Remember the young kid that loved hockey?
The kid that was to be the savior of the sport after Wayne Gretzky.
The kid that was going to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to greatness.
I remember Eric Lindros and I’m pretty sure plenty of you do too, but what happened to those dreams, those promises, and those standards?
All the blame can’t be placed upon his shoulders. He was still a kid being asked to lead a storied franchise into the promise land.
Was it all too much too soon?
I’m from Philadelphia and I know the amount of pressure we can put on a player to give us that championship we crave, but was it fair to put that on the shoulders of a teenager?
His first full season in the NHL he scored 41 goals with 34 assist in 61 games, but the team was unable to make the playoffs. The next season at the tender age of 20 he upped his points totals by 20 finishing with 44 goals and 53 assist. Still for the individual success he was having, the team was still struggling as a unit.
The 1994-95 season was shortened due to a lockout out which Lindros and the Flyers took advantage of when the chains were removed. Lindros tallied 70 points in 46 games with 29 goals and 41 assist as the Flyers made it to the Conference Finals before losing to a veteran New Jersey Devils team.
During that magnificent run, the team meshed and became one as Lindros began to settle into his role as a leader.
In the 1995-96 season, the Flyers leaned heavily on their young star and he responded with the best season of his career.
He tallied 115 points of 47 goals and 68 assist. The team was now one of the most feared in the league as Lindros found great success with John LeClair and Mikael Renberg whom would be nicknamed the Legion of Doom for the dominance and physical play.
Despite his best statistical season the Flyers were not able to ride that success past the Conference Semifinals as they were dismantled by the Florida Panthers.
The 1996-97 season may have been one of the worst for Lindros thanks to injuries but in 52 games he managed 79 points showing how great he was in a limited time. The Flyers were finally able to get over the Eastern Conference hump and make it to the Stanley Cup Finals. They fell to the Detroit Red Wings in four games, but the match was lit and the team was ready for more but…
It began. The injuries. Ribs, collapsed lungs, but his most devastating injuries were the many concussions he suffered throughout his career.
As the injuries began to mount so did the frustration within the Flyers organization as GM Bobby Clarke and Lindros began to go at it in private, then through the media which resulted in Clarke calling one of the toughest players in the game “soft”.
As the feud mounted between the two, Clarke went a step further and stripped Lindros of his captaincy for not following doctors orders and still playing with a concussion.
His career in Philadelphia started great but ended in utter turmoil as he was traded to the New York Rangers in 2001. As we sit back and reflect we are often left to wonder if Lindros lived up to our expectations or did he fall short?
There will never be another Gretzky and maybe that was too much pressure to put on a teenager coming to play a man’s game. But as his career took off so did health issues which ultimately led to his demise in Philly.
This is still a man that managed to score 290 goals and 369 assist in his career but many felt it should have been more. I tip my hat to Lindros because Philly is a tough place to play and he held his head high through the good and bad times.
When the subject of Hall of Fame came up this is what Clarke had to say about Lindros.
“Yes, based on his ability to play the game and based on his contributions as a player, I think you have to separate all the crap that went on. Particularly when he played for the Flyers, it was just outstanding, dominant hockey — the first of the huge, big men with small man’s skill.”
His name arrived in the NHL before he did, but injuries aside he was one heck of a hockey player.
Thanks for the memories, Lindros.