Lindros belongs in the Hall
My recurring feelings in relation to Eric Lindros, the day he officially retired, are ones of sadness.
For all the talk over whether his career was long enough to justify entry into the (decidedly unhallowed) Hall of Fame, what we rarely hear is that there are plenty of players who experienced similar knocks and didn't wilt a bit. It wasn't so much a matter of Lindros failing to keep his head up throughout his career as him needing an altogether different one from the start.
But that he was built like hockey's Adonis, and for a short time bullied his peers on the ice, seemed only to be held against him as the concussions mounted and it became clear that he was far from the indestructible force he was on arrival.
It really seems a cruel twist of fate that the wunderkind who had it all didn't, literally, have the head for the game. Hockey's biggest and brightest star of the dead-puck generation was also its most fragile.
Now, if Lindros was one of hockey's beloved figures, I honestly believe the above refrain would be a common one — and that the prevailing sentiment would be to induct him into the Hall, no questions asked. But the Big E became a special case the moment he entered the league, and how he then conducted himself didn't win the masses over. It's also a case of, as Stephen Brunt noted yesterday, it being difficult to cheer for the "overdog."
But if I was given just one brief sentence to make an undeniable case for Lindros's induction, it would go something like this:
Of all the players — other than Lindros — to win the Hart Trophy between 1953-54 and 2001-02, after Al Rollins and before Jose Theodore, every last one is already, or will be, in the Hall of Fame.
No questions asked.
Being the very best, if only for a short time, is a surefire way to earn entry in my books, especially when we're talking about a Hall that includes many whose names were never in the running for the league's top honour. It's a trophy that's synonymous with Beliveau, Howe, Hull (x2), Esposito, Orr, Clarke, Lafleur, Gretzky, Lemieux and Messier (who enters the Hall on Monday).
That's changed in the past few seasons, and Theodore will join Rollins as one of the rare oddball selections kept from the Hall, but Lindros was part of a hallowed group, one of only five non-Gretzky MVPs from 1979-80 to when Dominik Hasek took over in 1996-97.
I don't like the fact he refused to play in Sault Ste. Marie and Quebec, but those decisions, made eons ago, also don't make Lindros a villain two decades on. In a lot of ways, I think his early hockey life saw him used as a pawn by an awful lot of people, and it's really been in recent years, with his on-ice prowess fleeting, that we've seen him become something of his own man. I don't doubt that he'll be a man of integrity and importance for a players' union desperately in need of one, and that his legacy in the game is far from finished.
Put him in the Hall.
Sail On, Big E [Lowetide]
Saying Goodbye To Eric Lindros [Deadspin]
Lindros was different from Day 1 [Stephen Brunt]