Friday, November 09, 2007

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.



Related
Sail On, Big E [Lowetide]
Saying Goodbye To Eric Lindros [Deadspin]
Lindros was different from Day 1 [Stephen Brunt]

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35 Comments:

At 3:31 AM, November 09, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I were King of the Hall of Fame, I'd use Lindros' career as the bar that you have to get above to get in. Thus, Lindros would be the best player not in the HHoF. That being said though, you'd have to take out Dick Duff (a ridiculous selection), Pulford, Gillies, Federko, and probably another dozen or so. But this isn't about a perfect HHoF, its the one we have now, so I don't see how you can not let him in, BUT, can we not crown him just yet? Can we wait 5 or 10 years for some perspective? Onward to the next HHoF controversy; how about Theo Fleury?

 
At 8:10 AM, November 09, 2007, Blogger Andy Hall said...

Huh? Jose Theodore will be in the HOF? Very unlikely at this rate.

 
At 8:48 AM, November 09, 2007, Anonymous penaltyshots.ca said...

People have to remember that it is the Hall of FAME, not the Hall of all time stat leaders or Stanley Cup winners. There are very few players that have been more famous than Eric Lindros in the last ten years.

There are also few that at their peak dominated their peers the way Lindros did. Put him in the Hall the first year he is eligible.

 
At 8:53 AM, November 09, 2007, Anonymous Matt D said...

I'm with And Hall: do you really mean to suggest that Theo will make the Hall? Really? Once great season and two playoff wins over the Bruins are not enough to qualify, I don't think.

 
At 8:54 AM, November 09, 2007, Anonymous Matt D said...

Never mind: I just re-read it and see that you aren't crazy after all.

 
At 10:18 AM, November 09, 2007, Anonymous Baroque said...

People have to remember that it is the Hall of FAME, not the Hall of all time stat leaders or Stanley Cup winners. There are very few players that have been more famous than Eric Lindros in the last ten years.

I think that goes to the heart of the matter: whether one sees the Hall of Fame as basically a physical representation of a record book, or more as a record of who were some of the most significant players, even if they weren't the very best stats-wise. It goes to what the role of a museum covering hockey should cover.

 
At 10:21 AM, November 09, 2007, Anonymous treved said...

i'll give you that lindros was ONE of the "brightest" stars of his time, but THE brightest? i guess it depends on how you define bright, but he didn't sell out buildings across the league like Bure.

 
At 11:22 AM, November 09, 2007, Blogger chewbacca said...

I've never like Lindros but like penaltyshots said, he was famous.
But also, he was never at the same level of Gretzky, Messier, Bourque and many others that deserved to be inducted on their first year of eligibility. Like it was said in the first post, let's wait 5 or 10 years for some perspective.

 
At 11:23 AM, November 09, 2007, Blogger Nick said...

I don't like the fact he refused to play in Sault Ste. Marie and Quebec,

After reading on your blog about all the french-canadian goofy-ness coming out of the right side of your country, I don't think I'd want to play in quebec either.

 
At 11:43 AM, November 09, 2007, Anonymous Big Time said...

Lindros and his parents have been largely the authors of his own misfortune. Lindros sabotaged his career through poor advice, poor decisions and an arrogance that led him to believe that he was above the rules. Coming into the league, he had potential to be a Mario Lemieux with a mean streak. He was reduced to being a healthy scratch by the end of his career. Lindros' career reads like a cautionary tale about why you need to get professional advice when making decisions about your career. As far as I'm concerned, there is no place in the hockey hall of fame for him.

 
At 11:47 AM, November 09, 2007, Anonymous Dennis Prouse said...

It seems to be the curse of those kids who mature early that they tend to burn out early as well. Lindros basically had a man's body at age 16, so it is not much of a surprise that by the time his late 20s rolled around, he began to break down.

His decline also seems to match that of many other "power forward" types. Once they hit a certain age, they either lose the desire or the ability to play the style that made them great. Slowly but surely, they turn into perimeter players. Watching Lindros in his last couple of seasons was like watching Bobby Orr hobble around on one leg for the Chicago Blackhawks. Both were sad in that you remember how great they used to be, as compared to what you were seeing now.

 
At 11:49 AM, November 09, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK...call me a dumb American...but I'm understanding that there's a "Hockey Hall of Fame" which is different than the "NHL hall of fame"?? Maybe this is puzzling me a little because baseball, football and basketball only have one hall each (at least that I'm aware of).

For example, having gone to Cooperstown (New York) this summer, I know that they not only pay tribute to MLB baseball players, but even Negro league players and even the international torunaments that happened recently.

You mean the NHL Hall of Fame doesn't recognize contributions of the sport from other organizations which helped it along? And if not, why not? That doesn't seem to make much sense (well, truth be told, little does in Bettman's NHL world)

 
At 11:54 AM, November 09, 2007, Blogger Adam C said...

