With Eric Lindros' retirement, the question on the tip of everybody's lips is: Is The Big E a Hall of Famer?
In a word, yes.
There is no question his career, much shorter than expected and riddled with injuries, did not amount to what many anticipated when he burst on the scene nearly 20 years ago as a powerful teenager bubbling over with potential. And we can only sit back and wonder how dominant he would have been had he remained healthy and enjoyed a long NHL career.
But that does not change the fact that, for a few years at least, Eric Lindros was one of the best players in the world. And if Vladislav Tretiak can get into the Hall of Fame based on what he did playing outside the NHL, then surely Lindros can get in for what he did accomplish in the best hockey league in the world.
With 865 points in 760 career games, Lindros retires ranked 17th in all-time points per game at 1.14. When you consider he managed just 133 points in his final four injury-plagued seasons with the Rangers, Maple Leafs and Stars, his ranking could have been higher had he elected to not continue playing.
All of the retired players ranked ahead of him, with the exception of Kent Nilsson and Steve Yzerman, are in the Hall of Fame. Yzerman will surely be elected to the Hall the first year he is eligible.
Lindros was a highly political figure, refusing first to play for the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and then the Quebec Nordiques, but if that is what some will use to keep him out of the Hall, then their motivation is skewed. Ted Lindsay, who battled for years to help form the NHL Players' Association, was also a very political figure and he's in the Hall. Bobby Hull once sat out a WHA game in protest of violence in the game and he's in.
I have listened to the criticism Lindros has faced over the years -- that he was too influenced by meddling parents and that he never won the Stanley Cup -- but when I think of Lindros as a player, I think of a powerful game-breaker who was unquestionably one of the most dominant individuals to ever skate in the NHL. I think of a bodychecker who caused opponents to toss and turn all night before they had to play against him, of his lightning-quick release on the best snap shot the game has ever seen, of how he played for Team Canada in the 1991 Canada Cup as a teenager, of his 1994-95 MVP season when he scored 29 goals and 70 points in 46 games.
It was injuries, and nothing more, that hampered what could have been a storybook career. When he was healthy, Lindros was one of the best to ever play hockey. That, and that alone, should be the determining factor when it comes time to consider him for the honor of being inducted into the Hall of Fame. I'm not about to start naming names, but suffice it to say there have been players inducted into the Hall with lesser credentials.
I don't have a vote because I am not on the Hall of Fame selection committee. But if I did, I would not only vote yes, I would debate to the end of the earth with anybody who opposed his inclusion.
It is an argument I do not believe I could lose.
Mike Brophy's Double OT appears regularly on thehockeynews.com.
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