20 years ago today Big E came to Philly. He arrived under controversial circumstances and he would leave under controversial circumstances. Let’s travel back to when the debacle that was the Lindros era began – the year 1991. On June 22, 1991 the Quebec Nordiques made Eric Lindros the first overall pick the NHL Entry Draft. This was despite the fact that 88 told the Nords he would never play for them. This was despite the fact that 88 said he did not want to speak French and Quebec was a majority French speaking population. This was despite the fact that 88 said he thought the team had zero marketing potential and he wanted to shine in the bright lights. Still the Nords would not hear it and not only still drafted him, but announced a marketing campaign centered around him in order to make him the face of their franchise. Lindros held true to his word and sat out the entire 1991 NHL season.
Then a couple days short of a year later Lindros’ time in Quebec came to an end as Quebec worked out a trade with the Flyers and the Rangers. This forced an arbitrator to review the 2 trade offers and make a ruling. The Flyers won. Sort of. Now is about the part where it gets painful to speak of what was lost by the Flyers in the trade. The Nords received the rights to Peter Forsberg, Ron Hextall, Chris Simon, Mike Ricci, Kerry Huffman, Steve Duchesne, 2 1st round selections one of which turned out to be goalie Jocelyn Thibault and $15 million. Obviously Peter Forsberg or Foppa turned out to be a stud. He just oozed success his whole career (until he got back to Philly that is). 2 time Hart Trophy winner, 2 time Stanley Cup Champion, retired 9th in NHL history in career points per game, retired 4th in NHL history in assists – that’s what his resume reads today. We all know what Hexy did for the Nords – not much. His best days were always with us. He also spent a pointless season on the Isles after just 1 season with Quebec. Meanwhile Mike Ricci, Chris Simon, Kerry Huffman and Steve Duchesne all went on to have very successful (Mike Ricci) to less successful (Chris Simon) NHL careers. This trade laid down the foundation for the mini dynasty that the Nords would have later when they moved to Colorado.
The Nords crown jewel of that trade was Peter The Great, but there were other pieces that became even as important in the future. Quebec, who had relocated to Colorado by this point, traded Jocelyn Thibault to Colorado in a package to acquire Patrick Roy from the Habs. So essentially out of the Lindros trade the Nords received 2 Hall Of Fame caliber players (Roy is already in the Hockey Hall of Fame) and they eventually (Roy’s first year) brought home the Cup. And then they won it again. The Flyers managements’ fingerprints are all over those Stanley Cups.
That is not to say that the trade was not the right thing to do at the time. Hindsight being 20/20 obviously we would we keep Forsberg, but Lindros was an absolute machine while he was healthy. The Flyers have always been big spenders when it comes to acquiring talent and they smelled blood when 88 sat out the ’91 season so they attacked and got what they wanted. And in the beginning it was exactly what they wanted. He was a monster point producer and physical to boot. His first 2 seasons here he posted 41 and 44 goals. Along with the Legion of Doom he provided us with some great hockey to watch while he was healthy. It was just too short. The shame of it is that his legacy could of been cemented with a Stanley Cup victory in 1997. No matter the concussion issues. No matter the Bob Clarke feud. No matter Mr. Lindros claiming the Flyers tried to kill Eric. It wouldn’t of mattered. Just ask Philly players who have won here about the lifetime pass. Especially Flyers fans.
The bottom line of this trade is unforeseen circumstances caused the debacle. There’s no way to guarantee we would have won a Cup had we kept Forsberg just like there was no way to guarantee we would have won a Cup when we traded for Lindros. The Flyers tend to take the route most likely to win them a championship. The routes just haven’t led to a Cup in a long time. Luck always has something to do with a team winning a championship also. Would it be considered a crazy idea to trade for the player deemed “The Next One?” Of course not. That would be the route most likely to win a championship. Unfortunately luck was not on their side.
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