Well, if it's the Hall of FAME, they must have inducted Tiger Williams by now, right? (checks to make sure they haven't... it is the Hockey Hall of Fame, after all...)

I'm on board with the general consensus here: given the quality of players already in the Hall, Lindros should qualify fairly easily. I also agree with the first (anonymous) commenter, in that for my ideal Hall, he would be borderline at best.

I always felt Lindros was overrated, not least because the teams that counted most on him almost always came up short: the 1992 World Junior failure, the 1998 Olympics, the Stanley Cup playoffs...

But I had to grow past resentment over his refusal to pay for the Nordiques, and that may have clouded my judgment.

I have more sympathy over the Greyhounds issue in junior, however. Remember that he was being asked - at age 16 - to leave his family and be billeted several hours away so that he could play 80 hockey games in the same league that had multiple teams within driving distance of home.

 
At 12:27 PM, November 09, 2007, Blogger Loser Chris said...

Jagr outshined Lindros his entire career (and should have won the Hart the year Lindros did). Lindros may have been the biggest and brightest star, but he was far from the best. I don't think he belongs in the Hall.

 
At 12:29 PM, November 09, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

Anonymous:

Like other sports, it is the HOCKEY Hall of Fame, and is not specific to NHL accomplishments. Although I don't see many players inducted thanks to great WHA achievements (particularily builders of that league). It's definitely NHL-biased, but not exclusive. Players for the Red Army team, who dominated the international hockey scene for nearly 3 decades, have been inducted (though somewhat reluctantly). The HHoF's electors are a who's who of the NHL establishment, which will make it difficult for a guy like Lindros to get in, since he angred a lot of people in the establishment over his career.

 
At 12:30 PM, November 09, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope John Tavares' agents and parents pay attention to Lindros discusssions.

If you drop all the extra baggage from Lindros' career what you have left is a great hockey player with some bad injuries.

Without the extra baggage everybody would feel sorry for him at least in the sense that his career was cut short.

When Peter Forsberg retires he will be discussed in totally different manner. Great player who got injured a lot - poor Peter The Great.

This is not to somehow say that Forsberg wasn't great, because he was, but he has no extra baggage to cloud people's minds.

Lindros belongs to HHOF. Period.

 
At 12:31 PM, November 09, 2007, Anonymous ken said...

James, did you just guarantee that Theodore was going into the Hall? I'm putting some money on that one.

 
At 1:12 PM, November 09, 2007, Anonymous Dennis Prouse said...

I'll tell you what -- if Dick Duff and Clark Gillies are in, then there is definitely room for Jose Theodore. :-)

I didn't like the Duff and Gillies selections, nor Bernie Federko for that matter. Having said that, it is clear that the HHOF takes a much less rigid approach to induction than does baseball or football, and that may not be a bad thing. You could argue that the criteria for baseball are almost too rigid, leaving out some pretty significant players in the process. To the extent that the HHOF takes a more inclusive, relaxed approach to induction standards, that may actually benefit the Hall in making it more relevant to a wider base of fans.

 
At 1:16 PM, November 09, 2007, Anonymous Gerald said...

The "if player X is in, then player Y is in" is a poor argument, intellectually speaking. It does nothing but drive down the quality of any HOF, as you are comparing candidates to the worst HOFer. Even baseball, which is now known as a tougher place to enter, has its problems historically with undeserving players being selected. It is better to simply ignore the obvious mistakes and address each guy on his own merits.

It is as mistaken to take that approach as it is to compare candidates to the best HOFer. I think we can all agree that the candidate does not have to approach the standards of Orr, Howe, Gretxky, Lemieux, Sawchuk, etc in order to be considered.

The better question is to compare players to the average HOFer.

All that being said, IMO a player needs something truly exceptional about them. That can take the form of an exceptionally extended period of excellence (Mike Gartner) or a shining period of true dominance. However, in the second case, there needs to be at least some peripheral areas of accomplishment. I don't think that anyone would suggest that a guy who had one brilliant year is an automatic HOFer. There must be some other accomplishments in order to give the player's credentials some heft. how much is the $64k question.

Myself, Lindros had the period of brilliance, all right, but his accomplishments outside that period of brilliance are lacking. They are lacking due to injury, but the HOF cannot take into account what might have been.

For that lack of peripheral accomplishments outside his period of dominance, he is not a HOFer in my book (neither is Neely, as far as I am concerned, but as I said, one mistake cannot beget another).

 
At 1:16 PM, November 09, 2007, Anonymous PPP said...

