eric’s points-per-games average suggest he was extremely gifted, the lack of success of Lindros-anchored teams in the playoffs was always troubling.

During 13 seasons, the first eight with the free-spending Philadelphia Flyers, Lindros’ teams won a total of five — just five — playoff series with him in the lineup. Three of those five series victories occurred during the Flyers’ controversial 1997 Cup run, the one where coach Terry Murray suggested his star players — Lindros was his biggest — “choked” while getting swept by Detroit in the final.

Others felt it was a case of Lindros pulling the chute on a coach he did not respect. More likely it was neither — which speaks to the point.

We do know this — from 1998 until his retirement in 2007, Lindros’ teams failed to win a single playoff series.

While critics of the Halls’ voting system trot out Bob Pulford and Clark Gillies as examples of how standards are too slack, each won four Stanley Cups. Each had long, productive, impactful careers.

Lindros once won the Hart Trophy as league MVP — but in the ’95 lockout season, when the NHL played only 48 games. He never won the Hart, or any other NHL award, again.

A string of injuries followed by too many concussions proved damaging, too, but to suggest Lindros would have had a Mark Messier-like career if he’d been healthy is like saying the Stone Temple Pilots would have been bigger than R.E.M. if not for the heroin.

As for Gilmour, runner-up for the Hart in 1993, and a Frank Selke winner as the league’s best defensive forward; and Hunter, Braveheart to gawd-awful, cheap-as-nails teams in Quebec and Washington, they never left much on the ice. You couldn’t say that about 99.9% of the players in the NHL.

Lindros appeared in 760 regular-season games, counted 372 goals and 865 points and captained the Flyers from 1994-99. But did his general manager, Bob Clarke, make him captain because he deserved it, or did he hope that by making Lindros captain, he’d become less self-centred.

That word “respect” was always an issue in the Lindros household — as we discovered in June, 1989, when the family torpedoed the Soo Greyhounds, the OHL team that had drafted him.

History repeated itself two summers later, when Lindros refused to sign with the NHL’s Quebec Nordiques, eventually forcing a trade to Philadelphia.

Media-hype

There’s nothing wrong with challenging the system — it’s just that most of us are too brain-washed, bored, afraid or lack the resources to bother. Lindros, on the other hand, had the muscle to manipulate the system to suit his own purpose, thanks in part to an overly excited, media-hype machine.

Looking back, both decisions worked out rather well for the clubs he spurned.

The Greyhounds won a Memorial Cup in 1993, while the Nordiques morphed into the Colorado Avalanche, scooping a pair of Stanley Cups, partly as a result of the players (Peter Forsberg, to name one) and that $15 million Quebec received in exchange for Lindros.

Lindros won a Memorial Cup with the Oshawa Generals in 1990, but those early controversies raised flags, made him enemies and, most of all, dumped additional baggage on to a player who had little chance of living up to the hockey world’s expectations of him in the first place.

Finally, a question: If Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Patrick Roy and Maurice Richard are A-list hall of famers; and Steve Yzerman, Messier, Paul Coffey, Brett Hull and Serge Savard are on the B-list, where does Eric fit?

Probably on the C or D list — which, you’d think would eliminate Lindros from automatic induction in, this, his first year of eligibility.

But don’t bet on it.

dave.fuller@sunmedia.ca


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