Eric Lindros was a special breed of size and skill. During his prime, he was one of the top five players in the game. Lindros’ career was short-lived because of injuries, but that should not diminish his candidacy for the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Lindros was a once-in-a-lifetime player. He could take over a game at will. He was one of those players who made everyone around him better, just as John LeClair and Mikael Renberg.
This article is not meant to discredit Mark Recchi’s accomplishments. I am a huge Mark Recchi fan and I believe that one day he will earn enshrinement in Toronto…after Eric Lindros has made his acceptance speech.
When examining the career of The Big E, one has to look at the big picture. Numerous accolades are needed to even be considered for the Hockey Hall of Fame. Accolades such as dominant seasons, impact on the game and Stanley Cup championships among a multitude of other factors. Recchi built himself a solid NHL resume, but his pales in comparison to Lindros.
In the argument against Lindros, some will claim his career was not long enough. A short career did not stop Pavel Bure, who was inducted in 2012. It took six years for Bure to enter the hall of fame, but his induction serves as a precedent for Lindros. Peter Forsberg, another certain hall of famer, also had a short career thanks to injuries.
Lindros, Bure and Forsberg each played less than 800 games in the NHL, but their statistics match up quite nicely. Lindros played the most out of the three, with 760 games under his belt. Bure and Forsberg barely cracked 700 games. All three put up similar statistics:
Forsberg: 885 points – 249 goals,636 assists in 708 games.
Lindros: 865 points – 372 goals, 493 assists in 760 games.
Bure: 779 points – 437 goals, 342 assists in 702 games.
Lindros’ career did not last as long as Recchi’s, but Lindros did make the most of his time in the league. When both of them completed their careers, Lindros averaged 1.14 points per game while Recchi averaged 0.93 points per game.
There is a statistic on HockeyReference.com that gives “Similarity Scores” for each player. This statistic compiles a player’s career and compares their career to other players in the NHL. The score goes up to 100; the higher the score, the better the comparison. For example, through the first six years of Sidney Crosby’s career, he has a 93.3 similarity score to Eric Lindros’ first six years in the league.
Eric Lindros’ similarity scores put him in fine company. HockeyReference.com placed Lindros among hall of famers such as Steve Yzerman, Jean Beliveau and Joe Sakic. Mark Recchi’s similarity scores are impressive as well. His career matches up to Stan Mikita, Mike Modano and Mark Messier, each of them are hall of famers.
Championships, accolades and dominant seasons.
Aside from a short career, Lindros never won a Stanley Cup, which does hurt his chances when compared to Recchi, who won three championships with three different teams. What separates the two, is that Recchi was never consistently seen as “the guy” on a team. When he played in Pittsburgh, he had greats such as Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Paul Coffey. In Philadelphia, Lindros took the spotlight. Lindros never had a supporting cast like Recchi did on the 1990-91 Pittsburgh Penguins. The 1996-97 team had a decent core for Lindros, but not to the extent of the Penguins. All eyes were on Lindros when he played.
An argument can be made that Lindros revived the Flyers franchise all by himself. Prior to Lindros’ arrival in the 1992-93 season, the Flyers had not made the playoffs since 1989. By the 1994-95 season, Lindros’ third in the league, he had lifted the Flyers to a division title and the team’s first playoff berth in five seasons.
During the course of thirteen seasons, Lindros was named to six all-star teams, compared to Recchi who made seven all-star squads in 22 seasons. Both players were never elected to another all-star game after 2000. Lindros retired in 2007, Recchi retired in 2011.
Lindros also gets the advantage in dominant seasons as well*. Lindros put together six dominant years during his career. His most impressive may have come during the lockout shortened season. Over the course of 46 games, Lindros tallied 70 points, which earned him the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player. Lindros was also awarded the Ted Lindsay award, given to the most outstanding player as selected by the NHLPA. During his 22 seasons, Recchi never won a single award.
Eric Lindros’ career is a giant “What If?” What if Lindros had not been so injury prone? What if he had another hall of famer on his team? What if he was able to end his career on his own terms? All of these are up for debate, but what cannot be refuted is that Lindros was one of the great players during his prime. His resume resembles those of Peter Forsberg and Pavel Bure, one who is in the hall of fame, the other who is destined for enshrinement. It has been six years since Lindros retired from hockey. He should be able to celebrate his historic career with an induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame
(*My definition of a dominant season is when a player scores significantly more points than there are games. I.e. Claude Giroux’s 93-point season in 2011-12)
Recchi – three
Lindros – none
Lindros – six
Recchi – five
Lindros – Hart Memorial Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award
Recchi – none
[Editor's note: This blog is a part of a series of blogs in which Broad Street Buzz co-editor's Tom Foti and David Quackenbos debate a topic (in the future this series may include other writers). The first question they will debate is "Who will be the next Flyer inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Eric Lindros or Mark Recchi?" To see David Quackenbos' case for Mark Recchi, click here.]