No, James noted that Theodore and Rollins were two cases where a Hart Trophy winner would NOT make the HHOF.

adam c - Lindros also played a huge role in winning Canada a silver medal at the 1992 Olympics as well as being a part of the Gold at the 1991 Canada Cup.

As for the 1998 Olympics, I don't think you can lay the blame at Lindros' feet when that idiot Crawford didn't put Gretzky in the shootout.

 
At 1:18 PM, November 09, 2007, Anonymous Gerald said...

PS - i was not responding to your post, Dennis (you posted while I was writing mine). I note the smilies about Theodore.

 
At 1:27 PM, November 09, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I was trying to say that in the nearly 50 years between Rollins and Theodore, everyone would get in, which by extension, meant Rollins and Theodore would not.

I think it's clear, but, well anyway, here it is again.

 
At 1:32 PM, November 09, 2007, Blogger Don Johnson said...

re "Gillies vs Lindros" (for example)

How many cups?

Gillies - 4
Lindros - 0

Regardless of individual accomplishments, part of the fame of the HHOF must involve being on the right team at the right time and making a reasonably significant contribution to that team's success.

I think that explains how some lessor players make it into the HHOF and also why Lindros probably shouldn't make it.

 
At 1:33 PM, November 09, 2007, Blogger Loser Chris said...

I have a hard time thinking Lindros qualifies based on his Hart alone. He won it during the shortened lockout season. Personally I didn't think he deserved to win it that year and wouldn't be surprised if the NHL brass had a hand in it, trying to legitimize their next great player (or so they thought at the time).

 
At 1:39 PM, November 09, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I'm not saying it's based only on the Hart; I'm saying if you've got to make an argument in one sentence, that's the one you go with.

He was a dominant junior player, won a lot internationally, and was one of the top five NHLers for five or six seasons.

That blows away at least a dozen others already in there.

I'll agree with everyone who says the Hall is far too easy to get into, but that's not really an argument against Lindros. Based on how the committee has voted in the past, he gets in.

 
At 2:24 PM, November 09, 2007, Anonymous penaltyshots.ca said...

In my opinion, it's not a bad thing that so many players get in the Hall. Its something to celebrate in hockey. If I go to the Hall I want to see and remember lots of great hockey players and learn about new ones as well.

I don't see that it hurts to have a guy from Moose Jaw (Clark Gillies) with a nickname "Jethro" and four Stanley Cups to his name under the same giant roof as Wayne Gretzky.

Now, what about that Dave Andreychuck? :)

 
At 2:27 PM, November 09, 2007, Blogger Adam C said...

PPP - I wouldn't put all the blame on Lindros for 1998 either; but he was the captain of that team and he didn't contribute very much.

The 1992 Olympic silver wasn't against NHL quality opposition. He was a third (fourth?) line player (albeit a very impressive one)on the 1991 Canada Cup team as well as the 2002 Olympics.

I don't mean to make team success the be all and end all of HHoF induction (MacTavish has four cups and will hopefully never make the Hall) but in my Lindros-hating years these things, as well as the lack of Flyers success, stood out.

I still say, given the HHoF standards, he should make it. Gerald, who would you suggest as an "average" quality Hall of Famer?

 
At 3:09 PM, November 09, 2007, Anonymous ken said...

>> James, did you just guarantee that Theodore was going into the Hall? I'm putting some money on that one. <<

Never mind. It was the first graf that made it sound like you were including Theodore, but I see now you were not. You are sane after all. I'm the insane one.

 
At 3:42 PM, November 09, 2007, Anonymous Gerald said...

Gerald, who would you suggest as an "average" quality Hall of Famer?

That is a darn good question. I would say that one would have to figure out an average HOFer position by position, as it would be hard to compare otherwise. I know that Bill James has done the determinations in baseball. Hockey? It is hard with a lot of historical names, but perhaps ...

G - Gerry Cheevers
D - Jacques Laperriere
LW - Bill Barber
C - Henri Richard
RW - Rod Gilbert

That is without the benefit of much reflection. There are so many guys who brought different qualities, and I am hazy on many of the old guys.

 
At 6:19 PM, November 09, 2007, Blogger Menzies said...

It seems a lot of people in the 'for' category are looking at ability and people in the 'against' category are looking at his off ice behaviour, his attitude, and his inability to live up to the hype that unarguably has become his legacy. Well is the hockey hall of fame for legacy or for ability? I'd think both, and Lindros clearly had both.

I say he belongs. Not because of the hart, or because he didn't win a cup, but because he was special. He is a hall of famer. And I hated him. I learned to respect him when he 'dropped off' ability wise and became a 2nd to 3rd line guy. His shooting percentages hardly wavered, nor did his points per game.

