Friday, November 09, 2007

Future Hall of Famer Eric Lindros Retires

Yesterday, Eric Lindros announced his retirement at a press conference in London, Ontario where he donated $5 million to the London Health Sciences Foundation. I have recently written that I consider Eric Lindros a Hall of Famer. He is the first Hall of Famer to retire since Brian Leetch.

Eric Lindros was born on February 28th, 1973 in London, Ontario. He grew up in the Ontario Hockey system starring with the St Michael's Buzzers in the OHA-B League in 1988/89 where he scored 67 points in only 37 games. He was drafted into the OHL to play with Sault Ste Marie, but refused to report wanting to play in a more major market where he would have better options for his schooling. Instead, he went to play for Detroit Compuware in the NAHL (basically a tier II league) where he put up 52 points in only 14 games. After a trade was arranged to get him to the Oshawa Generals in the OHL, (Oshawa being a Toronto suburb made it an acceptable place to play) he began his junior career. He scored 36 points in the 25 remaining games and was an all star in the Memorial Cup tournament. The next year he dominated his opposition leading the OHL with 71 goals and 149 points and leading the playoffs with 18 goals, 38 points and 93 penalty minutes. He was Canadian Major Junior Player of the Year, the OHL MVP and a first team all star. He was selected first overall in the 1991 draft by the Quebec Nordiques.

Before playing an NHL game, Lindros played for Canada in the 1991 Canada Cup where he scored 5 points in 8 games. Again, Lindros refused to report to the team that drafted him. Again he wanted to go to a bigger market- He returned to Oshawa to play junior scoring 31 points in only 13 games before joining the Canadian National Team program and playing in the 1992 Olympics for Team Canada, where he scored 11 points in only 8 games. That summer, the Quebec Nordiques traded him twice. He was traded once to the Philadelphia Flyers and once to the New York Rangers. There was an investigation to determine which of the two trades was the legal one and the league eventually found that the Flyers trade was made first so it stood (the Nordiques thought they had a better offer from the Rangers and had tried to take back the Flyer deal to make the ranger one). Lindros was traded for Peter Forsberg (who had yet to play an NHL game), Steve Duchesne, Kerry Huffman, Mike Ricci, Ron Hextall, Philadelphia's 1st round pick in 1993 (Jocelyn Thibault was selected), Philadelphia's 1st round pick in 1994 (which was eventually traded to Washington and Nolan Baumgartner was selected), $15 million and future considerations (originally this was supposed to be the 1992 Flyers first round pick but the two trade contreversy had the Flyers make this selection for themselves before the trade could be finalized. Chris Simon turned out to be the future considerations.). It was a large price to pay for a player who had never set foot in the NHL yet, however Lindros had been so dynamic in junior. He was heralded as "the Next One". He would be the next superstar to follow Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.

In Philadelphia, Lindros's NHL career began. He scored 75 points in 61 games as a rookie and made the all rookie team. The next year, he improved to 97 points in 65 games and appeared in his first of six NHL all star games. In the lockout shortened 1994/95 season, he tied for the NHL lead in points with 70 and won the Hart and Pearson Trophies as NHL MVP and made the first team all star. He returned in 1995/96 with his career best 115 points (in 73 games - Lindros usually missed a few games a year to injury). He made the second team all star. In 1996/97 he was limited to 52 regular season games with 79 points. He led the playoffs with 26 points as his Flyers team lost in the Stanley Cup finals. His 1997/98 season was also injury shortened with 71 points in 63 games. By this point, Lindros had established himself as the third highest scorer ever in terms of points per game (behind Gretzky and Lemieux). Lindros was selected to be captain of Team Canada in the 1998 Olympics (the first one the NHL participated in). Though Canada did not medal, Lindros tied for Canada's scoring lead with 5 points in the tournament. Nevertheless, much of the disappointment for Canada's failure was placed upon Lindros. In March of that season, Lindros suffered his first of many concussions after a hit by Darius Kasparaitis. Lindros returned with 93 points in 71 games played the next season. He scored 59 points in a concussion plagued 1999/2000 season where he was limited to 55 games. In the playoffs a hit from Scott Stevens resulted in his most serious concussion. He sat out the remaining season recovering concussions and involved in a dispute with the Philadelphia Flyer organization. Lindros was unhappy with the contract he had been offered (a two way contract) and was unhappy with the medical treatment he had received from the Flyers organization (where they had rushed him back and had him playing through a concussion). In 2001, Lindros was traded to the New York Rangers for Kim Johnsson, Jan Hlavac, Pavel Brendl and a 2003 third round draft pick (Stefan Ruzicka).

With the Rangers, Lindros managed 73 points in 72 games and once again appeared for Canada in the 2002 Olympics, this time winning a gold medal. His next season was his career best in games played with 81, but the concussions had taken their toll and his point totals began to drop. Lindros only scored 53 points that year. He added 32 more points in 39 games in 2003/04.

After sitting out a season for the lockout, Lindros signed as a free agent with Toronto. In his one season there, he scored 22 points in 33 games.

Lindros moved on as a free agent to Dallas for the 2006/07 season where he scored 26 points in his 49 games played.

Eric Lindros began to attempt to make amends for his brash actions of his youth (refusing to report to the team that drafted him twice). He worked to re-establish the NHLPA, which had been badly damaged in the 2004/05 lockout. He was one of the five players involved in the search committee to find new NHLPA head Paul Kelly and is expected to be the NHLPA ombudsman.

Lindros retires as one of the most dominant players (arguably the most dominant) for a period of a few years in the 1990's. His career was shortened due to concussions and that left fans wanting more, but his peak value and his recent work as an NHLPA builder, when it was strongly needed make Eric Lindros a Hall of Famer.

With Lindros's retirement, there are 15 still active players I think belong in the Hall of Fame regardless of their future achievements in their careers. They are:

Ed Belfour
Rob Blake
Martin Brodeur
Chris Chelios
Peter Forsberg
Dominik Hasek
Jaromir Jagr
Nicklas Lidstrom
Mike Modano
Scott Niedermayer
Chris Pronger
Joe Sakic
Teemu Selanne
Brendan Shanahan
Mats Sundin

As more hockey is played this season, the list may grow. There are also a few players on the list not currently active on an NHL roster, so there could be more retirements.

Eric was an excellent player. I already knew that he's built a great career , but I got very impressed when I watched this video today with his career stats about games, goals, assists and points Did you know that he scored almost 1000 points? His retirement is a pity, we will miss his talent in NHL.
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