And for those that say Philly never did anything in the playoffs, remember Philly was a feared playoff team. They were on everybody's radar. Philly and Dallas were the 'sexy pick' when the other pundits were pointing at colorado, detroit, or jersey. Maybe 'nothing happened', but those were gruelling matches back then. 95 and 96 were crazy. And Lindros was performing well when he wasn't injured in the playoffs. Really well. Over a point/penalty a game well.

I know you really shouldn't compare individuals but two guys I'd bring up for argument are Federov and Glenn Anderson. Federov and Lindros both shared a similar career slope. I'm not looking at a who's the better player argument as they were both had incredibly different roles and styles, but when you compare the two in terms of Fame, I think Lindros trumps there. If you look at post season magic, well, bring Anderson into the discussion and it becomes a moot point. If Anderson isn't in the hall of fame, then why should it matter what Lindros did (or didn't) accomplish in the post season?

 
At 9:08 PM, November 09, 2007, Anonymous vadim sharifijanov said...

some comparables for lindros -- cam neely, pavel bure, peter forsberg. neely is a hall of famer, and forsberg will be, no questions asked. like orr, their bodies broke down early because of the way they played. you discount their short careers because they gave up length of career for quality.

bure, i would say, is the same. he wasn't a physical player, but the insane training regimen his father put him on at a very very early age made him the player he was. (notice that his brother valeri also retired early from injuries.) public perception of bure as a selfish player may eventually keep him out of the hall, even though the only players to have scored more goals per game than him are mike bossy, mario lemieux, and (for now) alex ovechkin, or that he finished in the top ten in scoring every year he played more than 65 games (except his second year in the league, even though he scored a career high 60/110 that year).

and this is how we get to lindros. public perception has not been kind to lindros. but he missed TWO entire years of his career pouting. yes, his playing style may have eventually led to his health troubles. but that doesn't discount the fact that he wasted two prime years of his career -- because of his unique physical gifts, he would have been in his prime at 18 -- trying to choose where he would play. if he had played those two years (assuming he stayed moderately healthy), he would have finished with almost 500 goals and well over 1,000 points. those numbers, combined with his hart trophy and the fact that he was the most dominant player in the league for a handful of years, would have ensured his place in the hall. the fact that he threw those years away, i think, should count against him -- even if a lot of people have been blaming his parents in the last two days.

despite what his ex-teammates have been saying the last couple of days, i never thought lindros cared all that much about hockey. in a lot of ways, he was like lemieux; he was a once-in-a-generation talent, but his excellence was much more talent than desire... the kind of guy who i imagine, if his career had turned out like alexandre daigle's, might have retired early and never looked back. on the other hand, you get forsberg, whose will to win you could never doubt. bure, whose will to score you could never doubt. nobody EVER looked more happy to play hockey than theo fleury. and, while each of these three players may have made decisions that kept him off the ice or even shortened his career, in the end, i don't resent forsberg, bure, or fleury the way i resent lindros (and, to some extent, lemieux) for never coming through -- at least not all the way -- on their enormous, god-given talent.

 
At 12:46 AM, November 10, 2007, Anonymous Rob said...

I easily put Lindros and Bure in the Hall of Fame.

Lindros for what he was for a five year stretch of greatness, not for what he became because of injuries.

Bure is the most exciting player I have ever seen - mid 70's on. He definitely gets my vote to go.

 
At 2:19 AM, November 10, 2007, Blogger Adam C said...

Thanks, Gerald, for the examples (and please excuse my own laziness).

I think you've got a very good point about not comparing Lindros to the weakest players in the HoF. On the other hand, I think you've also bolstered the case for his induction. Looking over Rod Gilbert's career, I see statistics very similar to Lindros. Lindros's career was slightly shorter, but his playoff performance was arguably better and the Hart trophy does stand out.

I think that if we see Gilbert and Barber as average Hall of Famers then Lindros should be entitled to join them.

 
At 9:59 AM, November 10, 2007, Anonymous Gerald said...

Noted, although (as mentioned) I think it is a mistake to compare a winger to a center. As well, we would have to adjust for different eras.

Then you get inot that discussion I spoke of earlier about a player's "heft" coming form the peripheral years.

This is the classic sort of argument, where Rod Gilbert had a number of productive yers whereas Lindros was certainly the much bigger star at his peak. It is even more pronounced of an issue when you compare the "average center" I mentioned (the Pocket Rocket), who has even more different qualities (a career of consistent longevity and a zillion Cups)than Lindros (very limited brilliance and no Cups). That is why they invented HOF arguments.

 
At 1:40 PM, November 10, 2007, Blogger Adam C said...

I think it is a mistake to compare a winger to a center.

I disagree here. I don't think that a centre has any more offensive opportunities than a winger does. The reason there are so many better centres is that it's a more important position, so the best players tend to be put there (with many exceptions, of course).

 

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